It's Time To Think Differently About Strategy And Act Ambitiously

It’s Time To Think Differently About Strategy And Act Ambitiously

Sun Tzu was quoted as saying “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy are the noise before defeat.” You must have a strategy in place for your business to be successful. Alex Brueckmann from Brueckmann Executive Consulting is going to share his thoughts on what he likes to call “intentional strategy.” 

Watch This Episode


Listen To The Podcast

Subscribe To The Podcast

Apple Podcasts
Spotify
Google Podcast
Stitcher
iHeart Radio

Read The Transcript Here


Podcast Transcription

It’s Time To Think Differently About Strategy And Act Ambitiously



Tim Fitzpatrick
Sun Tzu was quoted as saying, "Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat." Without a solid business strategy, you are going to struggle to be successful in your business. And that is why I have a special guest with me today who's going to share his thoughts on what he likes to call intentional strategy. Hi, I'm Tim Fitzpatrick with Rialto Marketing where we believe marketing shouldn't be difficult, all you need is the right plan. Thank you so much for taking the time to tune in. I am really excited to have with me today, alex Brueckmann. Alex, welcome and thanks for taking the time.

Alex Brueckmann
It's my pleasure. Thank you for having me, Tim.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yes, I'm looking forward to digging into this. I am a strategy guy at heart, especially from a marketing standpoint. Before we jumped on air, I mentioned to you that that's where we focus. It's where everything starts. You really focus more on the overarching business strategy rather than the marketing strategy, though. So we're going to dig into this. Before I do, I want to ask you some rapid-fire questions to help us get to know you a little bit.

Alex Brueckmann
Go ahead.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So when you're not working, how do you like to spend your time?

Alex Brueckmann
Either with my son, 19 months old, so every day is different, and every day is a joy, or actually on the back of my motorcycle. This is a happy place, kind of.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yes. No. What kind of motorcycle do you ride?

Alex Brueckmann
It a Harley Davidson Slim, but it's not the stock bike. I bought it last year at the stock bike, and we ripped it completely apart and build a pretty awesome, my friends call it a bat bike because it looks like as if Batman would ride it.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Nice. I love it. Okay, so here's the question. How old does your son have to be before you're gonna allow him to ride on the back?

Alex Brueckmann
There is no back seat. It's a one seater.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Okay, well, there is the baby bjorn, right?

Alex Brueckmann
Exactly. The moment he would like to get on a motorcycle. The moment I make sure he starts with the smaller ones.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Okay. There you go. What's your hidden talent?

Alex Brueckmann
I think it's telling people straight to their face what I think they should do. But I do it in a way that they accept it as their own thoughts and their own ideas. So I help them get to the point where I believe they have to be without forcing them there. So they understand in the process that it's something they want to do and they take ownership.

Tim Fitzpatrick
That's a great talent. What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

Alex Brueckmann
It's from my ex-wife. She once said to me, don't go for second best, baby, which is a Madonna song reference. But she told me this in the context of a private decision that I had to make. A personal decision. But I actually use it for business, too.

Tim Fitzpatrick
It's a great piece of advice. Now, what's the one thing about you that surprises people?

Alex Brueckmann
That I actually did not start out as a business person. I have a solid education as a radio journalist. I worked in the media industry as a content creator for some years before I actually started studying business administration.

Tim Fitzpatrick
The entrepreneurial journey is a winding road, right?

Alex Brueckmann
It is..

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yes. What does success mean to you?

Alex Brueckmann
The ability to spend my time as I want, as private and personal and on the business side as well. So choosing the projects that I get involved in that is success and freedom.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. It's so interesting because most people that I talk to that answer this question. It relates in some way, shape or form to freedom of time. Right. It's very rarely with the business owner, is it about a certain money level or anything like that. It's always about freedom. I think I would be getting drastically different answers if I was talking to people that work for somebody else.

Alex Brueckmann
Most likely. Yeah. For entrepreneurs, for us, why we do this? Because we love it. So for us not having to work, it's not freedom necessarily. Freedom is having the ability to spend your time for what you believe in and what you want.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. For me, it's all about being able to do what I want when I want with the people that I want. Absolutely. Where's your happy place?

Alex Brueckmann
On the back of a motorcycle or wherever my son is.

Tim Fitzpatrick
I'm seeing a common theme here.

Alex Brueckmann
Yeah, definitely.

Tim Fitzpatrick
What qualities do you value in the people that you spend time with?

Alex Brueckmann
The ability to have a real conflict, like a real discussion where you still don't force your opinion on others. You can leave the room, maybe even agreeing to disagree. But I think this is kind of the lost art of running a solid discussion. I totally value that in people. If we can have a discussion, a serious fight, even without hating us afterwards.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Easier said than done.

Alex Brueckmann
Absolutely.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So tell us more about what you're doing with your consulting business, Brueckmann Consulting. Types of companies you're working with, how you're helping them.

Alex Brueckmann
There are two different types of clients that I work with. On the one hand, for more than 15 years, I've been working with larger organizations, first as an employee in a strategy space, then as a management consultant, later as an entrepreneur running a strategy business. Strategy consultancy. What I do right now is I help global companies and global brands get their head around their business strategy. Very often, longer projects. We're really talking 12, 15 months, maybe even more and help them define their business strategy. Sometimes it's even a little smaller piece. It's not the overarching business strategy, but let's say the business strategy of a specific unit, and then we help them break it down and put it into action, help the leadership teams to understand their own development in a strategic context, and helping their teams to see how they fit into the bigger picture. So it's the whole process of designing strategy, executing strategy, linking leadership development to strategy, and helping people through the change.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Can I pull something out of this? Because I think there's something important here. Larger companies helping them get their strategy in place. Do you find that you're helping them with strategy because they didn't have a solid strategy to begin with? Or is it that their strategy needs to change because their business is evolving?

Alex Brueckmann
Both. Actually.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Both?

Alex Brueckmann
Some companies really approach us because there was a restructuring in a business unit needs an entirely no strategy, for example, because it was not in place before. Most of the time, however, we're talking about they are coming towards, let's say, the end of their previous strategy cycle, and therefore they need to start the next S curve in order to stay ahead of the game. We help them based on what they have already and start to redevelop and raise the level and help them get to the next stage.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. See, I think the important thing for people to understand here is you're helping companies that most people would look at and go, "They got their stuff together. I mean, they're huge. They're successful companies." No, we all have strategy challenges that we have to address as our business evolves. Whether we've had a strategy in place or not, it's not a static thing.

Alex Brueckmann
Not at all.

Tim Fitzpatrick
And so I think that's really important for people to think about because so many small business owners just don't even think about strategy. They jump right into action. And that's putting a car.

Alex Brueckmann
Target market group basically. Entrepreneurs and smaller businesses where it looks completely different, they often struggle with a concept of strategy for different reasons, either because they feel like they don't have the time for strategy. They need to take care of the operation of business, which is kind of saying, "I'd rather ride a motorcycle with square wheels. And even if it's difficult, I will continue doing it rather than taking one step back and putting proper wheels on it, round wheels a run faster." Or whatever the reason might be. And for this target group. So people like myself basically like entrepreneurs, I help them understand strategy in their specific context and how it helps them supercharge their organization, both from a profit and from an impact perspective.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So when we talk about strategy versus tactics, I think a lot of people use those terms interchangeably. Frankly, if you look at like if you do a Google search for whatever strategy, a lot of the articles that come up are really talking about tactics. How do you view strategy? Define strategy and tactics, and how are they intertwined?

Alex Brueckmann
Strategy is your big picture plan. It tells you where you want your company to be in a certain time frame, like, let's say, in two to three to five years maybe. And you then in your strategy, describe where you want to play and how you win. And your tactics, in a nutshell, is then putting that into operations, putting it into practice. I give you an example. In your strategy, you define your target market and your target audience and how they should perceive you and the services that you provide. But then you need to create those services and you need to dig deeper and go into the marketing and go into the sales process and bring them to life. So putting strategy into action. This is where tactics come into play. Basically, understanding your global, your big picture key performance indicators like overarching revenue or revenue streams or number of clients. And then you break them down into your product portfolio and ask yourself, "Okay, what does that mean for my sales team and for each individual in that sales team?" And then it comes down to tactics bringing those to life. That's tactics, bringing strategy to life.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So strategy is kind of that 10,000 foot level. Tactics, those are the daily weekly actions that you're actually taking to implement the strategy.

Alex Brueckmann
And if you are not linking your tactics through your strategy, it's just busy noise.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Disjointed. Got it. Love it. Thank you for doing that, because I think the rest of this discussion will make a lot more sense to people if they understand how we're viewing strategy and tactics. So you touched on this before. So many entrepreneurs struggle with strategy. Why?

Alex Brueckmann
I think there's a lot of different, there are a lot of different reasons. Some of the most common ones are.,First of all, as you alreadt said, the term strategy is being used interchangeably with other terms, so it's confusing. What is it actually? So they might even think that they are strategic. And most entrepreneurs have a certain understanding of strategy. It's just not necessarily a helpful definition. So it's a cool word. It's fancy to use, and it's been used all over the place and therefore kind of got water down. So fuzzy understanding is probably one of the first reasons why they struggle with it. The second reason is depending on the maturity level of your business and how busy you are, they often don't find the time to really take a step back and actually strategize meaning, write down their thoughts about where the business needs to be in two to three years, for example. If you don't write down your thoughts and don't crystallize your thinking through that, you never really know whether what you have in your head actually makes sense, whether it's thoughtful or not, whether everything you do is working toward that strategy and adding to it, or whether you are having this strategy on the one side and doing some other stuff that you think is cool, fancy, shiny object, everything that takes time away from what you really want to do in order to get the business way it want to be. And maybe the third reason why entrepreneurs sometimes struggle with the topic of strategy is that it is very different from how most people actually got into entrepreneurship in the first place. Mostly we got into entrepreneurship because we are really good at something and super passionate about a certain topic, a certain service, a certain product that we may be invented or anything that we believe adds value to our target group. So we are subject matter experts, in a sense. We are not necessarily good strategists that know how to build businesses. So building a business for many entrepreneurs is just the stuff that they need to do on the site so they can focus on what their passion is. But if you approach it that way, I mean, business works in a certain way, and building companies and making them successful works in a certain way. And if you're only focusing on your operations, on your marketing, without ever really thinking about the fundamentals of your business and writing down and understanding and digesting what you want to build and how you do it in the most efficient and effective way, then you will probably always work on passion, but it will be very difficult to scale.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. Got it. What do you see as some of the main benefits of focusing on strategy?

Alex Brueckmann
It's a muscle that you need to flex that you need to build. And if you have more than just one muscle, it's just so much more fun to do business, to be honest. You can get into the weeds, be with a client, do what you're really passionate about, and then you always, like, two or three times a year, you take one step back and check in with your strategy and be like, are we still going in the right direction? Is still bringing us to our vision, to the state of the organization that we want to see in some years down the road. If you do that and if you flex that muscle all of a sudden, you become kind of like being able to write with both hands. Right. If you know what I mean, like being ambidextrous having, on the one hand, full passion and ownership of the operations, and on the other hand, understanding how operations and strategy connect in order to bring you to your vision. It's just so much more fun to be able to do both. And I know because I do it on my own. I do it myself, right. I'm a strategy entrepreneur, but that's how I run my own business as well. I really dig deep into the trenches and love the operational work that I do. But from time to time, and I actually do this every three months, I take a step back, and I adjust what I do on a day to day basis, readjust it to my strategy, and it's a rolling strategy. Strategy is a living and breathing thing. Once you've reached a certain stage, you can focus on other priorities. But you need to be clear what those priorities are and how they impact your business.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So, having a solid strategy in place, it makes your company stronger. It's one of the things I wrote down. It helps keep you on course to make sure that you're headed in the right direction. One of the other things that you said that I think really hints to a benefit of strategy, too, is that it can help you make good business decisions. If you use your strategy as a litmus test for those decisions.

Alex Brueckmann
It's the only litmus test that counts. As entrepreneurs, we have a problem. Everything that comes our way is a potential opportunity. Most of people, everything that comes their way is like, "That's a threat. That's dangerous." For us entrepreneurs. It's like, "Oh, interesting. I know how to do that. I'm gonna dig into that." And if we have a solid strategy in place, it is just the perfect collateral to benchmark ideas and potential opportunities against. And by doing that, you immediately realize whether an opportunity is just a shiny object. And you should just be like, "Thank you shiny object. I took a look at you. I just let you go. It was nice meeting you." Or you'd be like, "You're more than just a shiny object. You actually help me to get to where I want to be with my business." And the moment you understand that you just take so much better decisions, you allocate your time and your money in a much more focused and streamlined way.

Tim Fitzpatrick
I love it. So let's I think people understand why strategies important, what those benefits are up to this point. So if they're convinced to that, which I hope they are, like, what are the next steps? Like, what are the key elements to designing a strong winning strategy?

Alex Brueckmann
You should probably start with asking yourself, "Why am I in this game anyway?" So what's the purpose of my business and the impact that I want to create with my business?" And that is a two fold question. One is targeted or geared towards profit and financial freedom. So what's the money that I want to make in life? What is the money that I need in order to provide for my family, for example? And the second one is, what is the impact that I want to have on the in a bigger picture?Like, how do I want to support my community? How do I want to make sure I treat people that work for me up and down the supply chain or my own employees? How do I treat them fairly? How is my business impacting the environment in a positive or negative way? So understanding your impact, and creating a positive impact that's super important because it legitimizes your business and the eyes of other people and it helps you become an accepted player in the market. The next topic that you definitely should then take a look at, and we also quickly touch that is the topic of vision. The definition of your business in some years down the road. And there are some elements that you need to understand in this context. One is, what is a vision? How do you write a balanced vision statement? And we are not talking about just a sentence that you put on your website. That's marketing. That's not vision. Vision is writing maybe even a page down describing how your business will touch will look and feel once you time travel and see it in three years down the road, for example. What are the markets that you play in? Who are the client categories that you serve? What is the revenue target in those in three years time? What does your competition, your clients and your employees say about you? About the company? How are you impacting positively impacting the world around you? All those things you need to visualize, you need to write them down. You need to understand them because that's what you work towards on a daily basis. And then you need to break down this vision. And it might be a bit fluffy here and there, which is totally fine because it should not only be detailed and fact-based, factual, it needs to be emotionally embracing yourself and the people that work for you. Right. So balancing those different elements plays an important role, and then you break it down into measurable buckets. Bringing this vision to life means breaking it down into topics that you can actually measure and manage. Give you an example, when you say in three years time, I want to have tripled my revenue, then you probably can't just go back to bed and wait three years and then it would have happened.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yes.

Alex Brueckmann
There are things that you will have to do, very concrete things. They are sales related. The key account management related. They are marketing related. All these topics play an important role. And you need to understand what you actually need to do and how they link, how they connect and how they influence other elements in your vision as well. So that's the third element. How do you bring this vision to life? What are the focus areas that you should prioritize in order to work step by step towards that vision?

Tim Fitzpatrick
Got it. Okay. So let me make sure I got all these. One is really understanding the purpose of your business, what you want out of it. The impact that you want to have. Two is defining what your business is all about. What's the vision for your business? What are you working towards? And then third is breaking those elements down into buckets that you can measure and actually manage.

Alex Brueckmann
Absolutely.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Love it. As a strategist and math person is super analytical. I love breaking things down into just steps, frameworks makes it so easy for people. So thank you for doing that. So we've got that. Now, how do we balance our purpose and our profit? Right. There's a lot of talk now about doing well, while we're also doing good, how do we do that?

Alex Brueckmann
First of all, the first step is having an awareness and be mindful about this topic in the context of and for entrepreneurs, this is often kind of inherent. They got into business because they wanted to do things differently than what they saw out there. A lot of businesses today are being built to address a unique issue that's out there in the world that no one else has addressed in that way. Be it, I don't know, producing toys for toddlers that are made in a sustainable way that are not made of, I don't know wood taken from the rainforest. Covered with toxic paint, right? There are things you can do things the right way, or you can do things in a dodgy way. You can produce services and goods in a way that consumes resources like crazy, natural resources like crazy. Or you can do it in a more sustainable in a different way. I give you an example that I love. Here in Vancouver, there is a company called Chop Value. They are fairly young. The guy who built it is a wood engineer. And what they are basically doing, they're collecting used chopsticks from restaurants in Vancouver and turn them into furniture and design elements, design objects because they say, you know what? Those chopsticks are being produced mostly in China. They are shipped all across the world, and then they are being used once. So circular economy thinking and I turn into something new. They could have just bought wood, freshly cut wood and turn it into design objects and furniture. But they used material that's already there to minimize their impact on the environment, for example. To put that in a more global framework, ask yourself, what is the issue out there in the world that you are uniquely positioned to solve? If you ask this question, you will find your purpose. It will guide you towards your purpose.

Tim Fitzpatrick
And can you say that one more time.

Alex Brueckmann
Yes, I can say this one more time.

Tim Fitzpatrick
What's that question?

Alex Brueckmann
What is the issue out there in the world that you are uniquely positioned to address? It will not necessarily guide you to your purpose just around the corner, but it will start your thought process that you can just go through step by step and see where it guides you. For me, it guided me to the point where I said, I'm super passionate about two things in life, about curing terminal childhood brain cancer, and about helping preserve the environment for the generations to come. So I'm neither a medical doctor, nor am I a scientist, a national scientist. I'm a strategy entrepreneur. So how can I help in order to live up to my purpose? So when it comes to preserving the environment and preserving natural habitat, I do work pro bono for environmental protection agencies. I helped them with my knowledge about strategy to build better environmental protection agencies. So I help them in that strategy work. And on the other hand, I'm not medical doctor. I can't put my time into research to end terminal childhood brain cancer. But what I can do is I can raise awareness, I can run fundraisers. I can donate my own money in order to help those who do day in and day out. Nothing else than researching how they can overcome, for example, diffuse, intrinsic pontine Goma and things like that. So your purpose might not necessarily have a direct connection to your business.

Tim Fitzpatrick
To your business. Thank you for bringing that up, because as you were talking about it, I was thinking about that. Your purpose doesn't have to be directly related to your business, but you can use your business to fuel that purpose. Do you feel like can you use that purpose and talk about it and promote it to help fuel profit?

Alex Brueckmann
Oh, yeah. And you should do that if it makes sense. I'll give you an example. A well-known example. The apparel and gear company Patagonia is doing exactly that. So people who love Patagonia, they not only love Patagonia because of the high quality of their apparel, they love it because they know the money, the surplus that they spend. Patagonia clothes are not cheap. But, you know, if you buy them. First of all, 1% of Patagonia sales over many, many years has gone directly to environmental protection causes. They are super serious about this. Millions and millions have gone into environmental protection through Patagonia. But not only are they talking about it, they are really serious about it. They also link environmental activists, people who want to get involved to environmental protection projects that are going on. So they are getting involved as well, like down on the ground. They're not just collecting money and putting their money, and it's different things. And if you go to the Patagonia website, this is the first thing that you see. You won't immediately realize that they are an apparel company. They are talking about their purpose more than they talk about their products.

Tim Fitzpatrick
You kow, the other one that comes to mind is Tom's shoes, where you buy, I don't know if they're still doing this or not, honestly, I've never bought a pair of Tom's shoes, but you buy a pair of shoes, they donate one people in need. And I know. And early on, they promoted that real heavy, and that became a differentiator for them. Right?

Alex Brueckmann
The consumers. Us consumers, we want to be more conscious in how we consume and if you don't tell me that you are doing things in the back end of your work, how would I know that I would love to prioritize your shoes over another pair of shoes because I want to help make a difference.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah.

Alex Brueckmann
You need to talk about that. Not in a let's say, in a blunt way, but in a way that is relatable where people can see, "Oh, that is pretty cool. That's a great idea. I want to support that."

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. So people, they can buy what they want and feel good about that. By doing that, they are making change in the world.

Alex Brueckmann
Exactly.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, I love it, man. This has been a fantastic conversation. I have really enjoyed it. I've gotten a ton out of it, and I know other people will. Do you have any last minute thoughts? Words of wisdom you want to leave us with, Alex?

Alex Brueckmann
Maybe not words of wisdom, but maybe some help. If you want to start get your head around strategy right now, if you're an entrepreneur and be like, "Okay, I might want to understand strategy in a better way. How it works for me in my business." Just go to my website, Alex Strategist dot com. Right on the landing page, you have a button that says Give me the Free Intentional Strategy toolkit. Click it. Download it. It's a document that's more than 20 pages. It's kind of a workbook for you where you can start and work yourself through this process guided by questions that I ask you there. It's completely free. You don't have to spend a dime. Just start getting a head around strategy.

Tim Fitzpatrick
I love it, man. Alex, thank you so much for showering us with your experience. I love strategy. I hope more people jump in and take advantage of it because it is the foundation for any business. Again, guys, I am Tim Fitzatrick with Rialto Marketing. Thank you for tuning in. If you are pushing up against some marketing roadblocks, you're trying different tactics. Nothing's working. You're not sure what the next right step should be. Hop on over to our website at Rialto Marketing dot com. That's R-I-A-L-T-O Marketing fot com. Click on the Get a Free Consult button. Be happy to chat with you and give you some clarity on what you need to do next. Thanks so much. Until next time. Take care.


Connect With Alex Brueckmann


Links From The Episode


About the Author Tim Fitzpatrick

Tim Fitzpatrick is the President of Rialto Marketing. At Rialto Marketing, we help service businesses simplify marketing so they can grow with less stress. We do this by creating and implementing a plan to communicate the right message to the right people. Marketing shouldn't be difficult. All you need is the RIGHT plan.

follow me on:

Leave a Comment: