I’ve been working with a variety of entrepreneurs recently on their companies’ positioning and differentiation in the marketplace.  It’s surprising how many young companies overlook the importance of doing some solid research, analysis, and old-fashioned thinking on this topic. Don’t let this happen to you. Here’s how you can define a positioning and differentiation that will work for you.

What is Strategic Thinking?

First of all, what exactly is “strategic thinking?” To think strategically requires founders and key team members to continually assess your business and your industry, and to apply new business insights. The goal is to use these insights to reinforce a company’s differentiation in the marketplace to achieve competitive advantage. You need to think strategically before your team can move on to the long or short-term strategic planning. You need both of these to make smart decisions on a daily basis. If you don't know where you're going, you'll have a hard time getting there!

Here’s how to get started:

  • Evaluate your company
    • Do your research. Put on your reporter’s hat and look for alternative, diverse sources of information about your company, your competitors, and your industry
    • Connect the dots. The goal is to piece together the right information from a variety of sources to generate new insights
    • Take time to reflect. Startup culture glorifies the iterative fail-fast, move-fast mentality. This is not what strategic thinking is about. Even if you can only steal a few minutes a day, take time to reflect upon what you've learned from your work that day.
  • Devise your strategy for execution
    • Go with the flow. Don't think that this is your strategy-for-all-time. Even while you're planning, stay flexible.
    • Act quickly. When you see opportunity, be proactive.
    • Set your roadmap. You may have a chart of the projects you need to get done to stay on task, or a checklist of actions you can take immediately. Either way, you'll need a cheat-sheet so you can incorporate your new insights into your decision-making.
    • Communicate your strategy to your team to make sure everyone’s on the same page
  • Allocate resources
    • Decide wisely. Use your insights, not just raw information, to make decisions
    • Prioritize. You can’t say yes to everything or you’ll be spread too thin.
    • Zero in: Resource allocation also applies to the priorities you set for your team and your other limited resources such as capital. Don’t let team members or staff go off wandering in the wilderness either.
    • Delegate. Take a page from big-business tech and use resource capacity planning to manage your employees' time. This will help you keep track of who has a full workload and who has time to work on a project.

Although "strategic thinking" can sound intimidating, or even like too much of a luxury in our ation-oriented world, following these steps can help you incorporate new insights into your existing business and workflow. Startups are supposed to be lean and agile, and with a little strategic thinking, you can make the most of both attributes.