Strategy awaydays for Scale-Ups: Pivotal moments or a waste of time?

23rd May 2018

By Mike Reid

Most successful scale-up tech companies have executed well against a predetermined strategic plan. In this 3-part blog, we’re going to take a look at the dreaded ‘Strategy Awayday’, clarifying if and when to have them, how to avoid ‘a talking shop’ and how to make them seriously effective.

But first, do you need a Strategy Day? You don’t have the time. Everyone knows where you’re going, what success will feel like and what resources are needed to get there, right? These are valid challenges, and for the best teams, they work. If the key stakeholders (Senior Leadership Team, Board & key shareholders) can answer the following questions, then you do not need a big Strategy Day. You should be continually monitoring your existing plan at every Board meeting, checking whether anything major has changed.

Strategy Checklist

  1. Is everyone bought into the 3-4 year vision of the business?
  2. Can you all articulate what you want the business to be famous for?
  3. Is it clearly laid out in a few slides, that you and your Board regularly review?
  4. Is it clear what markets you are and are not focused on, including your messaging and competitive positioning?
  5. Are your Board, investors and team completely convinced that you will meet the revenue and exit goals of the business based on the existing strategy?

Strategy is about agreeing which war you are trying to win and which battles you should focus on fighting in order to win. And then being honest and clear whether you have the resources, advantage and focus to win the battles that will ultimately result in you winning that war. The best scale-ups define where they want to get to, and then define the journey they should take. If everyone is not clear or convinced, then a Strategy Day is worth investing in. Another good reason for a strategy review may be a new owner, a significant new investor, a new leader or a major market change to ensure everyone is aligned.

Surprisingly, few scale-up CEOs make it clear amongst their Board & team that the goal is to build the company value to $Xm in 3-4 years (and then potentially get acquired or IPO). Fewer still go to through the analysis of how their market values companies theirs (what multiple?) and what market share they need in targeted markets to deliver the required revenues, margins and EBITDA. And all within pre-agreed cash & resource constraints.

Too many Board debates about product roadmap, sales & marketing budgets, international growth, M&A timing etc lead back to a lack of a clear Strategic Plan.

If you’ve decided to do a Strategy Day, then my next blog will explore why Strategy Awaydays go wrong, and how you can easily avoid these pitfalls, helping you build a stronger scale-up winner in less time and with less stress and cash burn.