Start Here

Screen Shot 2018-09-10 at 1.13.18 PM

Welcome to The Strategy Journal.

We teach business strategy as practiced by management consulting partners.

I’m Kris Safarova and my goal is to help you understand strategy.  I work with some of the most eminent ex-McKinsey, BCG et al partners to help you understand strategy, complete the analyses, apply/implement the findings and solve complex business problems.

Since 2010, the universe of strategy digital platforms I assembled has helped hundreds of thousands of people improve their reasoning and thinking skills. Here’s what everyone has in common. They all started from practically a zero base. So don’t worry if that’s your starting point. This page will help you begin, and a good a point as any is defining strategy.

BTW the image above is from the program Fridays with FIRMSconsulting. Running the business is a full-time job but I hope to be back in front of the camera soon.


What is business strategy?

Here’s our definition of strategy.

There are many definitions of strategy. And I am not trying to be a theoretical purist on this website. My goal is to provide a definition used by strategy partners that you can use to generate sustainable results quickly.

Looking at the +35 strategy training programs on our websites, the common definition of strategy that runs across everything follows:

In The Strategy Journal we will teach you how to set the right business objective and pursue that business objective so that you create relatively more earnings per share than industry peers and the rest of the market, in a sustainable and ethical way.

In other words, it’s not how well you are doing but whether you are doing better than competitors and on the metrics that matter.

I know that business is a wide field. Some of you are working at non-profits. Others are in private businesses. Many of you may just have control over a product, or a small team. And you are wondering if learning about strategy is right for you.

You need to know the overall definition and thinking about strategy before we can show you how your work should be done to support the overall strategy.

Yes, I am aware this can be confusing since there is so much written about strategy. The statements below seem contradictory at first.

Kevin Coyne said strategy is about finding a unique competitive advantage and sustaining it.

Bill Matassoni said we need to find new market spaces and dimensions of value to succeed.

Michael Porter said strategy is the art of doing one thing well that differentiates you.

All of these are compatible with the definition above.

Kevin Coyne says you need to find a competitive advantage and sustain it to outperform your competitors at creating sustainable value.

Bill Matassoni says you need to find new market spaces and dimensions to outperform your competitors at creating sustainable value.

Michael Porter says you need to do one thing well and sustain it to outperform your competitors at creating sustainable value.

At different times you have to use different approaches and many of these are very similar. Some of them are different but they are relevant to different stages of a company and do not contradict the other. The important thing is to create more value when we strip out the impact of your industry, the market and time.


3 approaches to learning strategy.

Which is right for you?

There are essentially 3 different ways to learn strategy. All of them work but they teach you different things and give you different skills. It’s a good idea to take out a sheet of paper and using the examples below, think about what you want to achieve.

1

Conversational knowledge. This is a method if you only want to understand the concept being taught. If you like reading business journals and books to improve your conversational knowledge of strategy, this is probably what you are doing. Here, you will not be interested in learning how to do the analysis or fully apply the concept.

For example, you could read Bill’s memoir and learn about the concept of marketing spaces and new dimensions of value but you are not interested in understanding how Bill developed the concept so you can use the same approach to develop your own unique concepts. You would understand Bill’s ideas, offer examples and even discuss it with colleagues.

2

Using the insight. Some of us are pressed for time and we want the answers immediately. Rather than watching all of the Competitive Strategy program, all the Q&A videos, all +20 video sessions, and 40 support videos, you just want to know the framework used and a simple explanation for each part of the framework.

That’s good enough for you to do the work you need. In this approach you are taking the insight but not learning how to produce an original insight.

You are fine being dependent on someone else to give you insights to use.

3

Producing the insight. In a nutshell, this is the skill strategy partners have. You want to be able to solve problems with just a clean sheet of paper and a pencil. Like them, you do not just want the framework on Competitive Strategy.

You want to know how it was developed and how you would customize it for your business problem. You want to learn to think like a partner. And you know it is about more than insights and you want to learn the soft skills to influence, communicate, speak, lead and motivate teams to generate big results.

You do not want to rely on someone else to produce insights for you! Naturally, this process takes longer.


Where do we focus our strategy programs

And what you can expect

We want to offer you the best possible experience and value. To do that, we need to decide whom we will serve as clients and whom we will not serve. We focus all our resources on giving the clients we choose to serve the tools they need to be successful. This is actually a good thing for everyone.

We have focused on the 3rd group above. People who want to learn how to produce deep and enduring insights. That means our content tends to be longer since we explain how and why we did things. We do not provide answers but teach you how to arrive at answers by yourself.

If you just want us to get to the point / answer / insight / tool / framework without understanding the thinking, it’s not going to help you be successful in the long term.

I know we are choosing not to serve some clients. That is okay. We cannot be everything to everyone and its better for everyone, especially you, if we clearly define our ideal client.

When building our programs, these are clients we are trying to serve.

You want to learn how to develop insights versus merely using an interesting insight. You are someone who wants to have the skill to produce the level of thinking our partners produce but do it independently. In time you want to think like Kevin, Michael, Bill, Mark etc., and not be dependent on their ideas and approach to solving problems. Your eventual goal is to produce your own insights, analyses structures and solve complex business problems.

While there is always a need for a good list of the top-10 things to have in a strategy, you understand a list is not a strategy. You have seen how many companies struggle and how many talented executives fail. Lists and short courses rarely work in a complex world. So you know the strategy is not a list of ten things that you need to follow nor is it a set of fancy frameworks.

You know your analyses must look good and be well communicated, but you also know that it must work. It must be something that will lead to success when it is put into place. A strategy is not a report to you. It is giving advice that will truly make a difference.

You are not looking for shortcuts. If it takes 10 to 15 years to become a senior partner, you know anyone offering to teach you all those skills in just one course cannot be sincere. We do not make that promise. It will take time, but you will start seeing results quickly if you just follow the plan.

So there it is. That is our target audience. It is perfectly fine if you need something else that we do not offer. I feel that by being fully transparent about this, you will not be disappointed.


Foundational strategy skills versus advanced strategy skills.

Where should you start?

Some of the programs are very advanced. They assume you have some base knowledge before you begin. Roughly speaking, the base knowledge you need is what we teach clients who want to join strategy firms. These are the 4 basic skills you will need to make the most of the advanced content we have.

Business judgement. Strategy is a social science. There is no one strategy that you can say is absolutely correct by using an objective measurement standard. It comes down to solid judgement and this is a good skill to start developing.

Basic math and estimation. When analyzing problems you will find many routes or things you can do to solve the problem. That can take up a lot of time if you try to complete them all. Therefore, before you do anything, you need to know it is worth doing in the first place. So before working away for 5 weeks to develop a beverage strategy for the US market, you should spend 5 minutes to estimate the market size for US beverages and then determine if it worth taking the 5 weeks to verify your 5-minute calculation.

Developing frameworks to structure problems. A framework is the steps you will take to find out the answer to a problem. You need them. You can spend lots of time memorizing every framework, and there are lots of them, or you can develop a technique to develop a customized framework for every situation. The latter skill we recommend.

Basic problem-solving. Once you have all the three skills above, you need to put them all together to have a discussion about solving a business problem. This is slightly harder but also the enjoyable part. This is the strategy part.


What learning strategy is not.

Myths about learning advanced strategy

It’s a good place as any to dispel some myths and set some very realistic expectations.

1

Learning to practice strategy like a partner is NOT easy and it will take a lot of hard work. If this was easy to do, everyone would have this skill and the business newspapers would only report stories of successful companies. Many companies fail. Lots of people will tell you this is easy to learn because they know you want to quickly build this skill, and they know you will pay for the easy way to develop that skill.

I will tell you the truth. It is hard. Our programs can only guide you but you will have to do the hard work of taking action, testing the ideas and figuring the best way to adapt these skills for your personal style.

2

No MBA program anywhere in the world teaches strategy skills at the level of a partner. As an MBA graduate from one of the top schools in Canada, I can tell you that no MBA program can teach you how to think like a partner. I have seen the partners work with clients from every leading MBA program. Everyone lacks these skills. Passing the skills from one partner to a partner in training is an apprenticeship model.

So if you are considering spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to take a year away at an MBA program to learn these skills, you will be losing a lot of money. It is your choice at the end of the day but I would not do it. An MBA is valuable for other reasons, and I enjoyed my MBA, but not to learn these skills.

3

Learning to think like a strategy partner is NOT impossible. I listen/read/watch everything the partners produce. I also edit their work, help plan the programs years in advance and even manage the production process.

In addition, I see how the partners train all our clients and the results they achieve. If you just do the work, and actually follow the process they recommend, there is no reason you cannot operate with their clarity and precision.


The strategy learning experience

Learning strategy should not be about note-taking, homework or setting aside dedicated time at home

We looked at how our clients were spending their days and built our Apps and teaching approach around this.

I refer to two Apps in this section. Subscribers to StrategyTV.com have immediate to that site and apps. StrategyTV.com members who become loyalty members, Insiders, gain access to our most advanced programs and Apps on StrategyTraining.com. Insiders can also use their Apps on ROKU and Apple TV. Readers of this website may not have access to the Apps since they require paid access. I am listing them because many of our subscribers will also read this website since it is our website dedicated to strategy.

No homework and limited note-taking. It is time-consuming to take notes, file them and then do homework. Our clients have kids, commutes, spouses, difficult work schedules and even evening school. I think giving someone homework to check they understood a concept is not an ideal approach. Our goal is to create compelling, captivating teaching that keeps you engaged. You should take some notes, but we want to create programs that are so interesting, you retain as much as possible.

Anything you learn from the programs should be applied at the office. It’s not homework to be done at home away from the office. How can you be better at business strategy by applying it at home?

Listen while commuting. I personally do most learning while traveling. That makes it difficult to look at a screen while trying to do other things. So we designed most programs to be listened to, even if there is video. You can simply play an episode and listen. You will not worry about missing things if you need to keep your eyes on the road.

Multitask while using the Apps. Our streaming Apps are different from most video streaming Apps. If you start an episode and reduce the App, we rolled out a custom feature so they keep playing the audio in the background. This allows you to multitask on your phone. This was one of the main features clients requested and we are happy to have produced it.

Watch between App, website & Apple TV. It is almost certain you arrived at your destination before the episode ended. Commutes are unpredictable. We set it up so that the website or Apple TV remembers where you stopped the episode on your App and vice-versa. So you can simply continue watching at home from the time you stopped.

PG-rated programming. Many of our clients have children.

Our content is safe for children and we do not use adult language nor discuss sensitive topics.

We also know this may be one of the few times you can follow our programming. That’s why all our content is PG-rated. If you have kids in the car, we want to make sure they can listen in the background. We do not allow profanity.

Download content for Wifi dead-zones. Have you ever tried to stream content on a plane? Even with Wifi, it just eats up your battery. Our Apps allow you to download content into the phone for offline viewing. We know our clients’ commute and this feature allows you to make the most of it.

Create playlists. I think it is daunting to realize some of our Apps have over 3,000 episodes of content. What happens if you really want to save something for later? Our custom playlists allow you to do just that. Also, save your notes as comments in an episode so you never lose them.


Turning theory into practice.

How to get started learning strategy.

I think you have three options from here.

Learn how to get started. 

Option #1. You could do nothing. This is going to be like going to the gym. Just thinking about it can turn you off because it looks so daunting that you quit before you start. If you are this far down then my guess is this is not your choice.

Option #2. Keep scouring the internet. There is a lot of information about strategy on the internet. But teaching you to think like a strategy partner? I have not seen anything like this so why continue searching? We have a massive library of programs arranged by article, video, podcast or books.

Option #3. Take action now. You can start learning right now. Many of us think strategy is so scary, so numbers intensive and so complex that we will never understand it. So we keep procrastinating until we feel we can take on this mountain of dread. Learning should be fun and entertaining.

Right now, you can follow the audio version of the Corporate Strategy Program via iTunes, Acast or Spotify. It’s free to access and will show you how much fun and easy it is to learn. The only commitment you need make is you will make the time to listen when you are commuting or have some free time.

If you sign up on the top right corner I will also send you sample videos from our advanced programs. Its free to review.

#1 ranked podcast worldwide for strategy, consulting and case interviews

Here are some random country rankings I selected for India, Singapore, and France to show how we compare.

Singapore Podcast Rankings

Firmsconsulting Podcast Ranking in Singapore.png

India Podcast Rankings

Firmsconsulting Podcast Ranking in India.png

France Podcast Rankings

Firmsconsulting Podcast Ranking in France.png



LEARN HOW TO GET STARTED: FOLLOW A SIMULATED STRATEGY STUDY

If you are just not sure learning strategy can be enjoyable, this is a free program for you to follow. I also think many of us believe we are just not good at learning to think strategically. This program, a simpler version of our advanced programs, will help you determine if this is a skill you find interesting and want to keep learning.

corp strategy study final_https-::www.flickr.com:photos:ndecam:6283108232:

In Phase 1, a 3.5-month study, the consulting team recommended Empire International refocuses on the core business of Designing-Building-Operating-Maintaining (DBOM) Gx-Tx-Dx infrastructure.

Empire International is a power company created to invest in non-regulated businesses. All these investment markets exist outside of the parent company’s local market.

Since Empire Int.’s founding, that core/local market has undergone a shift where there is a renewed focus on expanding and maintaining the crumbling and outdated infrastructure base to meet surging electricity demand.

Unless Empire Energy, Empire International’s parent company, focuses on meeting rapidly growing energy demand, electricity blackouts remain a real threat that will impact the countries productivity and attractiveness for FDI.

Yet Empire Energy does not have the skills to do all the DBOM work and does see the emergency of rebuilding the infrastructure.

Therefore, Empire Int. Is recommended to become the in-house construction arm of Empire Energy to build new power stations and transmission lines, and prepare for a smart-grid increasingly powered by wind, solar and other renewables, while the parent company does not endorse the plan – yet.

All you have to do is commit the time to listen to a few episodes and I am sure you will enjoy it. As soon as you start enjoying learning, it becomes easier. That should be the first goal.



Get started the right way

My complimentary and exclusive emails

Getting started to learn something new is hard. I want to ensure you receive the proper guidance to learn strategy.

The content is this email is exclusive. You will not find it anywhere else and it is not shared with all clients. It only goes out to our strategy clients. I send this email out each month because I wish this advice existed when I had joined both banking and consulting.

When you opt-in on the top left the corner, we will also send you a free chapter from ex-McKinsey partner Bill Matassoni’s new memoir and other videos from our strategy library.