Business strategy and the price of fish

It’s funny how phrases we grow up with can shape us so much.  One of my mum’s favourite questions is: “what’s that got to do with the price of fish?”  Of course, I now find myself using it – and today it actually guides my work as a brand marketing consultant because it can be relevant to business strategy.

We’ve all seen or worked for companies that lose their focus and start to pursue opportunities disconnected from their business strategy.  At first, we try to make sense of it.  Perhaps to organise it.  Sometimes we push against it to try and keep the focus.  And sometimes we get to the point where we no longer recognise the sea we’re swimming in, and we leave.

I have always been attracted to working for visionary people, who had a strong sense of ‘why’ and I’ve learned a lot from them.  I could translate their vision into practical things that people in the marketing team, and across the business, could do.  Which helped them follow.

I was reading Start With Why this week and loved the ‘Celery Test’.  For those who haven’t yet read Simon Sinek’s book, do.  For me it’s not just a marketing book, it’s about knowing who you really are and finding ways to succeed by being just that.  To paraphrase, the celery test is about making sure you put in your shopping basket what fits with who you say you are.  If you say you’re all about healthy eating but fill your basket with 15 types of sugary biscuits, people will be confused and won’t believe what you said.  It doesn’t mean you can never eat a biscuit – just don’t let it become a norm.

It’s the same with companies.  If your vision statement has a strong ‘why’ then your behaviours are what your employees will look to, to see if they’re true.  They’ll even test you on it by bringing opportunities that might not fit the stated business strategy.

Behaviours consistent with what you say you are, create the momentum that like-minded employees will follow.  And that internal energy is what builds great brands.

I work with companies to help them focus their brands back on why they exist, who they serve and how.  But as I tell them, that’s just the start of the journey.  Repeated, consistent behaviours, including being brave enough to say no to things that don’t fit, is how the words become reality.

Or as my mum would say – know the price of the fish.