Book review: “Developing a business strategy – How to use strategic planning to start up or grow your business” FT Essential Guides by Vaughan Evans

Posted on: August 19, 2014

I’ve read numerous books on strategy since before my MBA in 1996 and ever since. There were some good and some poor. As part of preparing for the forthcoming course on “Being more strategic” for PM Forum http://www.pmforum.co.uk/training/ I needed to select a couple of books to recommend to delegates. This is second of two that I have chosen and is the more analytical.

I like this book for a number of reasons.

1. It confirms the value of the pragmatic and down-to-earth approach that I have successfully used with many clients over the years.

2. It is eloquent and elegant (I really like the strategic pyramid diagram that pulls all the elements together) and yet rigorous with sufficient detail (but not too much) to guide you through the majority of the steps needed when developing a business strategy

3. It has short examples from a variety of both B2C and B2B industries (e.g. Apple computers, Mars chocolate, multiplex cinemas, Monsoon, Liverpool Football Club, Sainsbury’s and Britney Spears). But it also has a worked case study running through every chapter to illustrate each point on a step-by-step basis. This case study is based on a small B2B services business.

4.  There is much guidance for start-up situations and smaller businesses and is therefore not purely for the international corporations.

5. The bulk of the book is on the strategy development process – at both corporate and business level – rather than the planning process which follows.

6. It covers all of the traditional strategic theories – Michael Porter, Ansoff, Boston Consulting Group, Blue Ocean, Hamel and Prahalad etc – but without too much emphasis on the theory

Whereas the other strategy books I have highlighted are really good on the macro and competitive environments, this one provides a helpful set of tools for analysing the internal situation – particularly with regards to segmentation.

There’s also a good section on sizing markets and forecasting market demand which is often overlooked in some strategy guides. The appendix contains guidance for structured interviews with customers. And the author provides guidance through some of the essential financial analyses that are needed that some marketers may shy away from. There’s a particularly useful section in comparing strategic options.

I also liked the material on corporate strategy, particularly with regards to creating value through mergers, acquisitions and alliances with the summary of the seven main tasks in the M&A assessment process and the strategic due diligence section. The parenting value material will be of interest to most professional service firms who are on the acquisition trail.

The author is an independent strategy consultant with a background of working at management consultant Arthur D. Little and then in investment banking. 

Book contents

Part 1 Strategy Development

  1. Knowing your business
  2. Setting goals and objectives
  3. Forecasting market demand
  4. Gauging industry competition
  5. Tracking competitive advantage
  6. Targeting the strategic gap
  7. Bridging the gap: business strategy
  8. Bridging the gap: corporate strategy
  9. Assessing risk and opportunity

Part 2 Strategic planning

10. The strategic plan

11. The strategic planning process

 

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