[IMGCAP(1)]In our work with both small and large firms it always occurs to our team that most executives, and even CEOs and managing partners, do not understand or want to admit the significance of beating your competition, but that is what strategy is all about.

Keep in mind the difference between markets, products and services of a company or firm. The market in which your company or firm positions its products and services is a moving entity, but it moves so slowly that one barely sees it move.

Who’s accountable for strategy at your company or firm? There’s that word again: “accountability.” It always is accountability, which reflects someone who has received the work along with the authority to complete the work, and has agreed to complete it according to standards or metrics. That person is accountable for that work.

Whenever I ask “who is accountable” for strategy I usually receive slanted looks, but one need only trace the line of authority and see which person that line moves through. It normally moves from a higher level to the CEO or managing partner, and they receive this authority from the board of directors or executive partner committee.

So what are these integrated set of actions that the CEO or managing partner must undertake in order to have that sustainable advantage?

The first action to undertake is to determine in which quadrant of its life cycle your company, market segments, products and services are vested. It is the most important action that needs to be accomplished first because all of these entities move through the same quadrants of a life cycle.

The life cycle of a company or firm is the same as the life cycle of a person. Eventually they both will die. It is up to the CEO or managing partner to maintain a healthy and vibrant company or firm as long as he or she can, so knowing where you stand in the quadrants of life is critical to having a longer existence.

These entities (a firm, its markets, products and services) all begin in the Emerging quadrant, and then as they become a more stabilized entity they move into the Growth quadrant, and over a period of growth they then move to the Maturing quadrant, and finally they move to the Aging quadrant, where they pass away.

No matter how large a company or firm becomes over time, they all move through the four quadrants of their life cycle and eventually die. So the responsibility of having someone accountable for maintaining the health of the company or firm rests squarely on the managing partner or CEO, and formal strategic planning is the tool used to accomplish this.

How could billion-dollar revenue companies or firms end up bankrupt? Who was accountable for allowing this to happen? Who was accountable for keeping the entity vibrant and healthy so it never enters the Aging quadrant?

Accountability for maintaining this health rests with the managing partner or CEO. This loss of life also occurs even more often with SME companies, the small to mid-tier company or firm that is often family owned, but the accountability remains the same, with the president or CEO.

Knowing what quadrant your firm is in allows the managing partner or CEO to take action to keep the firm vibrant and healthy and provide the strategy that matters with the planning that works. It is only then that strategy can be applied with metrics to the company or firm that will allow it to sustain itself in the Maturing quadrant, and keep it from sliding into the Aging quadrant, where it will pass away.

Greg Weismantel is CEO of the Epic Group, a strategic management consulting firm and advisor on strategy for small and large firms and companies. Its focus is on helping companies and firms analyze and dissect their strategy to support new and emerging businesses.

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