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[Interview] Dr. Chuck Bamford, Author, Educator, And Founder Of Bamford Associates, LLC

Dr. Chuck Bamford is a business strategy expert, providing battle-tested methods for executives to put winning strategy in place in their own organizations and to stand out in their own industries.

He was previously a professor at Texas Christian University, University of Richmond and Tulane University, and continues as an adjunct professor while leading his consulting business. His latest book is “The Strategy Mindset 2.0: A Practical Guide To The Design and Implementation of Strategy“.

We speak with him about business strategy.

Describe your professional background and how it led you to your current position.

Prior to pursuing my Ph.D., I led both M&A and Corporate Training groups for twelve years. Then, for the next 16 years I was a tenured professor. I started my strategy consulting business (Bamford Associates, LLC) on a full-time basis almost seven years ago. I continue to teach in the MBA programs as an Adjunct Professor of Strategy at Duke University (Fuqua) and the University of Notre Dame (Mendoza). I’ve been honored with 22 Professor of the Year awards, including 12 Executive MBA Professor of the Year awards. I was named a Noble Foundation Fellow in Teaching Excellence and a Poets & Quants EMBA Favorite Professor.

I’m the author of seven books, including “The Strategy Mindset” and “The Strategy Mindset 2.0“, as well as two of the market-leading textbooks used in both undergraduate and graduate programs around the world. I’ve also authored a fiction novel, “Some Things are Never Forgiven“. I’m a regular speaker at conferences, trade shows, corporate events and conventions.

I love the teaching element of academia, but wanted to devote more time to writing and working directly with organizations interested in designing and implementing a real strategy.

How is Strategy Mindset 2.0 – A Practical Guide to the Design and Implementation of Strategy different than other business strategy books?

There are many strategy books on the market. The “The Strategy Mindset 2.0” is a simple yet practical guide to creating business strategy using well-researched, practical and battle-tested processes. My goal is to establish the fundamentals of the design and implementation processes of strategy in a readable and easily accessible format. The approaches used in this second (and much more complete) edition are the gold standard for developing and executing real competitive advantages such that customers will go past your competitors and come to you because you have those advantages.

You describe several myths that people believe represent business strategy. Can you give a few examples?

I can provide a lot!

Myth 1: My people are my competitive advantage. This one is so pervasive that many executives actually believe it to be true. People are how we deliver on our strategy, but (for the most part) customers don’t even know who the people are in the organization when they make the decision to buy!

Myth 2: SWOT analysis will allow us to develop a strategy. This one is just painful to keep dealing with. There are volumes of material on the internet for you to read about the drawbacks of SWOT as an analysis tool. This approach was abandoned by most serious strategy practitioners more than two decades ago, and yet I see it every year as I work with companies. Its staying power is mostly attributable to its ease of understanding, the feeling that something has been accomplished, the many pop-strategy columnists that continue to get published and to the many, many non-strategy-trained professors at universities who “teach” it as a technique.

Myth 3: The product lifecycle will help me decide on a strategy

Myth 4: We shouldn’t look at what competitors are doing — let’s focus on what we do

Myth 5: Quality or customer service will be our strategic advantage

…and many others.

How do organizations determine what needs to be the focus of their strategy?

Ahhh… this is key! They need to recognize that strategy is a process that, at its core, consists of designing and implementing elements of the organization that will draw customers past your competitors, allow you to charge more than your competitors, and/or provide you with a cost advantage. It starts outside of the organization because that’s where your customers start, and it involves an analysis of what you’re doing now that’s just “table stakes” in the industry and what you do (and can do) that will truly separate you from the competitors. This involves some version (I use a very practical adaptation of it) of Resource-Based Analysis.

Why is it unnecessary to exceed customer or client’s median expectations?

Half of strategy is maintaining conventional operations at or slightly above the median expectations of the customer. Customers could care less about your payroll department, your new agile approach to IT transformation, the quality of the cash registers, the health care benefits you offer employees, how much money you spent on the chairs in the executive reception area or the new procedures you have for handling customer calls. These items are standard. That is, they’re the things you do and must have in order to be considered a viable alternative by a customer. Standard elements of the business aren’t why customers choose one business over another, but they’re the important table stakes to be in the game.

How does an organization determine its perfect customer and how do they use that information?

Huge question. The perfect customer is one who instantly gets the value proposition of the offering and is willing to pay for it. There are many approaches to this. A strategy approach is aimed at improving the success rate of the sales team. Once you’ve designed a set of competitive advantages for the organization (some current and some that are developing), it’s important to examine who the perfect customer could be! Which customers would benefit the most from what you now know are your real competitive advantages?

How can organizational leaders ensure that everyone is on board with the strategy?

It’s all about communication, fit, consistency and continuous reinforcement by the leadership team. This is done in as many ways as possible. We communicate with:

– A one-page strategy map that outlines your advantages, what you want customers to say about your advantages and metrics you’ll use to monitor employee actions

– The implementation of a structure that’s aligned to the competitive advantages of the organization

– Well-written mission, vision and values statements that are aligned and lived everyday

– Project plans that drive the organization to deliver on the strategy promise

To learn more, visit bamfordassociates.com.

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Daniel Goh is the founder and chief editor of Young | Upstarts, as well as an F&B entrepreneur. Daniel has a background in public relations, and is interested in issues in entrepreneurship, small business, marketing, public relations and the online space. He can be reached at daniel [at] youngupstarts [dot] com.

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