Crystal clear strategy

Columns - Industry Voices

March 5, 2013
Marty Grunder

Marty Grunder

I teach small business owners and their leadership teams at Aileron ( in Dayton, Ohio. One of the sayings we often mention is “structure follows strategy.” What does that mean?

It means that you don’t put processes, people, equipment and facilities in place until your strategy is clear. So, what is strategy, you ask? Strategy is clearly defining what you are trying to accomplish. It’s what a win looks like.

It’s what author Stephen Covey was talking about when he brilliantly said, “Begin with the end in mind.” I can tell you, without any reservation whatsoever, that if you don’t have a clear strategy, you will wander aimlessly wasting time, squandering money, and losing the most important thing your company can have – an engaged workforce.

An “engaged workforce” is the result of many things. But primarily it’s the result of a clearly communicated strategy. Everything emanates from this. When everyone in your company knows what a win looks like. When they know what success is defined as. When they know when and if they’ve won, you eliminate waste and you have a laser-like focus.

Too many green industry companies don’t have a strategy. They say yes to everything that comes their way.


Because there is no filter and there is no strategy against which to gauge the opportunity.

Aileron was founded by Clay Mathile, the gifted entrepreneur who took the Iams Pet Food company from $500,000 in sales in 1976 to nearly $1 billion in sales in 1999 and sold it to Proctor and Gamble for $2.3 billion.

He was the only shareholder. He got that company to that level by having a very clear and focused strategy. That strategy was stated very clearly in their mission statement, which was to “enhance the well-being of dogs and cats with world class nutrition.”

So focused was Mathile, that when anything was presented to him, if it didn’t align with the mission statement, he would say no. Consequently, they did not produce food for any other animals other than dogs and cats.

This clarity of purpose drove the company and helped everyone on a daily basis see what was important and what they needed to do.

Anyone reading this column, whether you have a green industry business or not, needs to have a clearly communicated strategy and you have to constantly remind everyone on your team what you are trying to do. You don’t let up on this – ever.

Even if you feel like a nag, you keep on talking about it. When you find your team imitating you on what you are saying, then you will know you are on to something.

So, if you don’t have a clearly communicated strategy, get one. Start by writing out the answer to this question: How would you know you have been successful a year from now? The answer to that question is your strategy.

Good leaders then take that strategy and they share it with mentors, their teams, and even their families and ask for constructive criticism on it.

Like everything in business, developing and perfecting your strategy is a process, so get started today.

The byproduct of a well-communicated strategy is an engaged workforce that feels like they not only know what they are doing, but they know why they are doing it. And the answer to “why” is a game changer in my book.


Marty Grunder is a speaker, consultant and author; he owns Grunder Landscaping Co. See; mail