Curt Fowler: The Return on Strategy

Curt Fowler

Monday, April 30th, 2018

“In real life strategy is straightforward. You pick the direction and execute like heck.” – Jack Welch

I rarely quote Jack Welch, but I thought his statement on strategy was excellent even though I had to edit his language.

Strategic planning gets a bad rap. People overcomplicate strategy and under execute the plans that come out of the planning.

The return on executing a strategic plan is fantastic. It is the most important action you can take to radically improve the return on investment of your business. Below are a few quotes for context.

  • “70% of organizations with a formal execution process outperform their peers.” – The Balanced Scorecard Collaborative

  • “Only 30% of employees are engaged…costing companies 75% of their profit growth” – The Gallup Organization

  • “Without vision, the people perish.” – Proverbs 29

The brilliant minds at Bain & Company have been surveying executives around the world since 1993 asking them what tools they found most effective in driving value in their organizations. In 2017 the survey had 14,700 respondents.

What was the most used and most effective tool identified by these leaders?

Strategic Planning.

Strategy Can Be Simple

Strategy Definition A – “Strategy is the plan to get from Point A (where you are today) to Point B (where you plan to be in the future).”

If you want to complicate it, here is my most complicated definition of strategy.

Strategy Definition B – “Strategy is the plan to get from Point A to Point B leveraging your competitive advantages to outperform the competition.”

The Solution to No Execution

Most plans fail because they are never executed. Leadership over-invests in the creation of the plan and has no remaining bandwidth to carry out the plan. They get back to work and realize how far behind they’ve gotten and return to their traditional way of doing business.

The solution to this problem is the Strategic Sprint. The Strategic Sprint creates the simplest strategy in the least amount of time with a plan to execute. The Strategic Sprint has three parts.

Competitive Advantage

You can find your competitive advantage by answering this one question.

“What are you best at that matters most to your target clients that they are willing to pay for?”

If you are great at something that no one is willing to pay for, it can be a fantastic hobby but not a business. Businesses create value by meeting a human need. Businesses stay alive by getting paid to meet that need.


Vision answers a lot of questions. Questions like:

  • “Where are we going?”

  • “What is our plan to get there?

  • “Are we winning?”

  • “Do I want to go where this company is going?”

Vision establishes the finish line.


If vision establishes the finish line, your execution plan is the roadmap to get there. Your execution plan establishes the Who, What, When, Where of your plan. A good execution plan establishes clear responsibilities and next steps for your team.

A great execution plan creates a ridiculous amount of focus on the single, most important next step to achieving your vision. In a world of distraction, focus wins. With a singular focus on the next most important step, your team will begin to drop tasks and to do’s that do not get them closer to the goal. This creates time, bandwidth and resources for the achievement of your most important goal.

Do you have a vision for your organization and plan to achieve it? If you do not, I have great news for you.

On May 8th, the Valdosta Small Business Development Center and Guardian Bank will be hosting a strategic planning workshop. In one day you will create the three critical elements of your Strategic Sprint. You will leave the day with a plan you can immediately put in place.

I will be co-leading this event with the amazing staff of our local SBDC. Our special guest will be Dr. Ronald Zaccari. Dr. Z has developed and executed more plans in real life than anyone I know. Having someone with Dr. Z’s experience providing input to your plan will be an opportunity you do not want to miss.

To register contact Cindy Corgan, program coordinator with the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center at VSU, at or (229) 245-3738 to reserve a seat or learn more. Class size is limited.

You can also go to and use the code “Strategic” to take advantage of the early bird discount. You will not regret it!

Have a business growth topic or question you’d like me to cover? Send suggestions to cfowler [at] or use our contact form by clicking here

Curt Fowler is President of Fowler & Company ( and Director at Fowler, Holley, Rambo & Stalvey ( He is dedicated to helping leaders create and achieve a compelling vision for their organization. He is a syndicated business writer, keynote speaker and has an MBA in Strategy and Entrepreneurship from the Kellogg School. He is also a CPA and a pretty good guy as defined by his wife and four children.

About Curt Fowler

Curt Fowler is the President and Founder of Fowler & Company, a business advisory firm founded to help its clients maximize the value of their organizations. Curt is a Certified Public Accountant and earned his Masters in Accountancy from the University of Georgia. He also earned an MBA in Strategy and Entrepreneurship from the Kellogg School at Northwestern. He has spent 20 years studying and learning from some of the best businesses in America including Verizon, Sara Lee, Cox Communications and many more.