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May The Force Be With You

As a volunteer career coach at my church, I often work with people who struggle to find their career focus. Lacking focus is understandable in today’s constantly changing environment. When our environment changes, our relevance may change. We can become either more relevant or less relevant to something, or to someone. And change can cause us to lose confidence in our capabilities and career focus.

Related to this issue of focus, my favorite business book is “Strategy Pure and Simple” by Michael Robert. I’ve always believed that his concept of an organization’s “driving force” is equally applicable to us as individuals. As a career coach, I often borrow from Robert’s driving force concept to help individuals find their focus.

Robert proposes that “every organization has momentum, or motion. Every organization is heading in some direction . . . there is something pushing, propelling or driving it in that direction. The concept of driving force or strategic drive is that one element or component of a business drives the organization towards certain products, markets, and customers and thus determines the organization’s ‘look’ or profile.”

Robert’s driving force idea is similar to Shepherd’s Law of Economics, which states that “behind each organization must be a singular force, or motive, that sets it apart from any other corporate structure and gives it its particular identity.”

To provide a driving force example, I often compare two companies: General Motors and Honda. Both companies make automobiles. Honda at its heart, however, isn’t an automobile company. Rather, its expertise (or driving force) is small engine manufacturing. Its strategic pathway is to offer products such as motorcycles, scooters, lawn mowers, power generators, automobiles and small aircraft engines. General Motors, on the other hand, doesn’t compete in most of these areas. Its DNA is not small engine development. As a result, General Motors (wisely) chooses to compete along a different strategic trajectory. Compared to Honda (and despite some market overlapping), GM sells a different product mix to a different customer mix.

Similar to Robert and Shepherd above, I believe that each of us has our own innate and highly unique “driving force” or “strategic heartbeat” that naturally propels each of us towards our own special strategic pathway. Each of us has our own unique mix of experiences, skill sets, education, strengths and philosophies, which shapes our own highly personal strategic heartbeat, whether we know it or not. The key is to identify it and then find unique application areas for it.

We are often clouded in our ability to define our strategic heartbeat. To find it, we need to clear away the peer pressure, the parental expectations, the urge to place others’ needs first, or even to sort out our own internal conflicting thoughts. We often stand in the way of ourselves!

Overall, the goal is to create the best fit between (1) your unique driving force and (2) an audience that places the highest value on your specialized offering.

What is your driving force? What powers your progress through the competitive and collaborative landscape?

About the author, John

John Benzick is an entrepreneurship coach and the founder of Venture Superfly. He is a Tech Partner at the venture-capital fund of Matchstick Ventures, a Mentor with Techstars Retail accelerator, an Entrepreneur-In-Residence and (former CEO-in-Residence) at the University of Minnesota, and founder and owner in two consumer product businesses. Click the button below to learn more.

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