Strategic thinking refers to the way people think about the impact of their decisions in the medium and in the long term future. It is about making a pause, taking a step back and answering the question “What if I do this? What if I do that? Here are the consequences right now but what could be the consequences a few months down the line?” Strategic thinkers are focused on the long term. They are curious and creative.
People think that actions that boost their reputation are strategic. They are right. Reputation is the number one strategic risk. Why is that? Because it is the actions you take today that build the reputation your business will have tomorrow. Reputation is long and difficult to build and short and easy to tarnish. It takes very few unfortunate actions to damage your reputation for a long period of time.
The other day, I met a builder at a networking event. We knew several people in common which helped the conversation start off on the right foot. He described his job and told me how he transitioned from his previous occupation to this one 8 years ago. He told me about his current clients. They were wealthy London society figures. I was impressed. He came across as someone who knew his business and who would spare no effort to deliver the best quality job.
I liked him and I thought that I would pass his name to a friend who works in the interior design industry. Unfortunately this friend told me that she had heard of him before and that he did not have a very good reputation. She wasn’t too sure what it was about but she said that she would probably not work with him. She would not take the risk of damaging her reputation by working with him. He just missed a potential collaboration with a well-regarded interior designer as a result of an action he had done several years ago.
Reputation is one the most overlooked of strategic risks. People are often too eager to close a deal and reap the benefits now. They don’t think of the strategic consequences of selling the wrong product or delivering the wrong service. Take for instance the effect of a late payment. It has nothing to do with the quality of the products you deliver and yet it affects your reputation. Reputation is an unstable chemistry that can go bang anytime if you don’t look after it. It is a by-product of quality, service, communication and much more. It can be damaged by almost anything your business does. Reputation should be number one on our list of strategic lines of action. It is one of the most difficult aspects of business and it deserves full and constant attention. In the light of the recent Escherichia Coli incident at Chipotle, I would suggest that perhaps it is time businesses think of hiring a CRO, a Chief Reputation Officer. What do you think?
About the author
Emmanuel is a mentor and a motivational speaker. He is passionate about leadership and strategy. He is a former fast jet pilot and senior officer.