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10 Important Quotes About Business Strategy

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10 Important Quotes About Business Strategy

By Tim Berry, Guest Blogger
Published: June 26, 2013 Updated: September 15, 2016

I worked for several years with a consulting firm called Creative Strategies. The name always struck me as ironic. In real business, from what I’ve seen, the best strategies aren’t creative. Instead, they’re obvious. Do what you do best – what makes you different from the others – and do it for the people who want it or need it. Find a successful business and its strategy seems obvious. Still, maybe what seems obvious after the fact wasn’t obvious beforehand.

My favorite quote about strategy is this one.  I'm not sure who said it first:

1. “I don’t know the secret to success. But I do know the secret to failure is trying to please everybody.”

And that quote reminds me of several other great quotes on strategy. Most of them are more reminders of what we all know, but forget. You’ve probably already heard (or read) some, maybe even most, of these:

2. “People don’t want quarter-inch drills. They want quarter-inch holes.” (Theodore Levitt)

3. “Speed, price, quality: Pick two.” (Anonymous, quoted in The Economist)

4. “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” (Winston Churchill)

5. “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” (Michael Porter)

6. “A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.” (Michael LeBoeuf)

7. “It’s not the customer’s job to know what they want.” (Steve Jobs)

8. “In preparing for battle I’ve always found that plans are useless, but planning is essential.” (Dwight Eisenhower)

In the more than 30 years that I’ve been helping people with business planning, research and occasionally strategy, I’ve worked with several sophisticated strategy frameworks developed by the best and brightest. I learned Porter’s five forces model and the Boston Consulting Group’s growth-share matrix methodologies in business school, and I’ve worked with some others as well. But those methodologies are needed most by large organizations that manage thousands of people and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of resources. Back in the real world, where startups and small businesses are trying to make things happen, the right strategy is almost never subtle or sophisticated.

And that point of view, from the front lines of small business, has me thinking that the most important principle in real-world small business strategy is displacement, which I define as:

9. “Displacement: In the real world of small business, everything you do rules out something else you can’t do.”

That idea comes from the physical principle of displacement of liquids, which is what happens when water splashes as you throw something heavy into it. I’ve seen for years that the small business can’t do everything – although as entrepreneurs and business owners we always want to – so we have to be sure we do the right things, and the most important things.

And, finally, one last quote that I think is wrong and potentially dangerous:

10. “There’s only one growth strategy: work hard.” (William Hague)

What’s wrong with that one? Because so many people work way too hard trying to do everything, or the wrong thing, instead of focusing strategically on the important thing. Consider displacement and what that means. Or the wisdom of the “pick two” quote, or Porter’s “choosing what not to do.” Or, going back to my favorite, “trying to please everybody.”

About the Author:

Tim Berry
Tim Berry

Guest Blogger

Founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software and, on twitter as Timberry, blogging at His collected posts are at Stanford MBA. Married 46 years, father of 5. Author of business plan software Business Plan Pro and and books including his latest, 'Lean Business Planning,' 2015, Motivational Press. Contents of that book are available for web browsing free at .


Thanks for sharing amazing information. Inspirational Quotes something that lets you keep going ahead, even though you feel that you cannot make it any more...
Great quotes! Customer satisfaction is no one. We should know what they want and go after it
In order to have a booming business growth, put the business environment on top of the chain of focus. Make the customers and staffs(business environment) become part of success story.
“There’s only one growth strategy: work hard.” I gree 100%. You aren't the best, but you should trying your best. Work hard and little lucky will help you success in business
Good article, thanks. I am happy to have started my own company. I don't mind working hard when I know it's for my family and myself. While I learned many strategies in the corporate environment, choosing how when to do things now, without being encumbered by bureaucracy is very nice indeed.
Customer satisfaction is our primary aim.You'll bring in a ton of repeat business by customer satisfaction.
However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.I wish I learn earlier that I was not in the monetary business enterprise .Thanks for these great tips
A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.I like the sixth rule .customer satisfaction is the most important thing
I would like to submit one more business-related quote which I think is not only wrong but dangerous, and that is this; Rule #1: The customer is always right Rule #2: If the customer is wrong, see rule #1 As someone who grew up with parents who owned a couple small businesses, I can tell you that no matter how hard you try you cannot please everyone and trying to do so is an exercise in futility. However, just because you can't please everyone doesn't mean you shouldn't have a series of well-thought-out policies towards customer relations (such as a reasonable return policy) which isn't the same as trying to please everyone all the time. Rather, it's just being realistic as to when, where and to whom you can satisfy.
I think the 9-th rule is so true... what you're doing in your business influence your real life, partners, clients and your future also. It can get you up or it can bring you down, together with all people around you. In a sens we are connected in networks witch we cant break. Great article and great rules for life even you've not started a business till now.


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