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It was the late 1980′s and the telecommunications and publishing industries were facing enormous changes. The internet, as we know it today, was in its infancy. I was fortunate to join a start-up, as CFO, that was developing a digital production platform for the Yellow Pages industry. Back then, the Yellow Pages was more than a $10 billion industry. In less than five years, our team had created the largest, most cost efficient production platform in the country. Our customers were happy, revenues were growing and profits were respectable.

Some of the management team had declared victory and were starting to “satisfice” (satisfy & suffice).

Other on the team, including the CEO, CIO and myself saw seismic changes on the horizon. Using proven strategic frameworks and tools such as Michael Porter’s Five Forces Framework, Strategy Canvasses, Strategy Mapping and Balanced Scorecard we started to think very differently about our business. Specifically, these processes and tools created an environment and framework for a much different level of thinking that helped us identify areas where strategic change was imperative and helped us focus on making those changes that would create greater value and lower risk.

With strong visionary leadership, a team capable of different thinking and the use of proven strategic frameworks and tools, we repositioned the company as a digital content provider serving multiple industries. We not only leveraged alternative uses for our products and services allowing us to sell to a whole new customer set, but we were much better positioned from a value perspective relative to buyers, suppliers and competitors; therefore moving the industry value chain. (Our average sale went from several thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars). As a result of the strategic shift in the business, firm value increased and the company was sold to a large internet / e-commerce company looking to fill a strategic gap in its portfolio.

Take-Away Points

No matter how successful you have been, change is inevitable and it is the job of company leadership to lead the business through change. There is no substitute for great leadership.

Leading through change requires thinking at a different level. Remember this quote from Albert Einstein: “The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them.”

Watch for signs of “satisficing” in your organization. It is often a leading indicator of cultural problems and organizational mis-alignment. One of the lessons learned is that the people who got you to where you are today may not be the people you need to get you where you need to be tomorrow.

Strategic planning is not about documents, one-page plans or SWOT analysis. Strategic planning is a process that when properly executed gets people to think very differently. The tools and techniques used in the process provide the environment and framework to get people to think at a different level and harness that thought to drive significant change.

To learn more about the firm of Hayden Nelson & Yoder “An Accounting Firm That Thinks Very Differently”, please go to our website at

If you would like to discuss the power of thinking differently and how it could help you and your company or your clients, please contact me at

Please see my LinkedIn Profile

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