The author likes to share what she has learnt through years of ups and downs in doing business that a right strategy contributes signifcantly in corporate development. Without a strategy, a company wanders aimlessly; but even with a well thought out strategy, it is not guaranteed that all will be well. Strategies are all about the quality of your assumptions; one of them goes wrong can set you back in time and money. The following story tells how the author deployed strategy into concrete objectives and systematically communicated these strategic objectives down to operational levels to ensure a clear and focused direction and made the implementing plan self-adapting.
In 2009, after L & A was well into stable operation supplying Operation management – Consulting – Training services in corporate human resources, I shared with the Board about my dream: A company specialized in online communication and focus on exploiting user-generated content about careers, jobs and training for the end users ranging from students to mid-level managers. At that time, we had in hand a job board website and a revenue of VND 16 billion in partnership with Tuoi Tre Newspapers. It’s worth nothing that Facebook was not as popular and LinkedIn had just started making inroads in Vietnam then.
We were dreaming about a business model to collect content of sharing experience by community about personal and career development in order to help other people with real knowledge and skills hardly acquired in classes; to offer listing advertisements of recruitment – training ft to audience of specifc needs of skill and career advancement. And a new company was launched and operated from 2010 with a remarkable amount of investment for a start-up.
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We transferred this dream into reality of the business by creating a strategy map which was connected to specifc innovations with quantifed measurements and criteria for each department. Highest priority was given to the topic to attract as much as possible valuable sharing content and interaction about personal and career development. Everything was going well and we collected over 300,000 registrants only in one year. A post on our forum immediately brought about some 300 registrations for an offine event; and we faced tough challenge to fnd bigger and bigger venue for our community offines. Revenue started to come from brands and training centers. Monthly, I had meetings with each of the key persons to review all committed KPIs, broken down to each department in 4 perspectives: Financial, Customer, Internal Process and Learning & Growth, all by the book, to ensure everything was moving in the right direction without any waste of resources, to analyze underperformed indicators and to put forward solutions for the optimization of processes, organization and competencies. I myself used the corporate KPI table to toss and turn and connect the lit points – my dream and the good or the bad stuff collected from and discussed with my subordinates. But life is not a fairy tale!
In the year of 2012, we decided to close this business and overnight we laid off several dozen of staffs leaving a team of only 3 head counts including myself because the analysis showed that the Vietnamese market was fragmented and not big enough to facilitate organic growth without huge additional investment. The lesson from this exercise was, despite having a clear strategy systematically rolled out to each department, each staff, a subjective thinking about market scale in product development strategy derailed the whole team’s effort. What made us realize what went wrong was the strategy map with detailed implementation plans. It manifested internal problems, market trend challenges and unsurmountable obstacles for us to reach the decision to abandon ship. It hurt so badly but we had to sacrifice sunk costs and look for ways to salvage the operation.
With 03 remaining headcounts, I was determined to learn from the past experience to launch a new initiative. Firstly, my team and I analyzed SWOT, counted the remained assets from social network business, such as content community, database of nationwide trade marketing freelancers. We realized that this business still had many potentials and great opportunities to provide brands Marketing Operation Service. Businesses spent much money for social media marketing and direct interation with buyers on distribution channels. Our initiative was to leverage IT and online marketing resources to create new competitive advantages and higher added values to clients in trade marketing by improving nationwide operational effectiveness. This strategy helped us win many projects from leading multinational companies in Vietnam. It was not easy at all for our company to recruit and keep talents in this period just after such a “critical surgery” and still “young and green” in a very competitive industry. Luckily, some capable and “die-hard” warriors shared my vision, and together with me overcome the ups and downs during the last 5 years.
We have fnally turned the business around and set on our course for high growth. From an overall strategy for our group of companies, KingBee now clicks to our BPO (business process outsourcing) business master plan as the service provider of labor intensive marketing operation, rounding out the total turn-key human resource solution offered by L & A.
Obviously, the strategy map and strategic objective management system helped us not only know where and how to get back on track, but also fexibly adapted, confdently reshuffed once the old strategy did not work as expected; shared new business vision to staff; persuaded them to follow and made a dramatic turn-about.
Ms. Phạm Thị Mỹ Lệ, Chairwoman, Le & Associates