Driving Force | Turnaround Tuesdays with Mark Faust


In most strategic thinking sessions I facilitate with clients, it is discerned that there isn’t just one business that the management team is leading but several business units. Each unit has a need for a unique strategy, unique set of objectives and a unique “driving force.” This is obvious with conglomerates like GE, but it isn’t as obvious for service companies and manufacturers. Even farm owners usually have a set of three to six business units.

My mentor’s mentor was Ben Tregoe, a Harvard Ph.D., former Rand Corporation think tank member and business thought leader who crafted the concept in strategy referred to as the “Driving Force.”


Defining Each Business Unit’s Driving Force for Competitive Advantage

The Driving Force provides focus, the basis for competitive advantage, guidance on the scope of products and markets, indication of “must-have” key capabilities, a communications vehicle, a means of unifying an organization, a source of decision-making criteria and a means of evaluating competitors’ strategies. The Driving Force also acts as a filter for new growth opportunities that appear and guide the phasing out of products and markets.

You will find that every one of your business units has at its strategic core one of the following Driving Forces.


1. Products or Services Offered

Cars/Ford, jets/Boeing, training firms, Microsoft, public services or police, hospitals and the like are organizations whose future markets it serves and the ways in which it will meet the needs of those markets are determined by the product or service offered. Competitive advantage is based on the benefits built into their products/services and the resulting branding.


2. Markets Served

Disney, Playboy, J&J, financial services and other organizations’ markets determine what products or services will be offered. This unit will look for alternative ways of filling the needs it is currently filling and searching for new needs of its market, and will develop or acquire new and different products for its market focus.


3. Technology

Apple, 3M, pharmaceutical developers, Velcro and other firms are ones that may just have one or more technologies that they can license out to others to market and sell. This unit has a focus on managing the development of new technology and/or leveraging existing technology into new distributive channels. It may look for a variety of applications of its technology like DuPont did with nylon and license out those applications.


4. Production Capability

Contract manufacturers, printers, consumer goods makers with little differentiation including milk, sugar and chemicals are units that focus on improving production efficiencies, managing toward more uptime and minimizing the cost of stopping or slowing of production.


5. Method of Sale

Amazon, Avon, eBay, iTunes or iPhone stores, or method of distribution—cable or utility companies, courier services, telecoms, Tim Hortons, McDonald’s, Walgreens are ones that determine their geographic scope, markets, products or services on the basis of their capabilities and limitations of their primary method of sale or distribution. You will usually be adapting to them rather than they adapting to you.


There are other driving forces like 6. Natural Resources (Mead/forestry products, oil companies) and 7. Return/Profit (M&A, venture capital firms, GE, Berkshire Hathaway.)

I’ve worked with dozens of seed companies and on more than one occasion to discern that they had a market-served driving force vs. product. This opened their minds to selling crop insurance, ag services, etc., getting them onto new farms, building new revenues with existing customers and even doubling profits within two years! First, discern each of your unique units, then their respective Driving Forces and unique objectives, and you will soon find new areas of growth and profits.


About Mark Faust

Each Tuesday, turnaround consultant Mark Faust will be sharing his expertise on how to turn around your small business. His blogs will be filled with practical insights and basic turnaround strategies designed to guide you through crisis leadership and change management.  You'll be able to tap into tips on everything from profitability issues, business continuity plans and pandemic pivots to operational processes, marketing and customers additional value.

As one of the companies he helped grow, we know first hand how inspiring his leadership is and just how well it works! Mark has also agreed to make his best-selling book ‘Growth or Bust’ available, free of charge, to any small business to help them create  their own effective turnaround plan. We’ll be sharing that with you soon.

You can learn more about Mark and his company, Echelon Management, by clicking here.


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Topics: small business owners, innovation, leadership development, transformation, competitive strategy, change management, Mark Faust, growth strategies, grow your business, business insights, strategy and growth, Echelon Management International, effective corporate turnaround, turnaround plan, basic turnaround strategies, small business turnaround strategies, turnaround mindset, strategic planning, competitive advantage, driving force, Ben Tregoe, growth opportunities, strategic thinking, Harvard, Rand Corporation, think tank

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