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Business Prof Decodes Business Strategies

Latham Offers Guidance for Bringing Ideas to Market

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Prof. Scott Latham of the Manning School of Business says entrepreneurs need discipline, focus and strong teams to successfully develop and execute a business strategy.

By Jill Gambon

Whether it’s a child’s summertime lemonade stand or market-altering software applications, business success comes down to a well-executed strategy.
With the failure rate for startups as high as 80 percent by some estimates, businesses can’t afford to give short shrift to a well-planned strategy. They have to take into account everything from decoding the competitive landscape to smart positioning, says Manning School of Business Prof. Scott Latham.

Successful entrepreneurs share a number of common traits, says Latham, who teaches strategic management and strategy formation and implementation. One key factor, Latham says, is having the discipline to say “no” to ideas or proposals that can drain resources and divert focus.

“People need to understand that resources are finite. The best leaders are not afraid to say no and push back. But with the pressure for profits and growth, some companies lose their way,” he says.

Latham recently co-authored a book that explores what goes into developing successful business strategies and examines some of the common mistakes that derail entrepreneurs and experienced business people alike. He spent two years writing the book, called “Mastering Strategy,” with Michael Braun, a professor at the University of Montana and frequent research collaborator.
The authors offer guidelines for assessing the business environment, charting growth, planning diversification and offer suggestions for measuring success. They use examples of actual strategy decisions by companies including Apple, Southwest Airlines and Netflix along with stories about every-day products like Crocs and Neutrogena soap to demonstrate their ideas.
“The book is written for anyone who has an idea they want to bring to life,” says Latham.

For entrepreneurs and others who are trying to bring innovations to market or launch new businesses, successful strategy development and implementation comes down to the people who are involved, Latham says.

“Every entrepreneur thinks their idea is the latest, greatest thing,” he says. “You need a diverse team in place that can have a good debate. You don’t want to be surrounded with ‘yes’ people.”