Blue Ocean Strategy for Solopreneurs: Focus on the Big Picture, Not the Numbers

You may recall, the first principle of Blue Ocean Strategy is the reconstruction of market boundaries. Without permission internally, and a process to break your industry boundaries, it will be impossible to move into blue oceans of uncontested market space. In today’s post, we learn how important the second principle is in blue ocean strategy for solopreneurs. Focus on the big picture, not the numbers.

The temptation when planning is to launch into a business plan or strategic plan and use templates that one finds online or using some process read about when researching a business, marketing, or strategic plan. I have been guilty of the same thing. Before I know it, I’ve played office and have spent a week mocking up fabulous charts, graphs, marketing and sales projections, and more.

Focus on the big picture

In blue ocean methodology, one works through a systematized visualization instead. The end result is a strategy canvas. The advantages of a strategy canvas are numerous.

By building a company’s strategic planning process around a canvas, a company and its managers focus on the big picture view and don’t get caught up in minutiae, details, numbers, and jargon. A strategy canvas shows a strategic profile of an industry by depicting key factors of competition.

Second, it shows the strategic profile of your company against the competition. You can glean lots of information about where the industry is investing through the careful construction of the strategy canvas.

Third, it demonstrates where your company’s value curve is when compared to your competition. It shows visually, what your company is investing in and what it deems important.

There exists a structured way to develop and draw your strategy canvas and big picture-oriented.

There are four steps in visualizing strategy in blue ocean strategy canvas development.

Four Steps in visualizing strategy

Step 1. Visual Awakening

This could be a serious challenge for the solopreneur. It may also be easier than in some corporate settings. I’ll break it down. A hard-driving entrepreneur, the stereotypical “A” type who wants self-employment for its freedoms from corporate BS may struggle with honest comparisons to competitors.

Some of you may recall Michael Gerber’s book The E-Myth, where he discusses the entrepreneur’s challenge in building processes and systems for their business. In solopreneurship or operating a small business of any kind, stepping back and taking a serious look at the big picture is challenging. One has to focus on working on the business and not in it. If a solopreneur is disciplined, taking time to compare his or her business with others in the industry may be one of the more useful exercises in blue ocean work.

When you honestly compare your strategic competitive factors against those of your competitors, you may then identify ways to change. If you struggle with this, hire a facilitator. Someone that will keep you focused on honest comparisons. In time, you’ll be implementing blue ocean strategy for solopreneurs where you’ll be able to focus on the big picture, not the numbers.

In the corporate setting, this visual awakening step is even tougher. The work gets caught up in turf wars, agendas between managers, a lack of clear leadership, and a myriad of other challenges common in corporate settings. It becomes tough to get people to come to the table without wanting to protect their own self-interests.

Step 2. Visual Exploration

This step starts with going into the field. This is where you take with you the Six Paths Framework and work through each of the 6 paths by talking with customers, noncustomers, and employees and/or colleagues. No path is left uncovered. The data gathered from this process is valuable and key to taking real steps toward new growth.

Second in this step is the exploration of the advantages of alternative products and services. When you pause and observe how your customers use your service or how noncustomers use the services or offerings of your competitors you learn much. If you dig deeper and seek to understand how your customers may be using a completely different solution to the problem you think you solve, you’ll discover possible value innovations.

Third, you should seek to discover which factors you should seek to eliminate, change, or create.

Step 3. Visual Strategy Fair

When you’ve gathered feedback from your fieldwork, you can then draw your “to-be” strategy canvas. This new canvas features possible new value innovations derived from the conversations held in your fieldwork.

Build several of these to-be canvas visualizations and then host a strategy fair, either in person or virtually. Solicit feedback from constituents, employees, former customers, and current customers.

You will end up with sufficient feedback to draw your to-be strategy canvas in ways that showcase what you should be emphasizing and investing in strategically.

Step 4. Visual Communication

This all-important step begins the process of implementation. For yourself as a solopreneur or small business owner, you’ll keep handy a copy of the As-Is Strategy Canvas and the To-Be Strategy Canvas on one sheet of paper. This visualization will allow you to prioritize marketing, sales, and operational behaviors based on the to-be strategy canvas.

With a clear visualization based on the previous three steps, you will find it easier to say no to initiatives, meetings, projects, gigs, or jobs that don’t fall within your path to new blue oceans of uncontested markets.

What now?

If you’re struggling with knowing exactly how to move forward with this process, don’t hesitate to schedule a complimentary phone call or zoom with Sherman G. Mohr, The Blue Ocean Strategist. Schedule your slot here.