The idea of developing a plan for the next 2-3 years may have you feeling… overwhelmed, trapped, or otherwise just icky.
But with Alexander Brueckmann’s Intentional Strategy Framework, you’ll discover that you can create a strategy that aligns perfectly with who you are and what you do… WHILE giving you the freedom to be creative and take advantage of new opportunities… that strategy might just become your favorite new word.
He’s breaking it down on this episode and we’re beyond excited to hear what he has to say.
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Alyson Lex 0:03
A lot of times when we build our businesses, we tend to just kind of gut check our opportunities, we find something that feels like it might work, it feels good, and we do it. And what happens with that, as you've heard Jenny and I talked about in the past, is it can lead you astray. But creating a strategy can feel overwhelming, restrictive, and maybe not in line with the way you want to run your business. And that is why we have invited one of our favorite people, Alex workman, to come and talk to us today about really being intentional with the strategy that we're creating and how to do it in a way that feels like it aligns with us. Alex, thanks for being here with us.
Alexander Brueckmann 0:49
Thank you very much for having me. I'm a huge fan of your podcast and actually listening to each episode that comes out.
Jennie Wright 0:57
That makes me feel pressure. No pressure there. Oh, my gosh. Okay. Well, we're gonna try and deliver today for sure.
Alyson Lex 1:06
Alex, what do you typically see business owners do when they start working on a strategy?
Alexander Brueckmann 1:14
So one of the I would say three things are regularly visible when we when we get involved. First of all, what we often see is that many are not clear about what a strategy actually is, first of all, and as a result, they would use the term strategy when they actually are talking about other things like a vision or a goal. So they mix up kind of different words, and thereby blur the concepts for themselves. So strategy as we use it is the way to a vision that you set yourself kind of a big, audacious goal in the next three to five years, for example. And strategy can be strategy for your human resources department, it can be a sales strategy. But most of the times, we're talking about a business strategy that is defining the course of action over the next few years. I would say secondly, another issue that I've observed many times when businesses creating strategies that they actually don't. And what that means is, instead of drafting a strategy, they create kind of an operational excellence program, meaning they keep doing what they have been doing. But this time they do it Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger, if you know what I mean. Like, it's a, it's a big trap that companies fall into even the even the biggest ones, if you take a look at the current strategy, business strategy of McDonald's, it's exactly that. There's nothing transformational about it. It's just an operational excellence program. And then thirdly, many business owners seem to bite off more than they can chew. So let's assume they have done everything, right. It's a really good strategy that they wrote down. They were intentional about it. But they are not focused enough on what really matters. And as a result, they create, they create a great strategy that is kind of awesome on paper. But when it comes to implementing it, they realize, oops, I don't have the resources to do all those things. So it's not focused enough. I would say, these are the things the three elements are the three things that we often see.
Jennie Wright 3:39
So I've caught you saying a little bit of a Daft Punk reference in there. Oh, yeah. That was like, Oh, okay. Gotcha, gotcha. So you've listed off a couple things. You talked about three different ways that people are actually screwing this up. And, you know, transparency, being that I think every entrepreneur can admit to the fact that they've kind of done this at some point. What should we be doing instead? Evil? Yeah, yeah, exactly. So what are we doing instead? What are the you know, if those are the wrong ways? What are the right ways for us to build an implement a strategy, especially for the small business or entrepreneurial sector?
Alexander Brueckmann 4:12
There is no one thing that is the right way. I would say there are very different ways to come up with a great strategy. But they all have, let's say, a common theme to it. And this common theme is to be intentional about what you want to do. So when Alison introduced the episode, she said many entrepreneurs and business owners and founders, they gut check decisions that come their way. This is exactly the opposite of being intentional. This is just being opportunistic. So a strategy is about sitting down understanding where I want to be in three to five years, and then creating consciously an intentional plan of how I will get there, and that helps me make choices. But first of all, it means I have to make choices. I have to know what I want. And I have to know what I don't want. And they have to know who will I serve and whom will I not serve? One of the, one of the greatest examples of that is when I was still working for a large organization as a strategy manager, I had a discussion with, with the managing director, after he came out of a meeting, completely furious, and we're like, what's going on? He was like, we were just discussing the new strategy. And we all agreed that this is the new kind of ideal client that we have. And then the sales guy stood up at the end of the meeting and said, but what if Microsoft comes away would still take them as a client? And everyone was like, No, we just agreed that they are not our ideal client. So why is this important? Imagine a client comes your way. And you're like, Oh, that's a great opportunity, I'm going to make a lot of money with this. It's going to, it's going to propel me toward my goal, my strategic vision, the moment you do that, you take away time, and money and other resources in order to reach your vision. It is a shiny gold that completely distracts you from where you want to be.
Alyson Lex 6:18
I think that it's really important what you just said, because we've all done that. I'm only going to focus on x, y, z, but then big name ABC comes in. And you get kind of wowed by the opportunity by the future by the potential. Yes. And you end up chasing something that is far away from where you originally wanted to be. It's happened to me. And it's, it's hard, right?
Alexander Brueckmann 6:55
I think the issue is, once you once you are there, and you realize that you're there. It's hard to get back to a originally were because time doesn't come back, money doesn't come back. If you spend $1, once it's gone if you spend a minute once it's gone. So being intentional about where you want to be, and then being intentional about how you get there. These are super critical. I think it's more a mindset than anything else. super critical, especially for founders and entrepreneurs and small businesses, because they really can't afford those issues. I've seen large corporations waste millions going the wrong way. Just to say, yeah, it didn't work, whatever. They have the funds, they have the resources. We as small business owners and entrepreneurs, these these can be like these can be death threats to our store existence. So we arrived, we should rather be very intentional what we do.
Alyson Lex 7:52
I want to shift quickly, because you're you're talking about making a decision about where you want to be in 235 years. What do you do if that just feels overwhelming? I mean, I can't think about honestly, next year sometimes would How do you think about that? Get them right mind frame?
Alexander Brueckmann 8:16
That's a great question. Actually. I believe that the moment you get up in the morning, you need to know what you do. You just don't sit on your computer and you start typing right? Let's take an example. Let's say you are a young author, and you want to write a book. Just sit down and write. And then an evening you go to bed and next morning, you wake up again and you write if you do that, without a clear plan, this book will look kind of different than as if you had a clear plan of what you want to write about. And the same is true for your business. The one thing that distinguishes us human beings from animals, there are not many things that distinguish us from them. But one, for sure is that we have imagination, we can think about the future we can see us in a different world, in a new role, or with different people in a new situation. And we should use this given gift in order to envision where we want to be and then consciously work towards it. So it is in us as human beings, we are able to do it, it needs a bit of practice. But without that we are just all over the place.
Jennie Wright 9:38
So what I'm hearing, and what I like about this is that we have that ability to have that imagination which sets us apart. If we train ourselves if we take the time to actually create the intention and we train ourselves then we can create a practice where we're being more intentional with our strategy and that should help us get to our goals right. So what are some so what are the some of the first steps To start making that happen to create strategy, I mean, to teach or to implement strategy with intention, not just strategy where we're trying to delineate between the two and understand that strategy is one thing, but also creating a strategy with intention is a little bit more. The important part, I guess, yeah,
Alexander Brueckmann 10:20
I think the magic happens when you use your strategizing your strategic process. And you're not only thinking about strategy. And what that means is, first of all, as a business owner, as an entrepreneur, there's a reason why you do what you do. And this is typically not money, you typically didn't start a business because you wanted to be rich. But because you've felt that what you can bring to the game to the world, can help someone can transform something can make a difference. So if you are clear about this, this is your purpose, right? This is why you are there, what is the unique issue out there in the world, that no one else is better positioned to solve as you. So this is the first piece, then you decide, okay, if that's my purpose, what's valuable for me? That's what I call values. I mean, clear, right? So if you know what, what what is valuable to you, this then sets the tone of how you build your business and how you interact with people. large organization often would then transfer those values into behavioral guidelines, like leadership guidelines, leadership principles, or even put them into a code of conduct that translates values into how do I interact with suppliers with other stakeholder groups. So if you're a small business owner, that's not going to really necessary, but you need to know what's important to you, what's defines you, what is what is valuable for you, how you want to be treated, how you treat others. And with that in mind, you then just the third step, to be intentional is to be crystal clear what your mission is. And the mission is not a fancy term admission is really a no frills statement about your business definition. What is it that you do, I could tell you that I do fancy things. But in the end, what I really do is I consult with entrepreneurs and organizations to create intentional strategy. That's what I do in no frills terms. And then you have the base layer, that's the basis where you build your strategy on. And that is just a two to three, maybe five year goal, and an idea of how you measure the progress to get there. And in the end to define, okay, in order to get there, what do I have to do? What are the key pillars, the logic buckets, and some of them might be sales and business development, another bucket might be marketing, a third bucket might be find proper resources, get funding, find angel investors, all those things play an important role when you are a start up or a young business. And honestly, some of these ideas are already in your head. They are there, you know, in your guts, what you want to do, the moment you structure it, you see the interdependencies between those things, you see how it all connects, and how you can intention, be intentional about how you manage it, the likelihood that you reach your goal is way higher than if you just have it somewhere in your head. So write it down. And decide intentionally, where you start what your next step is, what your third step is, in order to get there.
Jennie Wright 13:50
What I'm hearing, and I think this is a message that people really need to internalize is that when we're becoming entrepreneurs, or when we're starting these online businesses, we're small business owners, some of us don't look at our businesses and treat them as we would some of these larger businesses. And there's lessons that we can pull from them. You know, a lot of us left the corporate culture for a reason. But there's things that we should and could pull out, that we can facilitate into our own businesses, and be a little bit more the CEO, like really, you know, some of us, and I've seen this happen, I know you've probably seen it happen as well, is where entrepreneurs are just sort of like playing at, and they're not really doing this with any intention. And they're not doing this with any plan. And they're just kind of like licking a promise. And I hope I get there, we can pull some of these strategies that you because you're, you're a strategist and you work with large companies, and you teach them how to actually, you know, create these intentional strategies that helps them do all these wonderful things in their business. We can pull those into our small business and see that kind of success and I'm just really excited for people to understand that
Alexander Brueckmann 14:58
it's so important that we treat Businesses as businesses, no matter how large they are, they are a business. And there are business best practices out there that we can use and leverage. Even if we are a one man show a solopreneur, a company that consists of maybe the two founders and some administrative assistance. It's It doesn't matter how large or small your business is business, and you can use best practices. Don't treat your business like a hobby, if you want to make money with it, use business best practices in order to build a business.
Alyson Lex 15:32
I am and Jenny will attest to this, I am the queen of winging it. This is how I lived my life. And in the time that I've gotten to know you, and I've, you know, been working with you on your stuff, and all of this good stuff. You've won me over. I am like, I now I'm just looking for a couple hours in my day to sit down and start doing what I know you teach. So how do you go from this is my vision where I want to be? And this is my my buckets to get there? How do you now create the plan for things instead of just being Alison and winging it all the time.
Alexander Brueckmann 16:16
What many entrepreneurs and small businesses struggle with is finding time because we feel like there are only a finite number of hours every day, and there's so much in our to do lists. And there's so much you want to achieve and so many ideas. We just need to stop and pause. Because ideas and to do lists are not strategic, they are not intentional, they are operational. This is the big difference between what we do everyday and where we want to be in the future. The difference between what getting where we want to be or not getting where we want to be is to stop and think again. And the moment you take just an hour out of your schedule, let's say it Friday evening, or each Monday morning, whenever and you start working on this plan, the moment you realize that a lot of things that you're doing right now, they are just not right. You don't need them anymore. It's just business stuff. So much of what we do every day is just not important anymore. The moment you we write down our intentional strategy, we can then focus on what's really important. And the speed that we pick up by that is amazing. You would not believe how much more you can achieve if you're intentional about what you want to achieve. And there's this is again, it's shiny object syndrome that you want to avoid. And being busy that you want to avoid. Busy is not getting you anywhere. This is this awesome phrase. Busy, it's the new stupid. And I'm stupid many times a day. I'm just busy doing things that I that I enjoy doing, because I always enjoyed them. And then I'm like, Alex, is that really what you want to do right now? What do you want to spend your time with? Or will you do that later, like, when you sit on your sofa in the evening, when you're when you brought your child to bed, then it's time to do this fun stuff. Now be intentional about what you want to build and act accordingly. It's a method to hold ourselves accountable to our own standards.
Alyson Lex 18:37
Okay. I really liked what you just said about understanding what's on your to do list and I wanted to call this out because it's so important. That will change those things that are on your to do list will no longer be on your to do list because they're not getting you to the goal and the strategy and the vision and all of those big words. Big as in concept not yet long, big words that they're not getting you there. Then why are you doing them and I really like how it it kind of frees you up a little bit.
Alexander Brueckmann 19:20
Strategy is work Don't get me wrong, there is work that you put in there. But it also frees up a lot of time once you are intentional about it. So imagine imagine that in a way that you have a huge bowl of marbles and they all have different colors and you love playing with marbles and you you have you buy more and more marbles because you love them so much and you put them in a big bucket and it looks shiny and it is just nice to play with them. Right. And I know that you're a cat lady Ellison so cats love playing with marbles. Let's imagine you want to sort all these marbles just because you may You'd be like me, I'm a little OCD issue, right. So you love having them in order and not just in a bucket. And you're like, Oh man, I can't buy anymore because the bucket is already full. So now you take out the marbles, and you sort them and all of a sudden, you realize, you realize, wait a minute, that's not a marble, someone put that that's not a glass marble, someone put wooden marbles in there, I don't even like with marbles. And then you take out the wooden marbles, all of a sudden, your pocket has potential for some more glass marbles. That's how you should imagine that. And that's what Nintendo strategy does to you. It helps you sort your ideas, your thoughts,
Jennie Wright 20:42
your actions, what it feels like, as if though we if we do this, and we use these marbles, and we use this, you know, we use this method of intentional strategy, that it's actually going to allow us to take advantage of other opportunities, create new ideas, be more even more strategic in the plans that we're trying to create and actually achieve more of our goals. Am I kind of headed in the right direction on this? It's
Alexander Brueckmann 21:07
it's totally the the head of the nail.
Jennie Wright 21:11
Okay, that's what I thought. And I think, I think a lot of people like you were saying before that busy work that people do. It's almost, it's almost like a self soothing, like, if I'm doing this, that means I'm working and I'm making progress. And it's actually not it's the thing that's keeping you from making the progress forward. So in my business, and the stuff that I do with Alyson because Alyson and I work together quite often, we both do stuff in our businesses, we have no business doing, like literally none. Right. And Allison's, like Alison's messaging me right now saying, I feel seen by your last statement, right? Sometimes that busy work is just so we validate the fact that we sat at our desk for a couple hours doing something but we're not doing the thing. And that's where the problem lies with a lot of people. And I really wanted to sort of put a little bit of a highlighter on this moment, because I really think that people sometimes don't see that. And you have to do exactly what you said earlier, which is to I really want to be doing this right now. Is this the thing that I should be doing? And that's why you know, a lot of people make lists, I don't know if within your strategy plan, and I know you have no, you have a really great resource that you're going to share with people inside of that, do you help sort of lay out the way that people can start to play with this and put this in their businesses?
Alexander Brueckmann 22:35
Yes, totally. So we were talking about my intentional strategy toolkit, this is a resource that is available on my website for free. It's, it has quite some pages, it's work. But you can download it for free and start building your intentional strategy. using it. It's basically a step by step guide that helps you understand what your vision is where you want to be in the next three to five years, how you measure that you get there, then you can list all your project ideas in there, cluster them into what we call work stream. So those pockets of glass marbles. And in the end, what do you what do you have when you hold in your hands is a visual representation of your strategy of your intentional strategy. So it helps you define and decide what you will keep on doing, what new things you will add to the list and what busy stuff you will cut out. So it's basically the difference, it makes all the difference between being busy being productive, and being intentional about what you do. productivity is killing us all over the world. If you take a look at companies and people what what happened to them during the COVID period, they were working from home, they didn't have anything else to do so they worked with more productive and put more things on their to do list. But in the end, they were not really making more progress. So productivity does not mean progress. being intentional, secures progress for your business. Ah,
Alyson Lex 24:13
I have seen that tool kit. And that is the tool kit. But I am super inspired by and I know that our listeners are gonna want to grab that. So we're gonna put a link to it in the show notes on System to thrive.com. So they can just click right over, or I believe it is you gave us the link. It's a workman.ca slash toolkit. Yes, and they can head there. But System to thrive.com. Click the link in the show notes and that'll take you there to where else can we hang out with you online? Alex.
Alexander Brueckmann 24:51
You can hang out with me, for example, an Instagram just by my name, Alex Bookman. I've built a little community there that is, it's not very large. But it's super interactive. So I'm uploading various videos a week talking about topics that my community asked me to talk about. And that goes from, how am I more purpose oriented as a small company to? What do I do if I realize I have a skill gap in building my intentional strategy or in executing it to what does leadership mean, for me as a small company as an entrepreneur, so it's, it's super exciting to get in touch with the community there. So also on LinkedIn, of course, you will find me by my name, check out my website, brookman.ca. I think these are the main channels right now.
Jennie Wright 25:44
You are actually doing really well on Instagram, I've seen you grow quite the following. And they are super, super connected to you. And when you put something out, you're just like, you put out a video, and there's all these people going, Yeah, this is great. And like all these views, and it's just, it's really, really cool to see them growing it exponentially over the past little while, and absolutely, people should go check out your Instagram, it's, I think it's one of the best places to connect with you. And I would totally do that. The toolkit 100% The link will be on the show notes, make sure you go and check it out. And it's broken, it's not it's so just check the spelling when you're going don't go br br Okay, ba you know, ma n is that's not going to get you there. So make sure that you're checking out the right spelling of Alex's names, you actually get to the right spot. Alex isn't in a really, really fun, Alison, and I normally do a quick takeaway section on the end of our podcast with our guests, because there's so many takeaways. And there's a couple here that you said, there's a couple here that came between Allison and I that I think are really, really good. The first one really is ideas and tools are not strategic, and they're certainly not intentional. And that really validated in my head that sometimes making these lists and just kind of working from them is just, it's just me plugging. And plugging isn't for progress necessarily. It's just getting the stuff done. And there's, you know, there's not sitting and thinking of the Grand Master Plan. And this makes me want to sit down with my partner and just go, Okay, what are we doing in the next, like, what's the goal in the next two years, or three years or five years, where do we want to be or we're not going to get there. So that's number one. The other one that I thought which was really, really good. And this is excellent, I believe is the moment that you create that intentional strategy and plan, that moment, when you realize the unimportant, how unimportant the majority of the stuff that you're doing, that's when you actually can start to see where you need to be going. And I think that's a really important piece for people to remember.
Alyson Lex 27:44
big takeaway for me, was when you mentioned that, you know, in your gut what you want to do, but then you structure it to see how it all connects. And that's when you really can be intentional about how you manage it. And it was a really good shift for me from, you know, pushing and hustling, and that better, harder, faster, stronger to managing growth. It was just a little a little light bulb for me. And I've heard you say this before, but time doesn't come back. Money doesn't come back. Once it's spent, it's spent. So it's important to realize that whatever our our beliefs are about, you know, the the limitations of money or whatever, but time is a limited resource, it's finite for everyone. And once you know,
Alexander Brueckmann 28:36
the most important resource that we have, because it's the only resource that you cannot buy.
Alyson Lex 28:41
That's exactly it. And once it's gone, it's gone. So spending your time on those unimportant to do list items, I think is is a big wake up call to. So thank you for those.
Jennie Wright 28:54
You're very welcome. This has been this has been really, really good. And we've really enjoyed this conversation. It's excellent to hear these strategies, Allison and I have been privy to being able to see the backend of what you're building in your business. And it has been a phenomenal opportunity for Arseniy to shine a little bit of a light on our things as well, which is great. So definitely check out what Alex is doing. Connect with him wherever you can. And if you're listening to this podcast and you want to hear more content like this, please make sure you're following us wherever it is that you listen to podcasts and consider sharing it with friends. Let them know what you're hearing, and would this be helpful to them. Thanks so much for being here. We'll be back again soon answering another big question.