Serial entrepreneur Bernee Strom has built a career thinking ahead in fast-moving markets, from electronics to television. She has served or is serving on the boards of companies like Benchmark Electronics, Hughes Electronics/ DirectTV, and Polaroid and is now the Chairman & CEO of WebTuner (www.webtuner.tv), a company that may transform how we access TV. So when we got chance to ask her how she does it, we jumped. Here is what she she had to say.
Outthinker: How does an executive ensure that they are thinking strategically?
Bernee: As CEO of a WebTuner – an early stage company — shifting to strategic thinking after spending a day mired in logistical detail can be challenging. Connecting with friends and colleagues offers a critical sounding board when facing strategic decisions. That helps me both to better develop nascent ideas as well as to challenge my own preconceptions and make sure I’m evaluating the situation honestly. My membership in C200 has been particularly beneficial because the organization has members from so many different types of business, there’s always someone with expertise in whatever issue I’m facing. One C200 member serves as a board member and many other C200 members are investors in WebTuner, serving not only as friends, but also as valued advisers who are not shy or hesitant to give me their advice, and who are generous with their time and expertise.
Outthinker: What are the tips or habits or rituals you have seen effective to helping ensure before you jump into a decision, you think strategically about it?
Bernee: My most important ritual is starting in the very early morning by reading — newspapers, blogs, whitepapers, you name it. My reading time fills up my head with interesting information that I know will be useful to me — maybe later that day, or maybe the next day or somewhere down the road. I’m a mathematician so I am always looking for patterns and the more facts and details I gather, the more alternatives I can see, and it is easier to identify the right course of action.
Outthinker: Is the world really accelerating and, if so, what are the implications for how we manage and lead?
Bernee: Yes, the world is absolutely accelerating! Now more than ever a business leader needs to be nimble. Expectations are that decisions — big and small — can be made almost instantaneously! The key is to evaluate if there is a real reason for the urgency, or if a quick turnaround is expected only because everyone has gotten in the habit of instantaneous response, and act accordingly. As a leader working in this fast-paced world, it is important to create a safe place where employees can act quickly, try new things, and if they made a reasonable choice given the available information, aren’t punished if it doesn’t work out. Making sure to hire the right people up front makes a huge difference as time pressures build. Above all I think it is important to make decisions quickly so that you can see if it works out, and course correct if it doesn’t. If you delay making a decision, you delay finding the right path.