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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.

photo credit: w4nd3rl0st (InspiredinDesMoines) via photopin cc

“8Ps” of StrategyOpportunity
for Disruption
Recommended Leverage Points
Position- The farmers, individual and corporate, that you are targeting.

- The need of the agricultural industry that you seek to fill.
3- What technologies do you control that can help you tap into market
segments that you previously thought unreachable?

- What are the potential business alliances you could think about with key players in the segment to serve your customers with integrated solutions? (Serving customers with more integrated solutions example: serving farmers with fertilizers, crop protection and other).
Product- The products you offer, and the characteristics that affect their value to customers.

- The technology you develop for producing those products.
8- What moves are your organization taking to implement Big Data and analytics to your operations? What IoT and blockchain applications can you use?

- What tools and technology could you utilize or develop to improve food quality, traceability, and

- How can you develop a more sustainable production model to accommodate constraints on arable

- What is the future business model needed to serve new differentiated products to your customers?
Promotion- How you connect with farmers and consumers across a variety of locations and industries.
- How to make consumers, producers, and other stakeholders aware of your products and services.
8- How are you connecting your product with individual and corporate farms who could utilize it?
- How could you anticipate market and customer needs to make customers interested in accessing your differentiated products?
PriceHow consumers and other members of the agricultural supply chain pay for access to agricultural products.7- What elements of value comprise your pricing? How do each of those elements satisfy the varying needs of your customers?
Placement- How food products reach consumers. How the technologies, data, and services reach stakeholders in the supply chain.9- What new paths might exist for helping consumers access the food they desire?
- How are you adapting your operations and supply chain to accommodate consumers’ desire for proximity to the food they eat?
- How could you anticipate customer expectation to make products more
accessible to customers/agile supply chain?
- Have you considered urbanization as a part of your growth strategy?
- How your food satisfies the needs and desires of your customer.
- How the services you provide to agribusiness fulfill their needs.
9- Where does your food rate on a taste, appearance, and freshness
- Could the services you provide to companies and farms in the agriculture industry be expanded to meet more needs?
- What senses does your food affect besides hunger? How does your
customer extract value from your food in addition to consumption?
Processes- Guiding your food production operations in a manner cognizant of social pressure.8- How can you manage the supply chain differently to improve traceability and reduce waste?
- How can you innovate systems in production, processing, storing, shipping, retailing, etc.?
- What are new capabilities to increase sustainability (impact on the environment, or ESG) components?
People- The choices you make regarding hiring, organizing, and incentivizing your people and your culture.- How are you leveraging the agricultural experience of your staff bottom-up to achieve your vision?
- How do you anticipate new organizational capabilities needed to perform your future strategy (innovation, exponential technologies needed, agile customer relationship, innovative supply chain)?
- How do you manage your talents to assure suitable development with exposure in the agrifood main challenges/allowing a more sustainable view of the opportunities/cross-sectors?