By Russell Bell

EVERY now and then you need to take a breath and contemplate.

When you have cleared your head and removed distractions is the best time to determine your strategy and plot your next move.

Many successful businesses are born out of such a period of contemplation when a couple of events spark a moment of clarity, and business leaders go on to make a series of decisions that turn out to be successful.

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When it comes to your own decision-making, it helps to have a mentor or trusted adviser to help your thinking by challenging your position with the right questions. I have a mentor who brings independence and asks the "tough" questions.

I return from these mentoring sessions excited, invigorated and with advice which often has me refining my strategies.

The most recent piece of "advice gold" that my mentor imparted was about focus and the importance of life goals over every other aspect of business. He put it to me this way: "What is the point of having the best vehicle for travel if you don't know where you are going - or (more importantly) why?"

The message: Strategies are key as well as having a direction.

I have to say that it is erroneous - and, in fact, dangerous - to promote components of business as being of the highest importance without getting the strategy right first.

To say strategy is of less or even equal importance is just plain wrong. It's like investing thousands of dollars in getting the tyres on your car to be world-class but then not knowing how to drive it or where to take it.

Many a business fad has gained momentum based on claims that, by investing in this one component or methodology, businesses would get exponential returns. I recall people getting excited about "Six Sigma", "Process Re-engineering" and even "TQM"' (back when I started my career) - all of which have been supplanted.

The list of other fads is long but the constant is that strategy is of highest significance.

The true power is in setting your strategic vision first and then ensuring your organisation has the structure and resources to achieve it. Once you know the destination and the terrain in front of you, then you select the vehicle, the tyres, the tools and determine how they all combine to deliver you to your destination.

■Balance Consulting is a Whanganui consultancy specialising in business strategy, process excellence and leadership mentoring - contact Russell Bell on 021 2442421 or John Taylor on 027 4995872.