Honing Strategy By Crafting a Company Description

By Dougal Cameron - May 28, 2019

Crisp clear prose is a necessity for communicating in any high performing team. Startups and growth stage companies are no exception. Here, Dougal Cameron with GSTVC shares his tactic for getting to a clear description of what a company does. By starting broad and reducing in stages until reaching a twenty-five-word description, a team can hone its strategy and communicate clearly.

Communicating clearly

When you begin to look for it, you will find sloppy prose everywhere. People use short cuts, complex sentences, unnecessarily eloquent words, and colloquialisms in an effort to communicate. Ironically, in so doing, the author’s intended message doesn’t get across.
A great personal exercise is to spend a week communicating as concisely as possible. At first, every answer, email, voicemail, text, or interaction will feel labored. But after two or three days, you will notice how easy it becomes. The results are important. Clear concise communication is rare and appreciated.

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Clear strategy

Strategy requires a team who buy into it and work together to realize the objective. This process requires clear communication. So, it is perhaps no surprise that poor prose impacts strategy. When the ‘what do we do’ and ‘why do we do it’ are communicated poorly, team members are likely to be heading in different directions. In a startup, this can be fatal.

The steps to clear strategy

The following tool can be used in teams of all size. From a single operator to a team of twenty, you will see dramatic improvement and potential for new strategic ideas to emerge.

1. Developing the current description

First, you will need your team to brainstorm the current description of the company. This part is simple. You can do it with a legal pad or a whiteboard. We find it most successful when everyone is completely engaged. If you are like us, you will be amazed at how varied everyone’s descriptions are of the same thing.
  1. Brainstorm who your company is and who it serves.
  2. White board the things your company does. Create a list.
  3. Charge someone on the team to create a first draft. Ignore the length.

2. Hone for clarity

After you develop your first draft of the description, it is time to use the honing technique to develop a concise statement. This part is fun and challenging.
  1. Have each team member write a 150-word version of the first draft. Then select the 2-3 best 150-word descriptions.
  2. Next, have each team member write a 100-word version from the 150-word version. Then select the 2-3 best 100-word descriptions.
  3. Next, have each team member write a 75-word version from the 100-word version. Then select the 2-3 best 75-word descriptions.
  4. Next, have each team member write a 50-word version from the 75-word version. Then select the 2-3 best 50-word descriptions.
  5. Next, have each team member write a 25-word version from the 50-word version. Then select the best 25-word version.

3. Compile your new descriptions

Now you should have a significant amount of descriptions that the team likes. For the next step, work backwards from the 25-word description and select just one in each prior category (eg 50-word, 75-word, 100-word, and 150-word).
Compile these into one document and place it somewhere everyone in the company can find (like behind a Slackbot triggered from the word ‘/descriptions’).

4. Compile your new thoughts

You will likely have revelations during this process within your team. Spend some time compiling these into a document. We find that they could include new target segments, new services, new capabilities, or other aspects of strategy. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by.

5. Distribute the descriptions

Congratulations, you know have a clear and concise message about your company. The next step ensures that everyone on the team will use this message to deliver the same message to the market.
Use these descriptions everywhere you mention your company. The different sizes are fit for different environments. For instance, the 25-word description is great for your social channel descriptions where the 150-word description is great for the description section of a press release.
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