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SEEING THINGS CLEARLY: Connecting Vision to Strategy

David Dolginow at Dolgin'sGrowing up in Kansas City and working alongside my father at Dolgin’s—our family-owned retail enterprise—I was able to learn many important business lessons and philosophies that have paid off for me through the years. One of the most impactful lessons was in seeing the strong connection between vision, focus and strategy.

From my earliest childhood days, I saw my father continuously managing and paying attention to the details of his business. As I helped around the store, I noticed that he always kept an eye on his competitors, whether small or large. He taught me the importance of keeping my eyes open and watching my front and back side. He was fond of reminding me that I should never take anything for granted: Just when you believe you are on the peak of the mountain, someone will come along and knock you off. When I was old enough, he made sure that I visited the competition on a weekly basis, to keep us totally informed about what the competition was up to.

Our primary competitor was Gateway Sporting Goods, just down the block. As I look back at Gateway’s ill-conceived growth strategy, I now understand how it ultimately led to their demise.

Dad had always told me: One has to do what he or she knows best. Dolgin’s retail and merchandising specialty was jewelry, gold, diamonds and gifts. Gateway Sporting Goods offered sporting goods along with jewelry and cameras—but they were known primarily for their complete assortment of sports merchandise.

Over time, Gateway’s owners came to believe they should have their own manufacturing facility for various sporting goods items, in order to glean additional profit margin. This change of direction from retail to manufacturing changed their focus and their vision as they became vertically integrated.

Over at Dolgin’s, we stayed the course. We watched with fascination as Gateway’s manufacturing emphasis diverted so much of their focus that their staff lost their niche. Ultimately, our friendly competitor down the street lost its retail following and closed for good.

The Gateway Sporting Goods story happened a long time ago, but it is still relevant today. It’s a good reminder that an organization must have a strategic plan that includes a sharp execution. In addition, they need a clearly-defined focus along with a vision of where they are going.

Recently, the media has singled out Yahoo as a company that has either lost or misplaced its vision and focus… perhaps due to the number of changes in the executive suites. Today it is difficult for the average person to describe what Yahoo does in the marketplace. Their offering is so convoluted that their consumers are confused. The company’s lack of focus seems to have effected its standing as a relevant player in the market. By trying to be everything to everybody, Yahoo is not doing anything very well.

As today’s leaders strive to keep up with the competition and respond to new market demands, let us not lose sight of this fact: An organization’s strategic purpose has to define its execution plan and deliver its vision. Without a consistent vision and focus, a company can go the route of Gateway Sporting Goods or get stuck in a quagmire like Yahoo.

If you need help defining your vision and translating it into a strategic execution plan, please contact Elanstrategic llc at 952-960-6688, or visit our website at