How much time have you spent thinking about where your business will be in a year? In five years? Questions such as these are essential for success, says Wally Adamchik, an industry expert scheduled to present at the 2015 World of Concrete. It all comes down to learning to think strategically, he explained in a recent interview with Concrete Construction.

Q: How would you describe the concept of strategic thinking?
Adamchik: The ability and practice of looking beyond the operational day-to-day and month-to-month activities. It involves thinking about things you don’t normally think about. It’s not project-based, it’s company- and industry-based. The horizon is a few years.

Q: Why is strategic thinking particularly important as the economy continues to bounce back after the recession?
Adamchik: The bigger question, and why it is important, is what does this bounce back actually look like? The new normal is real. It’s not some trite term concocted by some economist and it has real implications for business. Not only are we in a jobless recovery, but it also seems like we are in a marginless recovery. I cannot tell you how many clients are talking about this and the need to get better at what they do.

Q: What is the one thing that holds most people back from strategic thinking?
Adamchik: Two things. Time – they don’t allow time to do it. They will not invest time to do it. They would rather do day-to-day. And fear. What if we get it wrong? How can I plan for the future when I don’t know what it will look like?

Q: What’s the most important thing concrete industry professionals can do to think strategically in planning for 2015?
Adamchik: Sorry, but 2015 is not about strategy it is about operational execution. You might be able to start strategy for 2016. While some would call this a play on words, it’s not. Strategy is about what race we will run; operational excellence is about getting better at the race we are running. With that said, the focus needs to be on protecting margins through perfection of processes and superior culture.

Q: How can concrete industry professionals incorporate strategic thinking into their day-to-day business functions?
Adamchik: Make time for it. Read about other industries and what’s going on in their world. For example, reading about drones in business might stimulate some ideas for your own use or ideas you can bridge off.

Q: How can concrete industry managers develop a team that can think strategically?
Adamchik: Set the expectation that it is part of their job. Set time and allow opportunity. Take a retreat or at least a day away from the office. Get a professional facilitator to help with this to keep you out of the operational weeds you will certainly get into.

Wally Adamchik is president at FireStarter Speaking & Consulting,
Raleigh, N.C. A former U.S. Marine, Adamchik is a recognized leadership expert and author. Register for World of Concrete 2015 to attend his presentation, and find out more about his seminars here.