The strategic thinking challenge for Thai business owners

The strategic thinking challenge for Thai business owners

Even the smallest businesses can benefit from applying a simple but effective approach

Approximately 3 million. That’s how many Thai business owners there are. Many have suffered sleepless nights over the last few years. Many now face the challenge of knowing where to take their business next.

Whether you call it strategic thinking or planning, many new and smaller business owners don’t have the resources that big companies have, and their ability to think about and create a clear strategy suffers accordingly. I have tried many different approaches, and it is never easy.

I know some business owners don’t bother but I believe even the smallest of business owners need to dedicate time to structured strategic thinking. They need a simple but effective approach to identifying a destination to reach and finding a direction to get there.

I understand there may seem to be many reasons for not taking up this challenge, and being busy is the least of them. Business owners may think it is not the best use of time, or that putting an idea on paper will reduce flexibility. Some may think there is no point given all the current uncertainty, or it’s too expensive and time-consuming to do and get our people behind.

The opposite is true if you stick to the time-honoured principle of keeping things simple, and 2023 offers new possibilities. This means now is the time to bring the big picture back into focus.

Let us look at what is involved.

The goal of creating a strategy is not about producing a beautiful PowerPoint deck or documents that reveal your company’s secrets or details no one will ever read. It is about creating something that will help you overcome the challenges of the current market slowdown without wasting precious resources. It is about using your greatest strength and focusing on what you can control to create opportunity. Here is what to look at:

Your intent: Intent Clarity means you can better focus or make optimum use of your resources. It helps you resist distraction which is especially important given the nature of entrepreneurs.

Your place in the “system”: Even a one-person startup does not exist independently. If you are in business, you are part of a system or you do not have customers. You have to be able to see your place in all the systems you are a part of. Understanding your system means you are not blind to threats or leaving money on the table. You have to take a systemic look at where you are.

Your future: This is difficult if you are in survival or growth mode, but you can’t create your business’s future from thin air. It takes time to put the pieces in place, and deal with the changes you foresee. You must look at tomorrow and a future state and identify what it will take to get there. This is true for businesses of every size.

Your potential opportunities: This must be evidence-based and not just what you want to do. The world is constantly changing, and so are your options. You can’t stick with a static view you first held years ago.

Sounds good, what is next?

I like this simple approach and model to create and put your strategy into action, by Dr Al Vicere, executive education professor of strategic leadership at Pennsylvania State University. He suggests:

First, look out. What trends do you see in your company, industry, customers and society? What do you need to understand, and what are the potential implications for your business?

Then, look around. What are your traditional and emerging competitors doing differently? What are other companies that solve the same user problems as you do, doing differently, and what can you learn from them?

Next, take a good look in the mirror. What do you need to do to understand the opportunities ahead? What do you need to unlearn, or relearn? How are your legacy approaches making you part of the problem?

Next, look at your team (if you have one). What do you need to communicate, consult with them on, and get their buy-in on?

Finally, look for results. Strategic planning isn’t really a one-time or seasonal event. It requires continually going back to the four steps to move your strategy forward.

Also, don’t overlook the importance of informal strategic conversations to generate discussion and encourage a strategic perspective with your team and stakeholders. This is a way to keep everybody’s eyes on the future of your business.

As change is getting faster in most industries, and digital and changing business models are increasing competition, strategic thinking is no longer just nice to have.

Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC — Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. Contact her by email at or

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