Strategy First (Book Review)

I struggled a bit with categorizing Brad Chases’ Strategy First: How Businesses Win Big for readers who would benefit from the content. I give Chase huge props for making the case for intention around strategy. Businesses flounder when attention isn’t focused on the strategic and Chase makes good points for helping leaders consider what aspects of strategy will benefit their organization in the market.

The central tenet of Strategy First is a model or “formula” based on Einstein’s E=mc2. Chase’s model states Strategy = E x mc2. In the Strategy First model, the “E” refers to execution and the author describes three types: strategic execution, customer value execution, and financial execution. Chase’s “m” stands for the market potential of a given product or product line, inclusive of the gross revenue and profit potential. Finally, the author defines the “c” as customer value in terms of utility, or perceived value given for price paid. This factor is “squared” because Chase believes it’s the most important determinant in the model.

Strategy First provides the reader with plenty of organizational and situational comparisons to make a case for the model’s success in supporting analysis and also delves into adapting to market change, considering access and permeability to a given market, and other strategy forward considerations.

What I liked: Chase offers leaders of an established business a new model for thinking about how their strategy compares with alternatives in the market and the levers for taking advantage of this model. He offers a catchy formula and clearly explains the components, while sharing examples to amplify how a business leader might examine their own product or organization in relation to competitors. For this, I give Strategy First five stars.

What I didn’t like: There are a LOT of words where fewer would do. A good editor could have carved away at least 20% of the book overall, and 75% of the introduction. Don’t get me wrong, I recognize wordy writers. When I went through my doctoral program, I thought some authors were paid by the word (or the inch of thickness of any given text). My business background, however, craves conciseness and clarity. We don’t want to have to sift to find the good stuff. And we don’t want to get beaten to near death with a “weren’t we GREAT” glory-days story as if this set the stage for the meaty goodness of what follows. I came really close to closing the text and not finishing. For this, I give Strategy First three stars.

However, at the end of the day, if a reader skims the intro and any section that seems to become repetitive, there’s value to be had—good enough for that final four star designation I’ll post to Amazon. Here’s a caveat: Chase focuses solely on organizations providing an actual manufactured product, coded software, or software as a service. If a reader leads a product-based business, Strategy First is a win for you. A pure-play service organization will have to work a bit harder to correlate the model to their strategy opportunities, and you’ll find no examples to help with this analysis. Additionally, early-stage entrepreneurs may glean insights for strategic thinking, but the examples do not focus on this operational phase.

Quick disclaimer: As an executive coach and leadership consultant, I’m often offered advance reader copies of books in exchange for my honest review. Strategy First offers a novel analytic tool and a compelling message on why contemplating the strategic is of critical importance. I wish the reader didn’t have to work so hard to get there.

[Originally published on]

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