What’s the winning aspiration for your business?

What’s the winning aspiration for your business?

What’s the winning aspiration for your business?

There’s an excellent question in the book Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works that I think gets to the heart of business strategy.

“What’s your winning aspiration?”

Why is this phrase so powerful? And why should every business owner start with it when developing the strategy for their business?

Let’s break it down:

Firstly, the phrase forces you to think about exactly what winning would mean to you and your business. Some people find this a difficult question since they haven’t really thought about “winning”.

In the book, which is written by the former Chairman of P&G and the Dean of Rotman School of Management, “winning” refers to market position, usually in highly competitive consumer markets.

But the phrase “winning” can be equally applied to smaller businesses.

Now, winning doesn’t have to mean being No. 1, or the largest, or the most profitable. They may all be great goals but the point is that it’s about what does winning mean to you.

Anita Roddick DBE, Founder of The Body Shop, once said:

“Don’t think big, because that’s the obsession with this bloody [business] culture, it’s always got to be the biggest. Why don’t you just be the best or the most creative or the funniest or something?”

When I work with leadership teams of SMEs, and we have this conversation about their ambitions and aspirations, it’s never about size or market share; these are terms that smaller businesses just don’t relate to.

Winning could be building a legacy, being a great place to work or delivering a great customer experience.

In a recent report, when small businesses were asked about their goals for the future, ambition was not just about growth and profit, but also things such as well-being and happiness.

The key message is that it doesn’t matter how you define winning, you just need to be thinking about what winning means to you.

The second element of the phrase “What’s your winning aspiration?” is the word “aspiration”.

Your aspiration is your ambition to achieve something. And for it to be an aspiration it needs to be something that pulls you towards it.

Also, I believe that an aspiration is something that should feel like it’s just beyond what you can achieve.

It should be bold, possibly scary and it definitely wants to be exciting.

And, you should always feel energised when you think about it.

In fact, even the word aspiration stems from the latin word spiro, which means “to breathe life into”.

When facilitating strategy workshops with SMEs, I have found it’s always best to start with the future aspiration and work backwards into an actionable plan, rather than vice versa.


The problem when you start from where you are now, and project outwards, is that you play it a little too safe.

You think “well I’m here now so an extra X% growth over the next 3 years (or whatever your definition of “winning” is) is realistic.”

Realistic is great for short-term goal setting but it doesn’t energise your or your team to up their game and reach new levels of performance.

So, get yourself a winning aspiration.

Find something that really grabs you and will sustain you through the inevitable ups and downs of business.

Contact us if you want to explore how we can help your business create a winning aspiration.