How To Differentiate Your Strategy Through Competence and Talent

Why would a customer choose you over a competitor? Many companies have trouble articulating that answer, says Steve Van Remortel, author of the new book Stop Selling Vanilla Ice Cream: The Scoop on Differentiating Your Company Through Strategy and Talent. After helping hundreds of companies build successful strategies, Steve asserts:

“There is no difficulty any viable enterprise cannot overcome confront by improving its strategy and optimizing its talent.”

In talking with Steve last week, his passion for strategy was palpable:

“The number one reason companies don’t have a strong strategic plan is that they don’t exactly know how to do it. This book eliminates that obstacle.”

What struck me most about the approach was the team-based planning. He provides a step-by-step process for building a talent team from across the organization. Although the executives are at the helm, much of the creative work is left to the team. Team members engage in an in-depth internal a
nalysis to identify their differentiable core competence and tangible value.
I asked if executives were ever struggled with the letting go involved in these scenarios. He shared:

“The leaders most attracted to this process, understand the bottom line value a collaborative process can bring in optimizing their strategy and talent.”

The book contains many tools and resources for companies to use, and more that can be downloaded for free on his website. I asked if he felt companies could implement the process on their own, just by following the steps in the book, or if they needed him or another consultant. He reinforced that he wrote the book to “bite size pieces” that teams could work through methodologically.

“If they need me to implement the process, I haven’t accomplished what I set out to do.”

This book is about leaving a legacy. Improving the economy one strategic scoop at a time.

Van Remortel’s 5 Fundamentals of Strategy and Talent

1.  Differentiation: Delivering a clear competitive advantage

2. Tangible Value: Proving your worth

3 Talent Management: Optimizing talent through a clear and deliberate approach

4. Tactical/Departmental Plans: Integrating key actions within and arose departments

5. Plan Execution: Implement an execution program to ensure a culture of discipline

Are you selling vanilla ice-cream? What truly differentiates your strategy and talent? Stop Selling Vanilla Ice Cream can help.


Give The Guy a Brake: The Power to Stop

So you’ve got everything rolling on all cylinders. The right people, all on the proverbial right bus, all moving in the right direction. Excellent. You’re a motivational leader with a strong vision, inspiring the team toward unprecedented results. This team is fired up, everyone’s with you. Fantastic? Or just about to get dangerous?

Whenever I start a new role, the first person I look for is my “brake guy.” The guy (or gal) who has a deep knowledge of the business at hand, who cares deeply about doing the right thing, and has the courage to say “stop.”

And then my plea goes something like this…

“We are starting on an incredible journey. And trust me, we are going to get the right folks on the bus, all moving in the right direction, and we are going to build momentum. It will be exciting and we’re going to go fast. We might even get folks singing along as we ride (see skipping to work). We will work hard to build an environment of empowerment and constructive dissent. And yet, when it seems just right, it’s harder to stop. You are my brake guy. I need you to be by my side and ready to pull the brake whenever I am about to drive this bus over the edge. I assure you it will happen and when it gets to that point I am counting on you. I promise I will listen.

Brake guys are invaluable. I have had some fantastic brake guys over the years. It doesn’t happen often, but every time they have used that power, they have been dead on and all I could say was thank you.

Leaders who work fast with big vision, need someone like this around them. I recognize that not every leader fits into this category. If you err on the side of caution, you might need a “push me off the cliff guy,” but that’s a subject for another time.

How Brake Guys Can Help


  • remind you to pause before reacting
  • offer more data and analysis
  • hear what the team is not saying
  • provide historical context
  • remind you of the long-term implications
  • offer options you may not have considered

If you are brake guy, thank you on behalf of all of us who need you.
If you need one, find one, and listen well.

Please share: Have you ever had a brake guy?
How was he or she helpful?
Have you served in that capacity?