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Knowing what business you are really in, is imperative if your organisation is to compete and perform effectively in today’s challenging market conditions.

When we ask our potential clients this question, many are able to tell us what they do; very few are able to articulate precisely what business they are in.

Do you know?

As an introduction to this critical element of operational effectiveness, do you know what business Harley Davidson is in?

Harley Davidson says it is in the ‘Lifestyle business’


Knowing for sure what business you are in is arguably the single most important piece of ‘intellectual capital’ that any organisation can own.

On-Pole Limited has developed a structured workshop-style session, focused on leadership teams and other key decision makers, that enables them to derive the answer in an informal but highly productive environment.

Each session is customised to suit individual clients’ needs and is facilitated by one of our consultants. Participants work through a series of key steps that typically include:

  • Understanding Vision and Mission

  • What Business Are You In?

    • Client’s understanding and perception

    • Examples (e.g. Harley Davidson)

    • Concept development

  • Next steps


As part of these sessions, we have often gone on to examine the associated principles of ‘Good to Great’ (as explained by Jim Collins in his book "Good to Great; why some companies make the leap… and others don’t") and how they might enhance an organisation’s ability to deliver on its ambitions.


Knowing what business you are in is the cornerstone of a whole series of critical activities such as:

  • Strategy development and implementation

  • Business planning and business case development

  • Marketing and business development

  • Communications (both internal and external)

  • Training and development

  • Customer and other stakeholder relationship management

  • Resource management

When we asked one of our clients (a medium-sized Housing Association) this critical question they replied by telling us what they do (e.g. build and maintain properties, collect rent, provide services to residents etc.). By committing to one of our facilitated sessions, they worked out for themselves that the business they are really in is “helping to shape vibrant communities”. This understanding has now enabled them to align their focus on strategy, growth, communications and organisational development around this simple but imperative expression.

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