Scope - Design - Deliver

Strategy First

Brad Chase was the mind behind some of Microsoft’s largest and most successful initiatives, In episode 21, Brad explains why building winning strategies is the single most important element to business success, what he calls “the business success imperative.” Learn from Brad:

  • Countless tips and a useful, memorable model to help leaders build first place strategies
  • Three components for strategy =ExMC2
  • Why strategy gets lost for some leaders
  • Build tall walls and retain your customers

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Music: ” Upbeat Party ” by Scott Holmes courtesy of the Free Music Archive FMA

Transcript: Thanks to Jermaine Pinto at JRP Transcribing for being our Partner. Contact Jermaine via LinkedIn or via his site JRP Transcribing Services

Brad Chase

You can learn more from Brad below

Brad on LinkedIn

Brad’s website and Book, “Strategy First” –


Full Episode Transcript Below


Steve Rush: Some call me Steve, dad, husband or friend. Others might call me boss, coach or mentor. Today you can call me The Leadership Hacker.


Thanks for listening in. I really appreciate it. My job as the leadership hacker is to hack into the minds, experiences, habits and learning of great leaders, C-Suite executives, authors and development experts so that I can assist you developing your understanding and awareness of leadership. I am Steve Rush and I am your host today. I am the author of Leadership Cake. I am a transformation consultant and leadership coach. I cannot wait to start sharing all things leadership with you.


Brad Chase our special guest on the show today. He was the mastermind behind Microsoft launch of Windows 95 and internet Explorer. He was also the executive at Microsoft responsible for the successful turnaround of MSN. Since retiring from Microsoft, he has been a philanthropist, board advisor and just released the first book, Strategy First. Before we get a chance to speak with Brad, it is The Leadership Hacker News.


The Leadership Hacker News


Steve Rush: Ever wondered what it takes to become a life master at the card game Bridge? The strategic card game normally takes players decades to accumulate 500 master points by playing at tournament and accredited clubs. An eight-year-old California boy has become the youngest bridge player to ever be awarded the title of life master by the world’s largest organization, dedicated to the card game, The American Contract Bridge League said that Andrew Chen of San Jose was granted the title of life master just three days after his eighth birthday.


Andrew had set out the plan at the age of six years old to become a life master, and it has always been his goal. Andrew has been able to earn points in just two years by participating in local games and playing online. His final points towards the life master cycle came in May 27 when an online game hosted at the Palo Alto bridge club called Think Slam. When interviewed Andrew said, “I am totally thrilled, I feel like my hard work and patience and practice has paid off, and I want to thank everyone who helped me getting there”. Sounds just like an eight year old, doesn’t it right? – Not.

Andrew’s brother, Charlie has also won rookie of the year. Who is just only 10 and recently just won the Paris event in the San Mateo County sectional tournament. What is it that draws you to the game of bridge so much?


Andrew said. “He just loves the puzzle solving element of the game, he likes to work things out”. And there are parallels here in the leadership world too, aren’t there? We are often presented with problems and therefore puzzles and they present themselves with readily, but do we get really excited and motivated in solving them and in turn, turn on those helpful neurotransmitters or do we get frustrated and fearful and therefore unlocked less helpful thinking? And here is the thing. It takes practice just like Andrew would have played hundreds and hundreds of hands of cards to learn patterns and read things and to be aware of how their relatedness are connected. We as leaders also need to do the same thing. Practicing with our communication, our approach, our knowledge, understanding of the people and the businesses that we work with. The more we practice, the more knowledge we develop, and the more knowledge that we practice of what does and what doesn’t work. It possesses us to have more effective and adaptive and responsive way to leading and supporting others and of course the more knowledge we have, the easier it is to see patterns in situations, so good luck with your next hand. That has been The Leadership Hacker News. If you have any news, insights or information that you think our listeners would like to hear, please get in touch.


Guest Introduction and main show

Steve Rush: Our guest on the show today is Brad Chase. He is a strategist, leadership and marketing expert and the author of Strategy First. Brad welcome to The Leadership Hacker Podcast.

Brad Chase: Hey Steve, great to be here.


Steve Rush: So most people know you as been one of the inspire in inspiration behind some of the biggest and most successful initiatives that Microsoft during your successful executive career there, tell us a bit about your backstory?


Brad Chase: Well, my backstory is I start at Microsoft in 1987, after going to an MBA school here in the States, Northwestern Kellogg; I worked on a number of projects over time. I was the first leader of Microsoft office for example, leading the marketing of it and then I went and launched a MS-DOS 5, led the development and launch of MS-DOS 6 and perhaps got most known for leading the marketing of windows 95, which for your listeners that don’t know was sort of the Microsoft product that ushered computers and arguably Microsoft itself and Bill Gates himself.


Steve Rush: For me, it was the inflection point. I remember, you know, when Windows 95 came along, it just completely changed the whole perspective of how people were perceiving and using PCs,


Brad Chase: Right? It was a very crazy time and I am sure we will talk more about it. And then after that, I didn’t many initiatives related to the internet, like leading the teams on internet, different versions of internet Explorer, and then finally I was brought into turnaround MSN at the end of my career. And then I retired from Microsoft in 2002 and then for the past year, since then, I’ve been doing board work, consulting. I have been doing some philanthropy and advisory work and now wrote my first book


Steve Rush: For the most part, you saw enormous transformation and change across the whole of the Microsoft organization through some massive big initiatives. And there’s a really interesting story that you share in your book around the whole principle of how you got windows 95 marketing campaign up and running with the backstory of start me up. Tell us a little bit about how that came about?


Brad Chase: Okay, well, I will tell you two pieces. The first piece is about Windows 95 itself. So I was brought in to lead the windows 95 marketing and had to build a marketing strategy for Windows 95 and one of the interesting things about that was that at the time, the strategy was not to tell anybody anything about Windows 95 and one night after putting the kids to bed. I was thinking hard about it and got inspired with what I called the e-strategy. Educate, site and engage. Educate all the different customers about Windows 95, get them excited about it and then engage the industry on Windows 95. And that e-strategy as we called it back then was sort of the foundation of a Windows 95 marketing strategy so we turned it all in a Ted instead of not telling anything about Windows 95, we flipped the marketing strategy and decided to tell everybody everything we could. And that strategy ended up being very successful as it was a way to get people bought into Windows 95, to understand it and not be scared about the change and to get third parties, building products.


Steve Rush: Until that time Brad, Microsoft really had not spent an awful lot of time in the TV and marketing space. What was the reason for that?


Brad Chase: Right. Well, that is a great question, Steve, so as part of this strategy, I set the goal to turn Windows 95 into consumer phenomenon. And part of that was let’s do product TV commercials for the first time, which is where the rolling stone story comes in and that was a lot of fun and a crazy time. So in those days, the way we did it is we would have an advertising agency in this case, a firm called Wieden Kennedy, famous in U.S. originating, the Nike just do it ads. And they were very creative firm, but they weren’t coming up with the right campaign for Windows 95 and after a few times, they finally came up with this idea of basing some ads on start me up the very famous rolling stone song and I said, wow, this is great. It is right on strategy, way to go and then they said, but we have one problem. We can’t get rights to the song.


Steve Rush: Right:


Brad Chase: At first, we had some pretty heated discussions about that because why would you present a concept that we couldn’t actually execute on?


Steve Rush: Sure.

Brad Chase: They said the only way the stones would do it is we sponsored their next concert tour for $10 million, which was not in my budget. So they said, well, we hope you will go do the negotiates with the stones, so I flew out to Amsterdam and this was in may I think of 95 and, you know, spent a whole day negotiating with the stones. And we went back and forth at this old ornate hotel and could not really make progress and they tried to convince me to stay the next day, but my schedule that time didn’t allow for that, so they said. Well stay the next day and then you could go to the concert. That the stones were playing at the Paradiso. A great old theatre in Amsterdam and I said, well, I really can’t stay. So they finally said, well, why don’t you come to the dress rehearsal tonight? And so I went to the dress rehearsal, the stones played for two plus hours, they were fantastic. It was amazing and I was one of only two non-stones personnel in the building, in the theatre, so it felt like a private concert, it was just fantastic and at the end they asked me, so do you want to go meet the stones? And they thought about it and I decided that I didn’t want anything to ruin the perfection of this private concert.


Steve Rush: It is pretty neat.


Brad Chase: So I decided no, and I was not really that interested in meeting the stones and I figured they weren’t that interested in meeting me, but half the people I tell that story to say, Brad, you were an idiot. You should have gone and met the stones. And the other half say, Brad, you were super wise person to decide not to.


Steve Rush: I wonder how much that would have changed your emotional connectivity with that negotiation though Brad. Had you gone to meet with them?


Brad Chase: I guess we will never know.


Steve Rush: Yeah, you would not know, right.


Brad Chase: And then later we negotiated more over the phone, obviously, you know, many, many hours and days trying to work through all the issues about price primarily, but also rights to the music and how long we use it and so on. And eventually I said to the Stones, look, the launch is August 24th, 1995. We have a backup commercial we are going to run with.

Steve Rush: Right.


Brad Chase: So you have to decide. Here is my final offer, you know, basically kind of take it or leave it and they took it and there’s more to the story and lots of other pieces, which we can get into, but that’s sort of the high level overview of the start me up story. After we launched rumours started circulating that Bill Gates called Mick Jagger and offered him $12 million or $14 million. Sort of depended on the story directly and Jagger was so surprised that he said yes, because it was way more money than he ever expected, but all those rumours were not true arguably or speculation it was maybe Sone started those rumours themselves, but we don’t really know.


Steve Rush: Maybe, good PR for them as well at the same time off course.


Brad Chase: Yeah. It was the first time Stones have ever licensed a song to for use in a commercial.


Steve Rush: And of course, it was a really successful campaign. I think it was probably was that inflection point, wasn’t it that where people started to realize that yeah. Accessibility to PCs and information has led the way now to us speaking as we are now and having computers in our pocket most of the time, right?


Brad Chase: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I feel very privileged that I have seen this all happen. When I started Microsoft, the company had a goal of a computer in every home and in every office running Microsoft software. Because back when we started, computers were sort of a hobbyist machine. Well now not only are computers in every home and, you know, sort of every office, but in the traditional sense, but in the broader sense since, you know, phones are more powerful computers by a long shot. Computers that sent people to the moon or whatever that we really, I do have a computer in every home and in every office and in every pocket.


Steve Rush: Right and then following your retirement from Microsoft, you spun into the world of sharing your knowledge and your executive experience through your consulting and board work. During that time, when you start to think about strategy and speaking with the organizations you have worked and consulted with. What would be maybe some of the key themes as to why leaders really can’t quite do, or haven’t got hold of strategy, as much as you’ve experienced them, getting hold of other part of their business?


Brad Chase: I think that strategy sort of became lost along the way for many companies. They focused on, you know, sort of their business without thinking about it strategically because strategy is hard for many people and that is part of what I am trying to achieve with the book by the way. Is to make strategy accessible and easy for, senior business leaders, but even aspiring business. When I go around, I think people sort of think of strategic planning as some sort of formal exercise that, you know, only big corporations do and have separate departments for it but indeed strategy is the anatomy of business success and leadership success.


Steve Rush: And in your experience, do you often see organizations get confused with strategy versus planning?


Brad Chase: Yes. Organizations get confused on strategy versus planning. On strategy versus tactics, on strategy versus vision.


Steve Rush: Right.


Brad Chase: You know, and I can go on. There is, I think not a broad understanding of what strategy is and what I call strategy in a simple way is your plan to compete. If you think of building, your strategy is building your plan to compete and achieve your business goals. That is a sort of a simple way and compelling way to understand it.


Steve Rush: I like that. That is neat. So what was it that compelled you to finally put pen to paper?


Brad Chase: What compelled me to put a pen to paper was I was working with a lot of senior executives and CEOs and providing the essence of my strategy first model to them. And then I started getting asked to do some talks and that’s something else I’ve been doing since Microsoft, strategy talks. And when I was doing these talks, people would come up to me afterwards and say, where’s your book, where’s your book? And so I said, well, okay, I’ve never done a book before. I will give it a try and I got inspired and I wrote the book.


Steve Rush: Awesome and I have had the opportunity to have a look at some of the key themes behind the book. And I kind of call it almost a bit of a user-friendly strategy toolkit almost. And there’s loads of tools in there. There is loads of things in there that can really help people start to think about how they go about strategy from a practical perspective, rather than an academic perspective. Right?


Brad Chase: Yeah, that is right, Steve. It is set up that way on purpose. I very much had a vision for the book. My strategy for the book is that there has not been a strategy book, that lays out strategy in a non-academic non-intellectual way or as you put in a practical way, that gives you tools and stories that help you understand those tools that you could use on a regular basis in your business.


Steve Rush: The one thing that struck me when I first looked at it. Was the play on Einstein theory of relativity that you use, which is E X MC2  squared. Tell us a little bit, about how that came about.


Brad Chase: Yeah, sure. Glad to, so the first part of strategy is to remember the strategy is all about making bets and we make bets all the time in our life and we make bets and businesses as well, just like Microsoft, bet on the personal computer or Apple bet on consumer devices. And when you’re trying to figure out what your bets are, I try to tell people there’s three key components to strategy and the three key components are customer value, market potential and execution. And to help people remember that I came up with playing off of Einstein’s famous equation, E = MC2, and I changed it to strategy equals E x MC2. And it’s pneumonic. The E stands for execution. The M stands for market potential, and the C stands for customer value. And the C is squared because customer value can almost call strategies though, not all.


Steve Rush: Got that and to help your readers and the people you work with, get some real clarity over their strategy. You have broken this down into five real steps to help them through that thinking. And I wonder if we could just maybe spin through some of those and just have a think about how they work in principle, the first being seek change. Now, given the uncertainty that we are in at the moment. Do you see this as an opportunity for organizations and people to really seek different in a period of kind of turmoil?


Brad Chase: Yes, I do. But I also want to be realistic about the difficulty that businesses are going through in this COVID tsunami that we’re facing today. You know, for a lot of businesses, there’s just not a lot of great options, even with the greatest creativity or inspiration. That said, in some cases there are opportunities. You know, for example, if you are a business that has had to move much of what you do online, and you are a local business, now that you are online, you might be able to grow to new customer basis.


Steve Rush: Right.


Brad Chase: So while realistically it is a tough very, very tough for many businesses to manage around all the challenges of COVID. It is also in some cases, an opportunity. And for some lucky few, if you’re the Microsoft teams group or you’re Zoom or your Logitech selling headsets. Now there is a whole set of product that, just happened to be in the right place, the right time or set of companies that are in the right place at the right time for them it is a huge opportunity.


Steve Rush: What do you think causes organizations to maybe feel more comfort rather than seek change readily? What causes that in your experience?


Brad Chase: Yeah, that is the same as life, right. Change scares people, and then they get frozen, but change is key to strategic opportunity. When there is change, there is always strategic opportunity. I mean, just look around and see the companies that have responded to the growth of the web and the internet. Those that have responded to that change have done very well generally while those who did not are struggling. And, you know, COVID unfortunately made that even more pronounced, but, you know, the internet was a huge opportunity for so many companies and those that took advantage of the change internet represented we’re the most successful company of our era.


Steve Rush: The second step you have is call, mine the gaps. Tell us what you are trying to achieve here.


Brad Chase: Taking a change is sort of the textbook way people talk about strategy. Look for disruption or seek change, but it turns out of course that many times you have a great strategic opportunity just taking advantage of gaps that are out there in the marketplace, because companies are not competing at the top of their game. You know, for example, Google was not the first search company. And there was many search companies before Google, but Google came up with a much better, more compelling search product. And because of that and much more customer value than the other search products on the market. Google was able to build a huge business around search, you know, sort of the same with the iPhone. It was not the first smartphone, but it was so superior in so many ways that Apple like Google was able to mine a gap on customer value and build something that customers just loved a lot more than the competition and therefore build a big business. So there’s example, after example of companies who mine gaps, where other companies were not providing enough customer value, or they were executing poorly, and these companies swooped in and built a winning strategy based on those gaps.


Steve Rush: Strategically, it is a winner isn’t it? Because you already have evidence and data of other organizations and other businesses who are already operating a certain way. So you’ve got a lot of almost market research to call on before you enter into that business area, right?


Brad Chase: Yeah, that is right. In a lot of cases, when you’re implementing a strategy of innovation, as one of the types of change or other types of change, there’s not a lot of data and it’s hard. Your instinct is what is driving a lot of the bet you are making. Whereas a lot of times it’s something like, you know, let’s say the search business, you know everyone was searching on the web, you know, it’s a big business and there’s a huge opportunity there. And you could easily find out by just your own experience, let alone doing more formal research that in the early days of search customers were not satisfied with the responses and building a better search was the driver for success.


Steve Rush: It is yeah. Excellent. The next part of your five-step process is the adapting to tides or adapted to tides, you call it and that is around kind of external factors and how you can respond to different environments and demographics as they change, Right? What would you say would be the biggest tides right now? Notwithstanding the obvious, it is in front of us. What would be maybe the emerging tides that you could maybe foresee that we should be thoughtful of as leaders of businesses right now?


Brad Chase: Well, wow. I think the tides are shifting and swirling in such ways now that it is hard to ignore COVID and try to guess you know, what is going to happen. We just don’t know where the tides are going to go, but I have made some guesses in some blog posts of my own recently. Certainly, I think that automation is going to increase and AI is going to increase. Digital transformation is another tide that I think very important. Obviously, there is going to be more work at home. There is going to be a little bit less working in offices. You are going to have a lot more of folks rethinking sort of the foundations of how they do their business. I think that that is some of the tides that are probably pretty obvious other ones like, you know, more people eating in to eat out, you know, take out or food delivery services are going to grow. I mean, we could go on for quite a long time. But I think it’s hard to say, what are the trends independent of COVID because COVID is going to transform how your business survives.


Steve Rush: And of course, to be very different for different economies and different environments of people. You’ve got to adapt to when opportunities or challenges present themselves so that you can become and become effectively agile and more effective as time goes on.


Brad Chase: That is right. I mean the five key tips to help build winning strategies. You know the one that we are talking about now. Adapt to the tides is often the one forgotten by leaders. The external environment around you, changes everything. Whether it is technology change, whether it is government regulation or institutions, whether its demographic changes and the way a different generation of people or different culture might affect your strategy. Or it might be something like, the way the economy is going or changing, which is obviously something now. Environmental changes like climate change or COVID and just societal change. For example, one could argue now that there is going to be a further trend towards casual clothes. As a result of people have been working from home, they are not dressing up for work and that might just continue even as we go back to the offices,

Steve Rush: The next part of your final step process is the expand universe. And that comes from thinking about rather than chase new and new markets and alluring, tempting business opportunities that it actually expand the universe you’ve got within your own customer base. Is that based on experience from your Microsoft days where you kind of learn this approach?


Brad Chase: Well, I think it is based on experience from Microsoft and beyond. I don’t want to limit expanding the universe to just growing with your current customers. You can expand your universe very successfully by going to new customers or new businesses or through acquisition.


Steve Rush: Right.


Brad Chase: But often as you are implying people forget about the opportunity of expanding their universe via their own customer base, by offering a new ways or remove services whether existing customers. That is a key way to grow the business. You can’t just keep selling to the same base the same way and grow your business over time. You do have to think about clever ways to grow your business and there is millions of examples of this because it happens all the time, you know, soda companies offering new sodas or different packaging for the same customers. You know, maybe you are an auto repair shop, like Midas in the United States that started with mufflers and then grew to breaks so they can sell more products to the same company.


Steve Rush: Got it and that last one I really loved by the way. You call this, climb short walls and build tall walls. How did that come about?


Brad Chase: So if you are going into a business, you ideally want to enter a business where the walls are not too tall. You know, you are not going to try to go compete with Microsoft and Amazon in the cloud business because the foundational cloud infrastructure business is so expensive and so difficult and requires all this really specialized expertise and data centres and so forth. On the other hand, you want to go into businesses that have short walls. You want to build tall walls, so if you are in a business, you want to think about how do I create walls around the business and then make it harder for my customers to leave. And there’s lots of different ways to build tall walls. So for example, sometimes marketing is tall, you can build marketing tall walls with frequent flyer miles sort of a typical example, you know, that make people loyal to airlines, or at least when they were flying and there is many types of tall walls.


Another type of tall wall could be a brand tall wall. You could build a tall wall by having a brand that people trust and that is a brand that people rely on, another tall walls, what is called a network effect, and there is lots of different types of network effects. But for example, when you use your iPhone, you are more likely to keep using your iPhone because of the apps. And as more people use the iPhone because there’s apps, then people build even more apps, so those apps make it harder for you to switch away from your iPhone. Just like other features, that Apple built in like FaceTime or instant messaging, or being able to use your air pods. Those are all things that Apple has done strategically to build tall walls and by the way, expand their universe and get more revenue. And so it’s a great strategy on Apple front to do that, to add services and new products around the iPhone that make you more loyal to the iPhone and make it harder for you to switch. Oh, by the way, now people are buying their phones less frequently, buy new phones less frequently. So it used to be people bought a new smartphone every two years now it is more like three years. So as a consequence, these additional services not only are really important to build a tall wall for Apple. They are very important to grow profits.


Steve Rush: Really like that and it is an interesting philosophy, Isn’t it? About when we are looking to grow businesses or organizations, what typically happens is we might have big ambitions and those walls just might be way too high, but actually we can start with a bit more pragmatic thinking and then build internally and start developing what we have. Really, like it, really neat, so at this part of the show is where we typically get to hack into the minds of great leaders and this is my chance to hack into your many years of experience. I am going to ask you to share with our listeners, if you could, Brad, what your top leadership hacks would be?


Brad Chase: Oh my pleasure. So the foremost one, the most important one is for your listeners to remember that there is nothing more important to the success of a leader or a business than building a winning strategy. If you think about it, there is lots of important leadership qualities. I could give you a long list and I am sure you have discussed many of them on your podcast, whether it be, you know, compassion or empathy, you know, and I can go on and on and on. Hiring great people, you know, and so forth but none of those things matter if you don’t make the right bets and you don’t build the right strategy. The first and most important one is that strategy is the most essential ingredient to leadership success. If you don’t build a winning strategy, nothing else matters. Another key leadership hack is don’t lose focus on your customers. That is one that I find happens a lot in the day to day craziness of running a business. Sometimes people lose sight of what their customers really care about, and if you are not on top of your customers and what their requirements are, what their values are, what interests them, then you are likely to build a strategy that won’t be successful, so that’s another one. And if you’re in a big company, don’t get lost in what often is called the ivory tower and all the layers of a big company that keeps you disconnected from your customers stay close and then a third one, I would say for a leader is hire to your weakness. It is really important to understand yourself well and your company well, and find people to round out your skills so that you have, you know, a pot of skills.


Steve Rush: I love, that hire for lack of skill and consciously. I wonder how many of our leaders genuinely, genuinely think I am not as strong here. Therefore, I am going to hire somebody who can really help fill that gap. Really neat, love that.


Brad Chase: By the way, I find lots of leaders hire people that they think aren’t a threat to them, which is of course a mistake. So they don’t hire to their weakness they hire people that will listen to them and what they want them to do.


Steve Rush: That in itself is a leadership gap, isn’t it? You know, having that lack of self-awareness is only going to seek to hold that individual back longer term.


Brad Chase: Totally agree. Great point.


Steve Rush: The next part of this show, we affectionately call this Hack to Attack. And this is where we look back at your work or your career. And we think about a time where things maybe haven’t gone as well and maybe even screwed up, but we’ve now used that experience, that time in our work as a lesson that we now use positivity in life. So what would be your hat to attack Brad?


Brad Chase: So this requires a little bit of a story.


Steve Rush: Go for it.


Brad Chase: My hack to attack. So in around 1999, I was asked to go run MSN at Microsoft. And MSN was the least successful part of Microsoft at the time. Revenue was non-existent; traffic was low, sort of at the same level as other ineffective websites at the time. And the morale in the MSN group was the lowest of any group in the company and for six months, I really struggled to sort of figured it out. And I finally came up with a strategy, which I was pretty excited about and though we can go back and think about some of the other mistakes I made. The key one here was that I built a strategy around using the high traffic parts of MSN email, which at the time was Hotmail and communications properties such as instant messenger to drive people into the network and then you search to monetise them. And I had a couple other things we use to monetise them on shopping as well. And so I reorganized the entire group around this strategy and we made huge progress and communicating the strategy to the team and having a clear strategy for the team started to really help morale and we started to make huge progress. And within about a year, we went from an also ran to being number one in search worldwide. Number two; in the U.S., we had doubled our revenue and our morale gone from the worst in the company to just above the midpoint all in a year. It was an absolutely spectacular turnaround, but I made a huge mistake, which is I didn’t really sell hard enough to my bosses, what the strategy was all about and why I was doing it. I sold it to everybody else.


And I had, you know, a lot of leeway because I’d been successful at Microsoft. But I didn’t really get into the sort of you know, getting the senior execs to internalize why I was doing what I was doing. So we had huge success but then after this period of time there was some thinking above me, that search was more of a commodity business and that it wasn’t important. The company wanted to reorganize search out of my group and that was not viable if MSN was going to continue to be successful. And upon reflection the lesson I learned the leadership hack was that I didn’t work hard enough to persuade my bosses. That search was fundamental to our strategy and to where we were going. I kind of lived on the success I’d had in the past. In the past, I had been very successful in convincing people and executives about what I wanted to do and had been successful at it and I kind of lived on that past success. Instead of putting together very comprehensive presentation, demanding time with my bosses to explain why the strategy was so important. I kind of depended on my past success and as a consequence, they went through with the organizational change, despite my arguing to the contrary. And I ended up leaving Microsoft on good terms. There was lots of reasons I left more than strategic differences that I had. But the lesson from all this is that if you firmly believe in something.


Steve Rush: That is fantastic lesson.


Brad Chase: And you feel strongly about it, you have to fight for it, and you can’t stop fighting. Fighting for what you believe in business strategy. And if you feel strongly enough, you know and then pull out all the stops to make sure that you do everything you can convince your leaders, or your boss that your strategies is the best.


Steve Rush: That is awesome. Thank you for that really great story. The last thing I would like to explore with you is to do a bit of time travel. For you to bump back into Brad when you were 21 and if you got a chance to have a conversation or a coffee with Brad.


Brad Chase: Well if you had a picture of me now, you would see a guy who’s mostly bald and mostly grey.


Steve Rush: Yeah. I know how that feels by the way.


Brad Chase: So I probably would first tell them, enjoy your hair while you had it. On a more serious note. The lesson I just imparted it would have been one. The importance of strategy I certainly did not understand when I was 21. That was a lesson I learned over the years, and I would have loved to known that earlier. And so I think that would have been a key business lesson, of course, you know, in all these things, you have to understand what’s important to you and what your goals are. And I think that the perspective you get with time about what’s really important and being thoughtful about that is something else I would have imparted to myself at 21. I guess to summarize, I would have reinforced to myself the importance of strategy. I would have reinforced to myself at 21, the importance of understanding yourself and knowing what is important to you in a sort of a very thoughtful way so that you can go about your business in a self-aware, self-calm.


Steve Rush: Super, Brad thanks for sharing that. Now, folk listening to this, I am sure are going to want to learn a little bit more about the work that you do, and indeed get an opportunity to have a look at Strategy First, which is now available pretty much everywhere. So if you wanted our listeners to bump into you. Find out a little bit about that. Where is the best place they can do that?


Brad Chase: So I would recommend that they follow me on LinkedIn, which is really the only social network that I participate in, or to go to my website,, and follow my blog posts and learn about what we are doing there. And of course, read the book Strategy First you know, has much more detail of course, on the concepts that we’ve talked about here today.


Steve Rush: Sure and if they also join up through your website, there’s some really useful tools they can download isn’t there?


Brad Chase: There is. One of the things I recommend all companies do is a strategy offsite. And the strategy offsite starts with a honest self-assessment of the business today and where you’re at versus your competition, which by the way, is something I didn’t mention, but I should reinforce. Your strategy only matters relative to your competition and so that is really important. That is the way you evaluate it and you know, so you do a self-assessment and then you could have a discussion about where you want your strategy to head over time, and on my website are some worksheets that help you do that assessment.


Steve Rush: Great and we will make sure we put the links to your site and to your LinkedIn profile in our show notes, so as soon as people are finished listening, they can click straight over.


Brad Chase: That is terrific.


Steve Rush: So Brad it is for me to say. I feel more strategic just in having this conversation with you. It has been fantastic being able to hack into your mind. And all of the experience that you bring with it to where you are now I wish you every success with Strategy First, but I also just want to say, thank you so much for being part of our journey on The Leadership Hacker Podcast.

Brad Chase: Oh, it has been my pleasure, Steve. It is great to meet you as well and I hope people find my book and our discussions today, super helpful.





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