Business Strategy: The Power of “Stop, Start, Continue” Framework

Business Strategy: The Power of "Stop, Start, Continue" Framework - Kevin Appleby

In the dynamic and ever-evolving business world, developing an effective strategy is crucial for sustained success. A strategy can’t end up as a document that sits on the shelf gathering dust. It must be something that is executed by the whole business. Unless the strategy clearly communicates what the business will and won’t do, it won’t be executed successfully.

One popular approach that has gained traction among business leaders is the “Stop, Start, Continue” framework. This involves creating a comprehensive list of actions to either stop doing, start doing, or continue. You can make informed decisions and drive meaningful change by evaluating products, services, customers, and geographies through this lens. This article will explore the power of the “Stop, Start, Continue” framework in shaping business strategies and the finance leader’s role in prioritising and planning what needs to be done.

1. Stop Doing:

In business, activities often drain resources, create inefficiencies, or no longer align with organisational goals. The “Stop Doing” element of the framework encourages organisations to identify and eliminate such activities. For example, a company might discontinue a product that no longer generates significant revenue or divest from an unprofitable market segment. Stopping these non-value-adding activities allows an organisation to free up resources and focus on more promising opportunities.

2. Start Doing:

The “Start Doing” component urges organisations to identify new actions or initiatives that can drive growth and innovation. This might involve launching new products or services, entering untapped markets, or adopting emerging technologies. For instance, a software company might decide to invest in developing a mobile app to cater to the growing demand for mobile solutions. By embracing new opportunities, organisations can expand their customer base, increase revenue streams, and stay ahead of the competition.

3. Continue Doing:

While it’s important to identify areas for improvement and innovation, it’s equally essential to recognise what is already working well. The “Continue Doing” aspect of the framework emphasises the need to maintain and enhance successful strategies, products, and services. This could involve retaining loyal customers, refining existing processes, or building on core competencies. By reinforcing successful practices, organisations can solidify their market position and maintain a competitive edge.

Applying the Framework:

To effectively implement the “Stop, Start, Continue” framework, organisations should follow a structured approach:

a. Assess the Current State:

Begin by evaluating the organisation’s current products, services, customers, and geographies. Identify areas that are underperforming, areas with growth potential, and successful aspects that should be maintained. Look particularly at the areas you might want to stop:

  1. Low revenue contribution: Assess products, services, customers, or geographies that generate consistently low revenue. These could be offerings that fail to attract a significant customer base or provide a limited contribution to overall profitability.
  2. Low profit: Identify areas of your business that generate minimal profit margins or have diminishing returns. These could be products or services with high production or operational costs that do not generate sufficient revenue to justify their continuation.
  3. Low growth: Evaluate segments or markets that exhibit sluggish growth or limited potential for expansion. It is crucial to focus resources on areas that offer higher growth prospects to maximize profitability and market share.
  4. In decline longer term: Consider products, services, or markets that have been experiencing a continuous decline over an extended period. These declining areas can drain resources and divert attention from more promising opportunities.
  5. Resource intensive for you: Identify activities that consume a significant amount of resources, such as time, manpower, or capital, without yielding satisfactory returns. This could include complex processes, projects, or initiatives that are not aligned with your core competencies or strategic direction.
  6. Difficulty in some way: Assess aspects that pose challenges or difficulties for your business. This could involve dealing with complex regulations, supply chain issues, or any other factors that hinder smooth operations and growth.
  7. Toxicity for your business: Evaluate any activities or relationships that introduce toxicity or negative impact within your organization. This could include toxic clients, partnerships, or internal practices that undermine employee morale, productivity, or brand reputation.
  8. Highly competitive: Identify segments or markets that are highly saturated with intense competition, making it difficult to differentiate your offerings or achieve sustainable profitability. It is important to consider whether the resources and efforts required to compete are justified.
  9. No unique selling proposition (USP), can’t defend: Assess products, services, or markets where you lack a unique selling proposition or struggle to differentiate yourself from competitors. If you cannot effectively defend your value proposition or establish a competitive advantage, it may be prudent to discontinue or reevaluate those areas.

By critically evaluating these factors, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of areas within your business that may be prime candidates for discontinuation. This evaluation will enable you to streamline operations, reallocate resources to more promising areas, and position your business for long-term success.

b. Generate Ideas:

Encourage collaboration and brainstorming sessions to generate a wide range of ideas for each category. This can involve cross-functional teams, customer feedback, and market research to ensure comprehensive insights.

The “Start” component of the “Stop, Start, Continue” framework is about identifying new actions, initiatives, and opportunities that can drive growth, innovation, and competitive advantage for your business. Here are some key considerations when it comes to the “Start” aspect:

  1. New product or service offerings: Explore the potential for introducing new products or services that align with emerging market trends or customer demands. This could involve conducting market research to identify unmet needs or gaps in the market that your business is well-positioned to address.
  2. Entry into untapped markets: Assess the feasibility of expanding into new geographic regions or market segments that offer growth potential. This could involve targeting new customer demographics, exploring international markets, or diversifying your customer base.
  3. Adoption of emerging technologies: Stay abreast of technological advancements and consider how they can be leveraged to enhance your business operations or create new revenue streams. For example, you might explore opportunities in artificial intelligence, blockchain, or Internet of Things (IoT) that can streamline processes or unlock innovative business models.
  4. Strategic partnerships and collaborations: Identify opportunities for strategic alliances or partnerships that can enhance your competitive position or broaden your reach. This could involve collaborating with complementary businesses, forming distribution partnerships, or engaging in co-marketing initiatives.
  5. Enhancing customer experience: Invest in initiatives that improve the overall customer experience and strengthen customer loyalty. This could include implementing customer relationship management (CRM) systems, personalizing your marketing efforts, or enhancing after-sales support.
  6. Operational efficiency improvements: Identify areas within your business where operational efficiency can be enhanced. This could involve streamlining processes, adopting lean methodologies, or implementing automation and digitization to reduce costs and improve productivity.
  7. Talent acquisition and development: Evaluate your talent needs and invest in attracting, developing, and retaining skilled employees who can drive innovation and execute your growth strategies effectively. This may involve investing in training and development programs, fostering a culture of continuous learning, or exploring strategic hiring initiatives.
  8. Sustainable and responsible practices: Consider integrating sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices into your business strategy. This can involve initiatives such as reducing environmental impact, supporting social causes, or embracing ethical and fair trade practices.
  9. Customer acquisition and marketing strategies: Review your customer acquisition and marketing strategies to identify new channels, tactics, or campaigns that can effectively reach and engage your target audience. This may involve leveraging digital marketing, social media platforms, or influencer partnerships.
  10. Continuous market research and analysis: Establish a system to regularly monitor market trends, consumer preferences, and competitive landscape. This will enable you to identify emerging opportunities, anticipate customer needs, and adapt your strategies accordingly.

c. Prioritize and Plan:

Analyze the ideas based on their feasibility, potential impact, and alignment with strategic objectives. Prioritize the most promising initiatives and develop a detailed plan for execution, including timelines, resource allocation, and key performance indicators.

The finance leader’s role in the “Prioritize and Plan” phase is crucial in setting the financial direction and priorities of the organisation. During this phase, the finance leader works closely with other executives and stakeholders to establish strategic objectives, allocate resources, and develop financial plans that align with the overall business strategy. Here are some key responsibilities of the finance leader in this phase:

  1. Strategic alignment: The finance leader collaborates with the executive team to understand the organisation’s strategic goals and objectives. They provide financial insights and analysis to ensure the financial priorities align with the overall strategy. This involves assessing the financial feasibility of strategic initiatives and providing recommendations on resource allocation.
  2. Financial planning and budgeting: The finance leader plays a central role in developing the organisation’s financial plans and budgets. They work with department heads and managers to gather inputs, analyse financial data, and prepare comprehensive budgets that support strategic objectives. This includes setting financial targets, forecasting revenue and expenses, and identifying key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor financial performance.
  3. Resource allocation: Based on the strategic priorities, the finance leader helps determine the allocation of financial resources across various departments and initiatives. They evaluate investment proposals, conduct cost-benefit analyses, and provide financial insights to guide decision-making. This involves prioritizing projects, approving budgets, and ensuring that resources are allocated in the most effective and efficient manner.
  4. Risk assessment and mitigation: The finance leader evaluates financial risks associated with the strategic initiatives and helps develop risk mitigation strategies. They assess the potential financial impact of risks, such as market volatility, regulatory changes, or operational disruptions, and work with other leaders to develop contingency plans. This involves analyzing financial data, conducting scenario analyses, and implementing risk management practices.
  5. Performance measurement and reporting: The finance leader establishes financial performance metrics and reporting mechanisms to track progress towards strategic goals. They design and implement financial reporting systems, dashboards, and KPIs to provide timely and accurate financial information to management and stakeholders. This allows for ongoing monitoring of financial performance and enables informed decision-making.
  6. Financial modelling and analysis: The finance leader utilizes financial modelling techniques and analytical tools to support decision-making in the prioritisation process. They conduct financial analyses, scenario planning, and sensitivity analyses to assess the financial impact of different strategic options. This helps evaluate the potential return on investment, assess the viability of new initiatives, and support data-driven decision-making.
  7. Stakeholder communication: The finance leader serves as a key liaison between the finance function and other departments, as well as external stakeholders. They communicate financial plans, budgets, and performance updates to department heads, executives, board members, and investors. Effective communication ensures that financial priorities and plans are well understood and stakeholders are aligned with the organisation’s financial objectives.

Overall, the finance leader plays a critical role in the “Prioritize and Plan” phase by providing financial expertise, strategic insights, and analytical support. Their involvement helps ensure that financial resources are allocated effectively, risks are managed, and financial performance is aligned with the organisation’s strategic priorities.

d. Monitor and Adjust:

Implement the planned actions and closely monitor their progress. Regularly evaluate the outcomes against predefined metrics and make adjustments as necessary. Adaptability and agility are key to optimising the strategy over time.


The “Stop, Start, Continue” framework offers a structured approach to business strategy, enabling organisations to make informed decisions about their products, services, customers, and geographies. By identifying activities to stop, initiatives to start, and successful practices to continue, businesses can streamline operations, pursue growth opportunities, and remain competitive in a rapidly changing marketplace. Embracing this approach empowers organisations to proactively shape their future and build a solid foundation for long-term success.c

Discover more from KevinAppleby

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading