The 2012 Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) kicks off with two nights devoted to strategy, and more specifically, competitive advantage and how to achieve it. Emphasis is put on the importance of aligning a company’s activities to create an advantage over competitors.

The cornerstone of the strategy course is analysis. Any business owner can use analysis to determine what their organization offers to their industry as well as to their customers. Determining whether a business’s organizational strategy fits its resources is the first step towards maximizing competitive advantage.

“(Business owners) need to be honest with themselves about their organization, its resources, and whether their current strategy is in need of updating,” stresses Professor Trevis Certo. “A common strategic mistake that many small businesses make is not understanding how common their product or service is, and how easy it would be for another company to imitate.”

Many companies suffer from being a “jack of all trades, master of none” by trying to be all things to all customers. Once a strategy is decided on, not all customers should be pursued and current customers might even need to be “fired.”

Spend some time over the next week thinking about your company’s value proposition. Take the time to really analyze whether all aspects of your business are aligned with that value proposition. Are you pursuing the right clients? Are your compensation models aligned with your goals? Are there operations that you have undertaken that take up more resources than they are worth?

Next, make necessary changes. While this exercise may not currently be at the top of your priority list, it can mean the difference between growing your business and closing your business.

Next week, we’ll explore how to take what you see as your company’s competitive advantage and making sure it is not easily imitated by your competitors.

The Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) is an intensive executive education program designed to strengthen the business acumen of small business leaders in Arizona. The program was jointly developed by the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Salt River Project (SRP), the program’s founding sponsor. Other seat sponsors this year include: Arizona Lottery, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Hahnco and U.S. Bank.

Each week we will bring you a few salient points from each class as well as comments from the professors themselves and the impact the information has had on the students.

For more information about the Small Business Leadership Academy, please visit SBLA’s website.