About Differentiating Strategies

One goal.
Simplify business strategy.

We believe that complex business strategy decreases the potential for success. Differentiating Strategies’ approach simplifies strategy and focuses on leadership. We believe that ultimately leadership is the cause of/responsible for an organization’s success or failure.   Senior leaders’ behavior determines overall organizational performance. Therefore, it is essential that senior leaders change if they want to alter organizational outcomes.

Complementary to our belief in strategy simplicity is a conviction that business strategy is a journey and not an event. Differentiating Strategies was started to help leaders establish impactful strategy complete with the internal processes needed to continue a growth journey.

From the beginning, we saw that there were some basic principles that could be applied regardless of size or industry. These core concepts have been the guide for our work in industries from professional football to manufacturing and banking to fabrication and everything in between.

Since our start in 2009, our approach yielded results.  We continuously refine our process for greater simplicity and focus.


Joe Thompson brings over 35 years’ experience in guiding companies ranging in size from Fortune 100 companies to small businesses. Before founding Differentiating Strategies, Joe had leadership roles in a number of functional areas including: business development, research, strategic planning, operations, and research. Over time Joe developed expertise working with executives to improve enterprise value. Joe’s range of experience bringing about enterprise level change covers a diverse gamut of industries ranging from manufacturing, fabrication, banking, professional football, retail, education, and food. 

Joe has now facilitated operating efficiency gains of over $20,000,000 and enabled new product sales of over $100,000,000.

A sixth generation native of Wisconsin, Joe is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. He holds seven United States Patents.

Outside of work, Joe's passions center on Cindy, his wife of thirty-three years and their adult children. He enjoys spending time pursuing photography and reading widely. He is actively involved in his church and in his community as an advocate for persons with disabilities.

Vicki Updike, Senior executive advisor

Vicki Updike brings over 25 years of executive experience with a variety of companies.  Prior to consulting, Vicki held President and CMO positions at Silver Star Brands (fka Miles Kimball Company) and was an operating executive with Bergstrom Automotive. Vicki Updike brings experience in the areas of strategic planning and execution, organizational development, leadership development, and executive leadership team development.

Vicki is passionate about helping create strong, effective leadership teams. She loves a good challenge and leans on her knowledge and experiences to help build results-minded leadership qualities in each person or group she gets the privilege to work alongside.

Vicki is a graduate of the University of WI Whitewater with a BBA and an MBA from NYIT.

Vicki is a long time resident of Northeast Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband and 2 adult children.  She is very involved in the community and holds board positions on various economic development and other community non-profit organizations.  She is also a frequent speaker on leadership, women in leadership and young professionals where she has a specific passion.