Breakdowns Leading to Breakthroughs!


 

In my work I often get to lead strategic and business planning sessions and retreats with some amazingly dynamic and thoughtful entrepreneurs and executives.

These past seven days have been particularly rich in this regard.

Last week, I led a retreat day for the executive management team of one of California's and fastest - growing construction management firms, and on Monday did so for one of the oldest receivable management agencies in the world.

These sessions follow a common pattern: A company’s leaders set growth goals, for sales, profits, company value, and/or on a company, division, product/service basis…

…and then together they grapple with both their realism and the marketing, sales, operational, and financial challenges to be overcome to achieve them.

Through this process, the original goals are revisited, adjusted up or down (or completely rethought!), and almost always brought into plain daylight is the need for profound change - organizationally and at the individual level - for there to be any reasonable probability of their achievement.

There is a common energy dynamic to these sessions that was best described at a famous (or infamous!) empowerment seminar I attended many years ago:

Breakdowns Lead to Breakthroughs.

No matter the industry, the age or level of success or sophistication of the executive group, inevitably the course of a serious strategic discussion follows a “peak to valley to peak” flow like this:

The Opening. The session starts, the group is fresh, full of enthusiasm, energized by being together and by the yet to be discovered business possibilities.

The Breakdown. The first blush recedes, the discussion turns to considerations (of time, money, talent) and of obstacles - competition, market/customer apathy, operational inefficiencies.

Energy drains from the room, creases of doubt and worry spread.

The Breakthrough. When hope is about gone, someone suggests something…

…an idea, a strategy, a new way of approaching/defining/verbalizing the opportunity, the selling proposition, the competitive advantage.

The suggestion is taken up by the group, augmented, permutated, solidified. Heads nod, eyes lock, adrenaline surges.

The group arrives, miraculously, to another place. Different from what had been anticipated for sure but usually far more actionable.

Let me say it again: this emotional “roller coaster" is common to almost all strategic gatherings, and I would venture to say that without it the ability of a group to define and commit to the business action plans that flow from the discussion is limited.

A common question asked is, "How long must we be in breakdown until we get to breakthrough?"

The answer of course, is it depends. Sometimes the breakdown is only a matter of minutes, other times it lasts months.

However, a good measurement of an executive’s effectiveness is his or her ability to get to and move through breakdowns rapidly.

Is it better to have strategic sessions led by an outside facilitator or done in-house?

Well, just like all Olympic gold medalists that have great coaches, so do great business leaders have advisors that help them move through breakdowns and to breakthroughs faster.

So do strategic retreat and planning sessions often and right, more breakthroughs will be had and your business will soar.

Getting to all this is worth a breakdown every now and then, isn't it?

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Using the 20% Rule to Double Business Results


 

In last week's post, I described The 20% Rule, where by improving four key business processesby just 20% each leads to results doubling. 

What I love most about The 20% Rule is how it allows us to set big Stretch Goals, and then focus all our business energy on incremental, ongoing improvements to reach them. 

So what does process improvement at a 20% clip look like? It is even easier than it sounds, requiring a mere 2% monthly improvement over the course of a year to more than exceed it.

So why do most of us fall short? I would point to three main reasons:

1. We Don’t Know What to Fix. Thoreau once famously said that “The unexamined life is not worth living."

Likewise, the unexamined business is not worth having - and nicely, those businesses that stay unexamined won't stick around for long anyway!

So before even figuring out what to fix, let’s just make a firm commitment to connect all of our important business processes (marketing, sales, operational, financial, etc.) too easy to measure Data Points and Metrics.

My experience is that doing just this gets us more than halfway to any process improvement goal.

2. Become a Better Fixer. Business, like sports, is a highly competitive undertaking, with many talented players and teams, reaching for the same, brass ring.

And just like athletes must constantly train and practice, so do entrepreneurs and executives need always to work on maintaining and improving their “Business Games,” with skills to rigorously develop and be great at for the 20% rule including:

●    The ability to collect data (see above)
●    The ability to interpret data - i.e. understanding what data represents in “Three Dimensional” business terms
●   From these interpretations, the business “creativity” to arrive at plans and solutions to improve results
●    The Will to Act (enough said)

3. No Egos Allowed! The 20% Rule requires us to check our egos at the door and accept which of the above we aren't great at and ask for help.  Help, with an authentic desire for it coupled with an inspirational mission and persona, is easy to attract and get.

This is a well-known secret of all successful people, to understand and stay within one’s Circle of Competence.  John Paul DeJoria, billionaire co-founder of the Patrón Spirits Company explained it best:

"Do what you do best and try to find others who can fill in by doing the things you are not good at. For instance, I am terrible at details — accounting especially, so I hire accountants to help me. This frees me up to focus on the things I do excel at and I can run a more efficient operation."

So let’s set big Stretch Goals, break them into 20% Attainable Goals, and then incrementally reach and exceed them via measuring what needs fixing, becoming great fixers, and getting help when, where, and as we can.

[Click Here for a complimentary consultation on how to identify and improve your four key business processes by 20% each to double results in 2016]

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Want To Double Sales in 2016? Use the 20% Rule


 

This first week of 2016 is the best time to set big growth and success goals for the New Year. There are two main approaches to doing so:

1. Set Attainable Goals. This is the incremental “get a little better” approach, letting past results guide and drive our goal-setting.

2. Set Stretch Goals. Stretch Goals are goals that are beyond, often well beyond, what we have accomplished in the past. Stretch Goals usually feel unrealistic, even to those that set them. These are the goals of “Childhood Imaginings,” the goals we really want to accomplish but as we grow older are almost embarrassed to admit it.

A classic Business Stretch Goal is the subject line of this post: Doubling Your Business’ revenue in 12 short months.

Many executives react poorly to Stretch Goals. They consider them Pollyanna and distracting to more pressing matters at hand, like keeping the lights on!

Well, in these first few days of the New Year when hope is fresh, as we do our goal-setting let me suggest we set solid Attainable Goals that as we accomplish them in their aggregate add up to Stretch Goals that tickle the loins and fire the imagination!

To demonstrate, let's break that “Double Revenues in 2016” Stretch Goal down into a series of Attainable Goals whereby we improve performance of the below four key business processes by just 20% each:

1. Marketing Campaign Conversion

2. Sales Team Performance.

3. Product / Service Pricing

4. Customer Repurchase Rate

1. Marketing Team Conversion. For the sake of our example, let’s assume in 2016 we send out 100,000 direct mail pieces where we offer a complimentary consultation to learn more about our products / services.

And let’s say on our past campaigns we have achieved a 1% “conversion,” or 1,000 out of the 100,000 recipients took us up on our offer (i.e. 1,000 leads).

Now, in 2016 let's improve the quality of our message / positioning such that as opposed to those 100,000 pieces sent resulting in 1,000 leads, we do 20% better and generate 1,200 leads.

2. Sales Team Performance. Let’s assume our sales team is now, on average, turning 20% of these leads into customers. But, in 2016 we invest in sales training and technologies such that performance increases by 20% so instead of turning 200 of the 1,000 leads into customers, we do so at a rate of 240 out of 1,000.

3. Pricing. Let’s also take the bull by the horns and raise our prices by 20% from, say $5,000 per order, to $6,000 (and we invest in improving our brand positioning and value proposition to support this higher price).

4. Repurchase Rate. And finally, let's operationally improve the quality, speed, and efficacy of our offering such that as opposed to our customers buying from us at an average repurchase rate of twice per year they do so at a rate of 2.4x per year (20% more often).

The math is as follows:

Business as Usual: 100,000 marketing pieces x 1% response x 20% sales conversion x $5,000 x an average repurchase rate of 2x / year = Annual Revenues of $2,000,000.

20% Better. 100,000 marketing pieces x 1.2% response x 24% sales conversion x $6,000 x an average repurchase rate of 2.4x / year = Annual Revenues of $4,147,200.

Voila! We set a Big Stretch Goal of Doubling Sales and we then got there through Attainable Goals of improving four key business processes by 20% each.

So before the year gets too far in, let’s set Big Stretch Goals like this and then invest the time and do the work to identify, evaluate, and improve by 20% four business processes to get there.

Just think how great it will feel in January 2017 to look back at a year with this kind of exciting growth!

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2016: Five Ways to Make it Your Best Business Year Ever


 

One of the many great things about the holiday season is the opportunity it affords to “turn off” the negativity that for better or worse passes as “news” in our modern day.

From the bluster of the Presidential Campaign to the borderline hysterical coverage of terrorism fears, to doomsday concerns over Fed interest rate hikes, the news bombards us with a LOT of not-so-empowering stuff so it is nice to “turn it all off” this time of year as we spend quality time with family and friends.

And correspondingly, in this hopefully more positive, energized and forward-feeling state, let me offer five “end-of-year” mindsets to get 2016 off to the right start to be the BEST year of all of our business lives:

5. Push the Risk Envelope. As so eloquently proved in Michael Raynor's masterpiece, "The Strategy Paradox," the vast majority of executives take too little short term risk, and by so doing subject themselves to far greater longer-term dangers.

As I described in my "Breaking Free of No Man’s Land” post, this is because most usually the real danger for a business is not its sudden or dramatic failure, but rather slowly sliding into technological obsolescence, commoditization, and a low to no profit economic model.

While this conservatism is more pronounced in times of recession, in good times it is doubly insidious because both the opportunity costs of overly conservative and the likelihood of risky initiatives being successful are so much greater.

A great shortcut question to ask yourself is: I had no considerations of time and money, what would I do?

The answer will usually point you to the riskier, and more often than not, the more strategically correct business decision.

4. Embrace New Technologies. In the past few years, we've reached a tipping point as to the ability of companies of all types and sizes to earn quick ROI via implementing and utilizing business process technologies that allow for the completion of work more quickly and cost-effectively, and at a higher level of quality and consistency.

Cloud-based, on demand, proven and inexpensive technologies are available now for almost all business processes - from sales CRMs to marketing analytics, to project management software to HR, accounting, and finance. 

And because of an almost overwhelming number of great software companies building new business process services (and because of SaaS, improving the ones they have almost daily), the cost of these tools continues to drop while their quality and efficacy rises. Let’s all make the business resolution to “try out” a new one of these tools each and every month in 2016 and see what additional marketing, sales, operational and financial efficiencies and improvements we can muster from them.

3. Pursue Global Markets. As I described here, the volume of US exports is hitting new records year-after-year, and is projected to easily cross the $2.7 trillion mark in 2016.

Never before has it been a) easier to sell products and services globally b) have there been so many customers with money to spend the world over and c) has the reputation of US companies for technological leadership, quality products and ethical dealings been greater than it is right now.

So if you have a global growth strategy, build on it. And if you don't, get one.

2. Be Organizationally Creative. The maturation of business process technologies combined with the “flattening” and full-on “virtualization” of most modern work has created extraordinary opportunities for every company - no matter how small - to profit via organizational evolution, outsourcing, and fractionalization of work.

Things like organizing one’s enterprise via a mix of W-2 employees, 1099 contractors and outsourced technology, project administrative work flow partners from around the globe.

My experience is that most of us intuitively get how this stuff works (as evidenced by how much of work we all now do on our mobile devices), but are still held back by a sense of how a “real” company should be organized.

The heck with that! All that should matter in decisions like this is whether it works - i.e. does it deliver higher quality at a lower cost? Everything else is just noise.

1. Have a Plan. Conditions are good. The world is our oyster. Let's commit, in writing, that we're going to make the most of it.

In the immortal words of Goethe, once a commitment is made, Providence moves too.

The spoils and thrills of victory in our so competitive but so opportunity-laden world go to those who devise bold plans of action and then go out and do them.

So let’s make great plans - organizationally creative ones that leverage technology, take intelligent risks and pursue and win opportunities around the world. 

That sounds like a great 2016!

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In Business, Winning through Losing


 

This weekend, the youth soccer team I coach suffered a heart-breaking loss in our league’s championship game. In addition to losing the game in its final moments, to add insult to injury, we did so on an incorrectly called penalty kick!

The loss was emotionally hard on our players, parents, and on me as the coach, as we all played back in our minds and in conversation how things could and should have gone differently and of the unfairness of sports where luck and circumstance often play outsized roles.

And while we all of course prefer winning to losing, losses - especially emotionally impactful ones and ones after we have practiced and played our absolute best and came up a bit short…

…well these kinds losses can be transformative.

Some of the reasons why are cliché, but real nonetheless – we learn that we are way more resilient than we think and that we can get "Off the mat and back into the ring" no matter how hard we have been knocked down.

But the “lesson from losing” that I like best is how it puts a cold and harsh spotlight on those areas where we need to improve if we are to win the next time out.

And boy-oh-boy, does this lesson apply to business or what?

Because in business, the losses always outnumber the wins.

In marketing, no matter the channel, the vast majority of our target audience doesn't respond (For e-mail, a 97% non-response rate is considered excellent).

The best salespeople lose two out of three of the deals they pitch and in some industries losing nine times out of ten is considered world-beating.

And once clients are secured, when the standard is as it should be of making them "raving fans" and "evangelists" of and for us, how often do most businesses win at that?

How about winning financially? How many business grow at a rate and profit to an amount as defined by plan? And sorry folks, if we we’re not doing this, then that’s called losing.

Yes, in business, losing is our constant companion.

Now, the most successful and effective entrepreneurs and executives I know are by no means so talented and brilliant that they just win all the time, as much as they are far better than their competition at learning from their losses.

They only take losing personally when it serves them to do so - to be so peeved by it that they commit to work more energetically and creatively to win the next time.

They “inspect” their losing - critically and analytically parsing it to its smallest detail, and then making the technical corrections to incrementally decrease its likelihood of doing so the next time out.

And they recognize the overriding importance of that next time.

Because businesses, like athletes, are not valued on the basis of their past performances - no matter how glorious they might have been - but on their future prospects.

And so yes, we should hate to lose. And grieve over it when we do.

But we should also laugh at it for what it really is: An irrelevant relic when it comes to pursuing and achieving our future success.

So the next time the breaks of the game and/or of the Board Room don't go your way, shed a tear or two for sure because it is normal and healthy to care.

But only shed a few and do it fast, because the next game, the next opportunity, the next pitch is just waiting for you to step up and hit out of the park.

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For Your Business, 7 Ways to Make It an Awesome Holiday Season


 

The most inspirational entrepreneurs and executives truly “have it all,” throughout their years and especially so during the holiday season.

They enjoy the blessings of the season that those that work hard in building and leading businesses so richly deserve….

while developing a steely resolve and a solid plan to profit from the awesome opportunities and possibilities that the New Year is sure to bring.

Here are seven ideas on how to really have our cake and eat it too these next few weeks.

#7. Complete 2015. Before the New Year can truly be started, the old one needs to be closed out.

For sure, this often involves administrative, accounting, and other practical matters.

But it also means appreciating the accomplishments and the victories of the past 12 months, and fully mourning the things not done and the defeats.

Celebrations, in the form of holiday parties and travel and technology “sabbaticals” (Getting off the grid!) are great ways to do both. Quite simply, the benefits of taking the time to "sharpen the saw" through closure should not be underestimated.

#6. Stop the Beeps! Every year it gets more difficult to find the "Signals in the Noise" and distinguish frenetic activity from actual accomplishment.

The sometime melancholic end-of-year energy is tailor-made for taking stock, reconnecting with the mission and vision of one’s enterprise, and reflecting on where we wish to go in the New Year.

So like they say now at the movie theater before the start of every film, this holiday season when those never ending texts and e-mails hit, respond with a deep breath and say "It Can Wait."

5. Get Data. Reflection and a mission-focused mindset are great, but when combined with accurate business metrics and data-driven decision making, magic happens.

Proof of this will come to many of us in the next few weeks in the form of a little (or hopefully big!) brown box. From Amazon.com. 

A company that has built an ecommerce empire nonpareil by combining an overriding mission on the needs and wants of the customer with an otherworldly command of its business data and analytics.

Be like them.

#4. Get Help. This is a golden age of advisory firms that help organizations of all types and sizes find and follow their best and most profitable paths.

The best advisors now combine the complementary aspects of the “CEO Whisperer” approach with the technology - enhanced strategic planning disciplines of traditional management consulting (McKinsey, Bain, BCG, et al).

Just like the best coaches help the best athletes run faster, so do great advisors help organizations succeed more and better than the competition.

#3. No False Choices! False choices are “logical fallacies that involve situations in which only two alternatives are considered, when in fact there are additional options.”

And for many entrepreneurs and executives around the holiday season, false choices abound.

Like business or family - very many of the most successful entrepreneurs and executives have more than enough time and energy for both.

Like ethics or winning - in this completely transparent Yelp, Reseller Ratings, BBB online world world of ours in the short term some folks may “get away with it” but in the long run only the ethical survive and win.

#2. Think Big!

"Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work."

-       Daniel Hudson Burnham

 A fresh, open and inviting year is about to be left in all of our care.

 Why not do something big and grand and great with it?

In so many ways, all great breakthroughs have, as their original seed, a childhood imagining.

Let's use this time of year to re-connect with the sense of awe and wonder of our youth.

And to dream about doing and being something far bigger than we have ever before.

#1. Focus on Opportunities NOT Problems. My favorite of Peter Drucker's Eight Practices of highly effective executives is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves.

Focusing less on what we don't have and what we can't do, and more on what we can and will.

We live in the most magical, global business opportunities – filled time in human history.

Let's go out and grab them!

To an Awesome Holiday Season for You and Yours!

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Selling Services Overseas: A Happening Gold Mine for U.S. Small Businesses


 

Shrouded in the drumbeat of negativity that passes as international business reporting these days has been the bursting growth in U.S. Service Exports – increasingly from U.S. startups and small businesses.

Contrary to the image of imports and exports being only “stuff” flowing in and out of places like the Port of Long Beach, last month the Census Bureau noted that services accounted for 32%, or $60.3 billion of total U.S. exports in August.  And unlike our huge “hard goods” trade deficit, in the value of U.S. service exports is 47% greater than that of imports, and growing.

Business, professional, and technical services are now the fourth largest U.S. export category, and represent close to 15% of global commercial service exports, making America hands-down the world’s dominant service exporter.

Of many, let me flag three main drivers:

1.    Purchasing Power Parity. Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) posits that with free-flowing markets wages and prices worldwide approach parity.

Protectionist types interpret this to mean that “our wages will get pushed down to “their” levels – or more viscerally, “if this keeps up we’ll all soon be making $2 dollars per hour.”

Well, let’s leave for now the huge economic fallacy of this thinking and concentrate on the fact that the narrowing of the relative wealth differential between the U.S. and the rest of the world has allowed for phenomena like a Ukranian manufacturing company hiring U.S. advisors to help them define strategic growth opportunities in Poland and Eastern Europe

Why? Because on a dollar-for-dollar (or better yet, hrvnia-to-zloty) basis, it was a better value for them to import services like these from the U.S. then to purchase them locally.

2.    U.S. Services are Increasingly Exportable. The drumbeat always goes on how “we here in the U.S. don’t “make anything.” Well, beyond the fact, that as I note in my “Made In China” post that very few Americans dream that their children will grow-up and work in a factory, we here in America “make” the most important stuff that has ever existed and we do it better than any society has ever done so.

That stuff? Ideas and Innovations. Strategies. Or more prosaically, Brands. Websites. Entertainments in all their wondrous forms – Movies, Video Games, Social Networks.

Even our favorite whipping boy industry – financial services – continues to bring us world-bettering innovations like Venture Philanthropy (i.e. applying market principles to solve the world’s humanitarian challenges), Super Angel Funds (overcoming the “outlier” or “Black Swan” conundrum of startup investing) and Crowdfunding (democratizing fund-raising and investing in ways never before even dreamed possible.)

3.    We are all Transparent. Perhaps my favorite, namely that business best practices worldwide are visible and replicable to and for all.  And the corollary, the really screwed-up and ineffective ways of doing things are totally transparent too.

From lists like the “Most Business Friendly” countries to California now having a portal where parents can see teacher’s ratings to the U.S. Senate studying Chinese Technocrats to the simple reality that the Internet makes it crystal-clear to all who is winning and losing in the world (see North Korea, Iran, etc.), transparency breeds competition which breeds innovation which breeds the cream rising.

And who, when it comes down to doing business right, is the richest cream, the sweetest soup?

It is, of course, U.S. startups and smaller and emerging companies.

And as they, like the U.S. economy as a whole, continue to become increasingly services-focused, the best of them will continue to profit handsomely from the world of selling opportunities growing all around them.

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Making 2016 Your Best Business Year Ever


 

2016 is just 30 days away.

And if you want to make 2016  your best year ever, you need to start planning now. So come January 1st, you’ll be off to the races.

To help you succeed, I’m hosting a complimentary Webinar this Thursday, December 3rd at two times:

12pm Eastern / 9am Pacific - Register Here

8pm Eastern /  5pm Pacific - Register Here

The webinar is called "How to Make 2016 Your Best Year Ever!" and I’m hosting it with Growthink's co-Founder and President, Dave Lavinsky.  


On the webinar you will learn:

•    How to dramatically increase your sales and profits in 2016
•    The precise way to figure out the best opportunities to pursue in 2016
•    How to set your 2016 goals so they are attainable and lead to your long-term success
•    My #1 tactic for ensuring your breakthrough success in 2016
•    And much, much more!

You can expect to hear a positive, motivating message loaded with golden nuggets to make 2016 an incredible year.

Click below to save your spot:

12pm Eastern / 9am Pacific - Register Here

8pm Eastern /  5pm Pacific - Register Here

P.S. Whenever I host a Webinar, I get a lot of emails asking if there will be a replay. Right now I don’t have any plans to do a replay -- so my advice is to be on the Webinar LIVE!

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What a Data-Driven Strategic Plan Looks Like and How to Get One


 

Last week, in Austin I had the opportunity to participate in a 2 - day “Mastermind-type” meeting with a gathering of technology and Internet entrepreneurs and executives from around the globe.

It was an impressive group - leaders of companies with average sales of $8 million and competing and prospering in industries that run the gamut - from consumer products, to healthcare IT, to energy and entertainment, to mobile apps and wearable technologies, to real estate, and more.

To those who have never participated in a business mastermind, you don’t know what you’re missing! Originally conceived by legendary personal development guru Napoleon Hill, a Mastermind is a gathering of like-minded professionals that meet regularly and over time develop a productive, high-trust dynamic through which to attain breakthroughs of insight and accountability around and about strategic, tactical, and management challenges.

Mastermind groups, both generic ones as I attended in Austin, branded versions like Vistage and YPO, and informal versions as organized by trained facilitators, are where the hard, methodical work of entrepreneurial business - building and growth gets done.

The “table topic” for our meeting was best practices as to data-driven decision making and strategic planning.

It is obviously a very timely one - as Big Data and Business Intelligence (BI) tools and software are at the center of vast swaths of venture capital financings and strategic and managerial best practices for companies of all types and sizes.

We talked about how the companies getting the highest “BI ROI” connect the dots between their "old" and "new" school strategic planning and thinking.

They are old school (in the absolute best, non-pejorative sense of the term) in that they recognize that strategy

…arrived at through Mastermind get-togethers, through board and advisory board meetings, through strategic planning processes led either internally or by an outside consultant - remains fundamental in attaining and maintaining long-term business success.

And they are new school in their leveraging the very many best-of-breed business application software as services to arrive at this strategy.

Tools like CapitalIQ, Sage, KISSmetrics, AWeber, SurveyMonkey, RingCentral, Campaign Monitor, Zoho, Marketo, CAKE, FuseDesk, Maropost, and Hubspot that automate and optimize traditionally laborious and repetitive business functions.
 
And, as they do, collect massive reams on the marketing, sales, operations, finance and managerial performance of a business.

And, as importantly, the technology has finally matured to where all of this collected data can be organized, analyzed, and benchmarked against comparable - but better performing - companies from around the globe.

This “New School” data wizardry, when combined with old school Masterminding, risk-taking, and a ton of hard work…

…is what allows companies to both run more day to day efficiently and profitably, and more in strategic alignment with their missions and long-term goals than ever before.

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Three Steps to Great Business Strategy…that Sticks


 

It is not hyperbole to define a successful organization as one that finds the balance between a) making the right changes at the right time and b) having the discipline to “keep on keeping on” and just doing more of what is working.

Note well that b) is particularly hard to maintain when the tasks and activities that ARE working become repetitive and lack in excitement and drama.

So how does an organization find this balance - between thinking laterally and creatively and just keeping their heads down and plowing forward?

Well, luckily in the past few years a large and impressive business literature has sprung up that codifies best practices of how to balance this need to incorporate change in an organization with that to maintain doing “more of the good same.”

This thinking can best be summarized by the phrase “Immersion plus Spaced Repetition” and goes like this:

1. Everything, of course, begins with ideas, and the best, business ones normally arise from a series of individually and organizationally introspective strategic planning and goal-setting sessions that clarify objectives and the obstacles standing in the way of their accomplishment.

This immersive process - done at least annually but at organizations with ambition quarterly - both defines what needs to be done and inspires all of the participants to take on the hard and often painful work of getting it done.

The latter point here cannot be underestimated – Thomas Edison famously said that “genius was 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration” but that 1% “spark” is uber-critical in propelling an organization through the first threshold of change.

2. But, as anyone that attended an exciting or invigorating conference or strategic planning session can attest (and as I am sure Mr. Edison reflected on often during long nights at the lab), inspiration fades over time.

Even worse, when the inspiration is not followed through on, cynicism can set in and actually leave an organization worse off than if the planning sessions were never done in the first place!

So how to avoid this distressing fate?

3. Well, by keeping the ideas, goals, and objectives of the planning session alive through their regular review and adjustment.

Think of it this way - if a well-run strategic planning session is the essence of good leadership, then well run, spaced and repetitive goals and objectives reviews are the essence of good management.

Great managers check in with their teams as often as daily – if only for 5 or 10 minutes – to review the day’s objectives and to keep the shorter term work flow aligned with the longer term planning and mission objectives.

The old adage that the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time is never more true than when it comes to these spaced and repetitive management check-ins. When done right, they measure, acknowledge, and reward incremental progress and prevent the desire for the perfect from getting in the way of the doable and the done.

Now, at least annually and preferably quarterly, the entire organization needs to reconvene to review actual progress versus stated goals, to assess what worked and what got off track, and then to refine and define updated goals and objectives.

And after this next round of strategic planning sessions, what is to be done?

Well, the spaced and repetitive management check-ins begin anew. Wood is chopped, water is carried.

Following this simple but disciplined formula, over time great ideas become great realities, businesses are built, and legacies and fortunes are made.

And for investors, far more than technology it is these “above the line” leadership and management disciplines that separate the well-run companies to back from the haphazardly ones to avoid.

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