In a recent post at techcrunch.com, Sarah Lacy mused on whether execution is more important than vision. The vast majority of comments testified to the fact that execution (getting things done) is more important than vision (having the idea). In fact, the business world is littered with failed companies that had great ideas and successful copies which managed to take other’s great ideas and actually get something accomplished.
At the same time, knowing what and when to execute is perhaps even more important than the execution itself. I can do a great job getting things done, but if they aren’t the right things, then I’ve wasted my time and getting better at executing won’t matter.
When any company is challenged with growth, managers typically think that they need to overhaul their entire strategy and come up with a new vision or they just need to work harder at what they’re already doing. In certain cases the managers might be correct, but I would argue those are the exceptions rather than the rule. Both actions are stressful, demoralizing and typically unsuccessful. The better way is not to overthink vision or execution. It’s to look at your business, find what’s working and do more of it. It’s that easy and can be done if you follow these five steps:
One: Know what drives your business
If you are not growing today, you need to change what you are doing. But you can’t change what you are doing if you don’t know where you are. That is why having clear visibility into the metrics that really drive your business is so important. Don’t focus on the P&L — they only show lagging indicators. Try to measure and look at the activities that generate your P&L; # of sales calls, campaign conversion rates, time to answer, etc. Create your own business dashboard of the metrics you think are important and track them for a few months. Look to see what is really driving your business, what helps or prevents growth.
Two: Find Out Where the Growth Is
As you begin to look at your business through your dashboard, you will begin to see where there are opportunities for growth in your business. It might be a producer who consistently makes x number of calls, or a market segment which seems to like your products / services more than others. Don’t worry if the growth is small, think of it as finding a small speck of gold in a sifting pan. It might be small, but it tells you where to keep looking.
Three: Expand Your Growth Target
Once you’ve identified a couple of areas in which growth already exists in your company, you need to think about how to better leverage those areas so that it becomes more of a meaningful part of the organization. Do you expand the geography? Do you need more producers? Do you redevelop a training program based on the actions of one producer? Do you apply what you’re doing to other market segments? The key is to enlarge the strike zone so that you have more opportunities to be successful.
Four: Execute on what works — but on a larger scale
So you know where the growth is and you’ve expanded your target area. Now, it’s just a matter of executing on a larger scale. It may require more producers, more marketing campaigns, more developers, better training programs, talent upgrades. Develop a game plan to increase / adjust resources which account for cashflow and/or profitability considerations (obviously, you may not be able to do everything at once; capital requirements may require your plan to be staged over time.) This is where the action takes place and this is where you might think things get hairy. And, of course there are always pitfalls, but the best part is that you’ve done it before. That takes the stress out and, without stress, the game slows down and things do get easy.
Five: See What Works and Adjust
Of course, you can’t just sit back and relax while the growth curves up. You need to continue to monitor your activity and the results to see if your actions continue to generate the growth you expected. If you see things going in a different direction, adjust (sooner than later), and see if it works.
With a few exceptions, growth does not have to terribly difficult. It simply requires knowing your business, expanding on what already works and having the persistence it takes to do the little things that make big things happen.