How many of you have read some outstanding business books to help you understand concepts for growing your business, like Good to Great by Jim Collins or Mastering the Seven Essentials of High Growth Companies by David Thomson? All of us have read these types of books right? So why aren’t we making national or international headlines—why haven’t we been able to apply this wisdom to our own companies and see an explosive breakthrough in performance?
Most likely because there are things in the way, things that are unseen obstacles, that prevent it. It is these invisible roadblocks that I call “business gravity”. Before leaders can change the growth trajectory, they have to first understand why they are stuck—why they are not doubling the business, not successfully repositioning or just not hitting annual growth targets. If this could be you, read on!
Law One: Escape Velocity defies Business Gravity
The good news is that in physics, escape velocity trumps gravity. NASA knows it can escape gravitational forces through speed. We can also escape business gravity—by identifying it and dealing with it. What are the most common causes of business gravity? Interestingly enough and perhaps counter to popular perception most business gravity is self-imposed. It is derived by thinking, behaving and working in past patterns while expecting something new to occur—like budgeting similarly for the same tasks each year instead of rethinking how money is spent to align with strategy. Rather than blame the economy, the stupid customers or randy competitors, we need to look within.
Law Two: Use a Telescope
As we have evolved away from mass markets to much more customized ones, granularity is critical to understanding trends and opportunities. Big changes are occurring at the business segment level rather than at an industry level. While your industry may be mature, there are companies who are experiencing high growth, based on meeting needs better, or differently than others. Zappos got its start selling shoes; and while shoes can be sexy, they certainly aren’t new. They reinvented a problematic part of the process, and do it better than most, if not all, others in their space. Are you capturing and studying relevant industry, customer and competitive data? It has never been more available. Knowing what you need to know to make effective decisions is the key.
Law Three: Capabilities Ω Needs ∑ Sweet Spot of Growth
The sweet spot of growth, the fuel for your booster rocket, is at the intersection of your company’s unique capabilities with customers’ needs. No two companies are alike and no two solutions are the same. You can’t mimic others in your industry that are successful—it won’t work the same for you. Figure out what you are really good at and how you can match that up with gaps in meeting customer needs. Do you carry more stock on hand? You can be the go-to source for quick delivery. It is what makes us distinct, that when matched with market demand, can deliver explosive growth. Consider the large club head of a Big Bertha golf club, a size new to the market, and how it accelerated market demand. What need can your company meet better or differently than others?
Law Four: Mission Critical: Be Specific
Just as we need to have specific market data on which to base decisions, we need a specific focus or goal to drive business forward in an integrated manner. Too many companies have growth goals but haven’t defined what they are going to do differently to attain them. One symptom of lack of focus is a multitude of projects which compete for the same resources. The projects don’t develop synergy and may even conflict with each other. President John F. Kennedy is famous for saying, “Within the decade, we will put a man on the moon and bring him safely back to earth.” I have seen too many companies claim their strategy is to expand their market without any definition around it. Translated to the space program it might read, “Sometime soon, we will launch a rocket into space”. Really? Does that statement energize, give guidance and serve as a catalyst for action? If implementation is a problem in your organization, it could be there isn’t enough strategic clarity.
Law Five: Map the Mission
Once the strategy is well defined and the expected “end game” established, it is all too common to launch projects without mapping the specific steps necessary to achieve the outcome. Issues like defining the critical path, allocation of resources, the creation of milestones, and development of a dashboard of targets and measures are necessary to achieve the end result. Do you have an action plan that accompanies your strategic plan so that everyone knows their role and the expectations they must deliver on?
Law Six: Inspire and Organize to Mobilize
One of the most significant yet untapped assets of any organization is human capital; the collective intelligence of the organization combined with the culture in which they work. We need to inspire people to contribute at their full potential in an environment that engages their best efforts. Leaders cannot assume people know what needs to be done or that they have universal support. Communication is often the key and while executives think they have shared, excellent leaders, like Joe Scarlett, retired CEO of $4 Billion Tractor Supply, says “be a broken record” and “every contact is a teaching moment.”
Law Seven: The Mission Isn’t Over Until the Objective is Achieved
Dynamic discipline and consistent ongoing communication ensure that the work continues until goals are reached—short term and long term. What would have happened if JFK hadn’t included the phrase, “…and return them safely to earth.” Would the Apollo space program be the hero it has been in our country’s heritage? I think not. Do we give up too soon, quit when the breakthrough is around the corner, or get distracted by an operational problem or by the next shiny thing? Altogether too often. There will always be challenges, erroneous assumptions, and disappointments along the way. The leadership team must have the ability to adapt to new information but not forget the end game.
What do you think? Do any of these laws challenge your company? Is there a new one you would add? I would enjoy hearing what you think.