Matt Dunlap is Chief Operating Officer at Rising brandsa leading brand strategy company based in Columbus, Ohio.
American entrepreneurship is alive and well. And it grows like no other. According to US Census Bureau data, more than 15 million new business applications have been submitted since January 2020.
Over the past three years, we have seen a record-breaking startup boom, despite a global pandemic and increasing economic headwinds.
It is a remarkable testament to the entrepreneurial spirit of our country. But under these circumstances, it’s also a constant reminder that a good strategy is only half the battle. To survive and succeed, leaders need a clear plan for implementing their strategies.
As chief operating officer at Rise Brands, I have helped launch multiple brand concepts, from a few stores to over a dozen profitable locations.
When it comes to growing a business, I know nothing is easy. But these seven tips can help leaders turn great strategy into solid execution:
1. Start with a BHAG.
Every MBA knows that business goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. SMART goals give you a clearer picture of what you want to achieve and how to track your progress. But there is another goal-related element to consider.
At Rise, we believe goals should also be (1) big, (2) hairy, and (3) bold. A big hairy bold goal (or “BHAG”) forces you to plan for long-term success.
A huge goal can inspire and move people forward. Our BHAG must be a nationally recognized leader in developing great people and brands. What is yours?
2. Communicate horizontally, inclusively.
The bigger, hairier and bolder your goals, the more you need an effective communication plan. Strong, clear and company-wide communication has a number of useful functions in effecting change.
First, articulating a bold vision helps everyone see the destination clearly, and it gets them excited about the journey. From there, you need to master internal communications. It’s not just about giving managers and their teams a to-do list. Today, even the youngest people want to understand Why you ask them to do what they need to do. They also need to know what’s in it for them.
As you communicate the destination (and people’s role in getting there), don’t forget to also share (a) the reason why you chose this path and (b) what awaits you at the finish line.
3. Break your strategy into bite-sized chunks.
Anything worth doing often feels overwhelming at first. Don’t try to tackle everything at once.
Break your strategy into manageable, shareable pieces and create milestones for each strategy. Then distribute those action items throughout the organization.
Prioritize what needs to be done first, then second, third, and so on. Never assume that change will magically happen by itself. Leaders have a responsibility to do more than demand progress. They also need to enable it.
4. Develop realistic budgets, timelines.
Implementing a strategy for a large company requires abundant resources. Without a realistic budget and timeline, you could miss a great opportunity.
Make sure you understand your company’s core competencies and don’t stray too far when attacking a new plan. Let’s say your new strategy requires design capabilities that your team doesn’t have. Do you try to build that function from scratch (costs you time and might miss your chance) or do you outsource the problem to an expert (costs you more money in the short term) to arrive at a faster solution?
If you have a good idea, don’t assume you’re alone. Nobody wants to be fourth or fifth in the market. Therefore, a reasonable timeline and a smartly designed budget can help you stay on track and ahead of your competitors.
5. Foster a culture of change and extreme responsibility.
Whether you’re a sole proprietor with a bold idea or a fast-growing company fighting to stay slim, you need more than a desire to get Sh!t Done (GSD). You need the right people, processes and attitude to get it done.
Every new business strategy brings change. As part of the change process, encourage employee feedback and remain open to suggestions. And in exchange for open, honest and inclusive dialogue, leaders must demand extreme accountability. This includes creating an ownership mindset: treating each team member as an owner of the company.
Give them knowledge, give them respect and give them power. If you do, they’re more likely to treat every dollar as if it were their own.
Finally, remember that no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. For GSD, leaders must be willing to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty.
6. Watch out for single points of failure.
Even the best plans can go astray, so it’s important to be flexible with your execution strategy. After all, when something isn’t working, leaders need the flexibility of mind to adapt and try something new. But often disasters can be avoided by considering single points of failure: seemingly minor flaws that can cause an entire system to fail.
Suppose, for example, you only employ one payroll employee. If they leave or get hit by a bus, what now? You can solve this problem before it becomes a crisis by documenting everything that person does, creating excess staff, or having an outsourcing option on hand should disaster strike.
By being flexible and prepared, you can make progress toward your goals and avoid having to completely reset your plans.
7. Monitor progress.
Regularly monitor progress against your team’s action plan and defined metrics. This enables you to identify potential problems at an early stage and adjust the strategy if necessary. Tracking progress can also help keep everyone focused and motivated.
Making the leap from strategy to execution requires careful planning, strong communication and a culture that embraces change. Follow these tips and you can successfully navigate almost any major business change.
Good luck, and for more tips on growing your business, check out my previous gotechbusiness.com Councils article.