I first met Anouck Gotlib, CEO of Belgian Boys, the popular brand of premium breakfast foods, at EY’s Entrepreneurial Winning Women orientation in 2021. Anouck had received the high honor of being selected for that year’s class, and I had the honor of speaking to the class about the importance of clarifying and executing your company’s strategy. It was an impressive group and Anouck was a standout.
The Inflection Point
It was also an inflection point in the company’s history. Within a few months, they would execute a strategic partnership with Camino Partners, the investment company founded by Daniel Lubetzky, founder of KIND Snacks. The partnership could provide Belgian Boys with the resources and expertise to grow into a global brand.
A month or two after our meeting, Anouck reached out to me and shared an “ah-ha moment” she had during our time together at the Winning Women orientation. One of the concepts I taught the group was Jim Collins’ Visionary BHAG - a Big Hairy Audacious Goal to be set at least 10 years in the future. During my presentation, Anouck determined Belgian Boy’s BHAG and wanted our help making that vision a reality.
Building the Strategic Framework
We gathered the leadership team together in a Brooklyn hotel meeting room in early 2022 and began the work of clarifying their strategy. I shared a visual image of a mountain with the BHAG at the top representing the summit, Core Values and Core Purpose as the foundation, Core Customer at the center, and Winning Moves leading to 3-5 Year Targets as basecamps along the side of the mountain. This is a core framework we use at Rhythm Systems to help our clients simplify, clarify, and visualize their core strategy.
There were more than a few breakthroughs in that first meeting and so many potential opportunities on the table to sort through. This is not uncommon for companies at this stage of growth. With an ability to be fast and flexible in responding to new ideas and a demonstrated track record of successfully bringing new products to market, the company had uncovered multiple paths for potential growth. But they knew that now was the time to focus their resources and align their teams around executing flawlessly on one clear strategy. The overarching question we kept coming back to was “What will we say yes to right now, and what will we say no (or not right now) to?”
Determining Focus and Creating Clarity
By the end of the first day, we had our answer… Refrigerated Breakfast! An understanding of Belgian Boys’ core strategy helped the team find clarity and commit to a focused path forward that aligned with their Core Purpose of “Sparking Moments of Happiness” and differentiate them in the market. And they could do it in the most authentic way by honoring their legacy of making European foods mainstream in the US. While already achieving record-breaking frozen breakfast item sell-thrus at major retailers like Whole Foods, Jewel Osco, and Central Market, they knew the most authentic way to merchandise these items was in the refrigerated section, next to other breakfast foods such as milk, eggs, yogurt, and orange juice. Suggesting that the largest retailers in the US change their traditional way of merchandising these products was a bold move, and would require creating a whole new product category. But the team was confident that the early data they gathered at Walmart and Target supported the Winning Move that would help them climb the mountain toward their BHAG.
Executing Winning Moves
Uncovering a Winning Move and executing it are two different challenges. Our next step was to break that 3-5 year strategy down into Annual and Quarterly priorities and reinforce the company culture in a way that would support high levels of focus, alignment, and accountability throughout the organization. Belgian Boys was able to create a new market category as their winning move!
Watch this short video to hear this story from the CEO’s perspective.
To accomplish this, we brought in one of our expert Rhythm Success Managers, Tiffany Chepul. Tiffany spent the first few months training the team on the software (the software is the easy part) and the execution habits needed to accomplish their goals. The team learned how to clarify expectations for every priority using Red-Yellow-Green success criteria. They learned how to run effective Weekly Adjustment Meetings to keep the plans on track and make adjustments throughout the quarter. They stayed aligned and collaborated daily using many of the tools and best practices in the software. They learned how to write SMART goals and how to create dashboards to track progress on leading indicators and key results. The team grew in many ways. They became larger in number as the business grew, and they became more mature and sophisticated in the way they tackled obstacles and ran with new opportunities that supported their strategic goals. They said Yes to the right things and No to the wrong things.
I traveled back to New York every quarter to lead the team in Quarterly Planning sessions so we could reflect on what was working, learn from what was not, and prioritize what needed to happen in the next quarter to continue moving closer and closer to their annual goals. Every quarter, we built an “execution-ready” plan to guide them over the next 13 weeks. The year brought many challenges, and I had a front-row seat to observe their calm and steady approach to dealing with each one while maintaining focus on their strategic goals, their customers, their employees, and their values. By the end of the year, Belgian Boys was a new company.
We celebrated their many victories during our Annual Planning session in December while dreaming about all that could be accomplished in the next year. The company’s strategy is also providing success stories for their customers as sell-thrus continue to break records. With everything that’s been accomplished in the past year, the company is already executing from higher ground on their journey up the mountain. They have a strong plan in place for this year and will continue to update the plan quarterly, make necessary adjustments weekly, and execute daily with clarity. I am confident they will achieve their annual goals again this year and we will be celebrating again this December.
Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images