Annual Planning - Are You Winning on the Basics?

By Patrick Thean

dateFri, Nov 15, 2013 @ 09:30 AM

Great companies first win on the basics, then they wow you with something special. And that’s the cherry on top! But if you don’t first win on the basics, your customers will be so distracted that they will not notice the cherry on top. As you meet with your teams and plan for the next year, a good question to ask your team is “What are the basics that we want to win on? And how are we doing with them?”

Great companies first win on a few basics. Literally a handful of items. A few things executed flawlessly instead of a dozen things executed with mediocrity!

Take Zappos for example. Zappos is known for their wonderful, weird and wacky culture and how they wow their employees who then in turn wow their customers. They give great customer service. But guess what? They win by executing on the basics first: 

  • Well trained customer service. They train their people to deliver on what’s important, not just to answer the phone and take an order. They answer the phone great! They have mastered the basics of talking to customers and helping them on anything that they call for.
  • Inventory Management. Something this mundane? Yes. How else can they promise 2 day delivery and get it there in 1 day to surprise you? How else can they manage all the shoes being returned on their 365 day return policy?

At your annual planning session, ask your team:

  1. What are your few basic things that you strive to win on, and what does it take to win on these? 
  2. Are your few things tied to delivering on a brand promise that is remarkable?
  3. What are the execution steps that you need to take to deliver on your few things in a remarkable way?

How many “basics” did you and your team come up with? If it is more than 5, you might not be focused enough. Discuss, debate and agree on 3 to 5 basics that you will focus on and become great at so that you can win on the basics.


Be great at a few things, and your clients will find you remarkable!


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Patrick Thean


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