I’ve observed a common theme in client companies. I should say, a specific type of client companies. The type that successfully grow year after year. Not companies that had a great year because of the economy, or a tariff, or a one-time software win, or companies that had some government protection that made their success easy. I’m talking about companies in competitive markets and industries who won over strong competition year after year.
Before you argue that it doesn’t happen in your industry, I would caution you. I’ve seen this consistent growth first hand in nearly every industry – and when I do, it has always been linked to one thing - discipline. I don’t mean just any discipline, but rather a specific discipline. A discipline for process coupled with a discipline for ideas.
A manufacturing example is the discipline of lean plus the discipline of ideas, in software it might be the discipline of agile and a discipline for ideas. In other industries it might be a discipline for project management and – you’ve guessed it, a discipline for ideas. Lean, agile, project management and more are too broad a subject for this blog. Besides, there are plenty of books and lessons, even certifications, for each. The certification for any of these approaches will often surface the lie. The one who becomes certified in a discipline often believes that strict adherence to that discipline will lead to business success. They’re right… sort of.
The Agile method can help teams manage work more efficiently and do the work more effectively all while staying within the budget constraints to deliver the highest quality product. You may utilize sprints, reporting, and off to sprint again. Lean creates a mindset of improved efficiency, reduced waste, and increased productivity. Project management helps manage projects effectively so one can resolve problems more quickly and increase the chance of achieving the desired result.
All of the above disciplines can aid in great operational success. Yet, without the discipline of ideas, these other disciplines will never consistently lead you to business growth or increased revenues. Why? Because none of one of these is focused on business growth.
I remember getting the “Amazon” catalog as a child and having the chance to circle an item I wanted for Christmas. It was an incredible collection of items for purchase, from tractors to trailers, shirts to slacks. Hey, you could even buy a home! This catalog was so thick that you could use it as a booster seat for a child – and I spent hours going through it page-by-page. The company was much too big to fail. Failure was unthinkable.
As I grew older, it was heartbreaking to see this company barely holding on, like an athlete trying to compete well beyond their prime, until finally, they were out of business. Of course, it wasn’t really Amazon, just the Amazon of the time. The company knew how to open stores, get product for sale, train personnel, and more. What they didn’t have was a discipline of ideas. The company was Sears, and their business is dead.
There are two truths that can keep your business alive and growing in a framework of 3-5 year strategic planning. Both truths are rooted in a discipline of ideas. Everyone on your payroll has ideas, you’re already paying them for their ideas, yet many fail to reap the harvest for revenue growth. Utilizing the two truths will consistently help you grow your revenue:
Truth #1: Capture ideas
Determine which are worth implementing. Entire departments and individuals should have a process to capture ideas to win in the market. Consistently looking for your next “big thing,” a process to compare the ideas one to another (and the merger of multiple good ideas), documented in one place over time, is key. This discipline allows continuation of previous discussions without déjà vu of having the same discussion over and over. Find a tool or platform available to all to use leverage your hard, smart work to win. Don’t leave this to chance.
Truth #2: Test your ideas
This truth protects you from allowing poor performing ideas to turn into catastrophic loss. When your outcome is less than expected, change tactics or drop the idea. My experience proves that every strategy, or winning move, is not a winner. Successful leaders change tactics or cut off bad moves quickly. I’ve found that many good leaders, just like emotional investors, have a hard time letting go of failing ideas or poor investments. They become emotionally attached.
Start growing your business year over year with the above two truths. Mine your good ideas, filter them for the best, document discussions and assumptions, weigh all against the others, and start testing. Once you get positive results from your test, then go all in – but only with a clear exit plan. If your winning move goes bad, you won’t be emotional (or afraid) to cut your losses short. In other words... emotions won’t get in the way of your success or your 3-5 year strategic plan. Keep growing!
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