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Eliminate The Fear Of Focus

Businesses have natural growth curves just like people or animals or plants: When they’re new, growth is exponential, but within a short time it slows.2902351751_c30aacdaf8_o

Most small to medium-size companies start with very healthy growth. Systems and processes go on the back burner as the drive for new customers and new revenue streams heats up … but then revenue plateaus, seemingly for no reason.

There is usually an inflection point where the growth stops and complexity begins. It’s the nature of how companies start and grow, and it’s not a reflection on the founders or management. But it’s a major reason why there are so few U.S. companies that exceed $10 million in revenue.

The most common root cause for this plateau is that the company is trying to do to many things well, and operationally it’s spread so thin that mistakes happen, re-work is abundant and the once-common referrals stop coming in.

How To Break The Plateau

The answer to this problem is Market Focus. The management team must Crush the Fear of Focus with a Breakaway Move to return to Gazelle-like growth … 15% per year or more.

A Breakaway Move has 4 major components:

  1. Extreme Focus on the Core Customer’s persona.
  2. Extreme Focus on the market segment you want to own – a segment that you’ll be aggressive with a “play to win” (vs. a “plan not to lose”) mindset.
  3. Extreme Focus on solving your Core Customer’s NEEDS – not WANTS – within the market segment.
  4. Extreme Focus on operationally tuning the organization to deliver like crazy for this specific customer group.

Don’t stop doing all the work you are doing for existing clients and risk cash-flow problems. Instead, intentionally focus all of your sales and operational focus on a Breakaway Move that will result in more revenue, higher profit margins, more referrals and (best of all) happier employees.

Work with your team to discuss these 4 steps; you’ll begin to overcome the Fear of Focus once a real plan is in place. You’ll naturally start saying “no” to more things and “yes” to the opportunities that drive your economic engine.

(Image: Dimitris Kalogeropoylos / Flickr)

6 Questions To Crush The Competition

In today’s globally connected and competitive business climate, it’s no longer enough to look at strategy on an annual basis. Nowadays, every single month executive teams need to integrate strategy development within the business planning rhythm.

The key to unlocking strategy is answering a powerful question that gets the team thinking in unique ways. But a common “stuck” in strategy development is figuring out the right question to achieve your Breakaway Move to crush your competition. Answers are easy; getting the question right can be harder. Here are 6 questions to ask your team during strategy brainstorming sessions that can unlock hidden value inside your business.

1. Where is the next battle going to be in your business?racing-car-373757_960_720

A good example is Facebook’s massive focus on mobile after they went public. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg’s daily question, “how are we going to leverage mobile,” became his, and his company’s, daily question. Clearly, it’s working.

2. What has been tried before, either by your company or by your competitors, but did not work?
There are so many variables that can make an initiative really stick vs. flat-out fail. Failure does not always mean the idea was not good. For example, it could have been the wrong person leading the charge, market conditions might be different, technology could streamline the process, global platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook could accelerate growth.

3. What two or three existing things in your business, things you are already doing, can you combine?
This is one of my favorites. Take two existing things and create something original. What product and service can you combine and create a unique new product, service or program?

4. When your company wins, what other companies are impacted in a positive way?
Think about what relationships you can create – or what product offerings could you integrate with – to expand your market faster by leveraging other people’s trust relationships? I looked at office space this week to handle our expansion. I could not help but think about all the other things signing a lease would trigger, things like construction, IT, phones, furniture, etc. Building relationships with those companies can result in more referrals to your business.

5. What is fragmented in your market, and how could you coordinate it?
Think about what Uber did for taxi services and what Airbnb did for housing rentals. What is messy, hard to do, clunky, expensive or frustrating in your market, and how could you fix it? What product, service or platform could you create?

6. What can you be the only option for in your space?
Think about what parts of your business operations are hard for someone else to reproduce or copy. For example, there are several business coaches in the Charlotte metro area. But only Insight CXO has a team in place that can help execute the business plan in three areas. The Promise – what makes your firm unique and what is the sales engine to generate revenue? The People – is your team healthy and aligned and do you have systems in place to hire and keep A Players? The Process – do you have core processes documented and measured to make them better, faster and cheaper… with less drama?

Remember that your competition is not asleep behind the wheel, so your team has to be looking through the windshield and down the road as far as possible. Try asking these 6 questions in your next monthly executive planning meeting, and see if you can figure out the strategy – the one that will give your business the boost to crush the competition.

Image: Jingoba / Pixabay

Growth-Related Chaos? Take A Step Back

chaos-485493_1280-geralt-960x720Rapid growth is exciting … and chaotic. When your growth strategies start paying off, the processes that worked well when you were smaller can break down as you add clients, revenue and employees to your business. As you get more decision makers, with differing opinions on how to do things, your processes can become so cumbersome that they threaten to slow your business and increase your risk.

This was the situation faced by one of our clients, a global pharmaceutical services company that saw an enviable 880% organic growth rate over the last four years. Its employee headcount and active customer list were growing beyond capacity, and they had a serious case of growing pains. They knew their processes weren’t working anymore, and they asked us to help them retool to both absorb growth and continue doing what produced their steep growth in the first place.

Take a Step Back

Anytime you’re looking for new, better ways of doing things, you must first define how you’re currently operating to figure out what’s really causing your problems. This process of defining your core processes – a group of related activities that transform various inputs into an output that adds value to the customer – is the best way to ensure that the solution you adopt is a Breakaway Move that supports your overall strategy.

To get there, step back and 1) look at processes to see how things are currently done; 2) determine if new systems would improve efficiency; and 3) challenge your processes and see where there might be opportunities to make them leaner.

Here’s what that looked like with the pharmaceutical services company we’re working with.

First, we had to get clear direction on what problems needed to be solved. We had to get the team laser-focused on the outcome and make sure we didn’t try to “boil the ocean”– to try to do more than was realistic or necessary.

Next, we defined the cost of poor quality – the things that could be negatively impacted by not making changes (for example, customer satisfaction, employee effectiveness, compliance).

Then we recorded all of the existing processes. When we began, the team thought they had 10 processes, but once we really dug in and challenged the team and each process, we found there were over 20 different processes in place, with multiple touch points and people involved. We got there by breaking each process down by the following components:

  • Define the process: What 1-2 sentences does the process owner use to describe it?
  • Inputs to the process: What steps, actions, templates or tools are needed for the process to start?
  • Process steps: What is the activity and/or transformation that takes place?
  • Outputs: What is the result of the activity and/or transformation taking place?
  • Controls: What manual or system controls are in place? What’s on your wish list for the future?
  • Risks: What risks are in the existing process?
  • Regulatory requirements: Are there any U.S./international regulatory or compliance requirements that must be considered?

Finally, we took the team through a “wish list” exercise to capture all areas of potential opportunity the client didn’t have capability for, but hoped to see after they made changes.

Potential solutions were weighed against a cost-benefit analysis to ensure that what they chose to adopt (and their priorities for adoption) would provide the biggest payoff in terms of alleviating problems and making processes better, faster and cheaper.

When your processes are causing a lot of business pain, it may seem like a lot of time and trouble to take a step back to define your core processes, but it’s the most effective way to implement processes that are more than a Band-Aid, but fix your problems for the long run.

Image: Geralt / Pixabay

Scale Up Faster With A ‘Play To Win’ Mindset

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One of the most challenging phases for CEOs or executive teams who start a company is to break out of the startup mindset.

In an organization’s early stages, it’s all hands on deck and everyone is a generalist, wearing many hats.

The CEO is involved in every decision and every transaction. The realities of cash constraints, funding payroll, etc. – and the whirlwind of emotions tied to them – are hard-wired into the entrepreneur’s brain.

Then, over time as the company grows, two things happen.

First, the company reaches a ceiling of complexity – things get harder and not easier. Hiring more people feels more like an anchor than a sail.

Second, the startup mindset and the emotional imprints it creates turn the founder(s) into a bottleneck, or the constraining factor to growth.

To grow, the CEO and senior team must become hyper-aware of how their past experiences can be limiters on future plans – and commit to change. Reading Scaling Up by Verne Harnish is one of the best ways to learn how to punch through the ceiling of complexity and continue to grow in a fun, healthy and drama-free way. BUT, the tools don’t work unless the CEO and senior team 100% commit to a Play to Win mindset.

What does Play to Win mean? It means NOT playing not to lose, which is an entrepreneurial trap. It’s why so few companies make it past the $10,000,000 revenue mark. To escape the trap, the next time you are having a growth- or strategy-related discussion, ask yourself and your team: “Based on the plans we are discussing, are we Playing to Win or just playing not to lose?” You’ll be surprised how the conversation – and your plans – can change with that simple question.

5 ways to create a Play to Win mindset

  1. Be very intentional about including your team in strategic-level thinking and problem solving. It’s hard to Play to Win by yourself … you’ll need a team.
  1. Realize that you and your team might not have all the answers. Look outside the organization for help. Hire an expert, coach, consultant, trainer, join a peer group, etc. An expense-centric mindset limits access to information and learning. Most high-growth companies are investing in resources to make big leaps.
  1. Imagine yourself winning. As a professional mountain bike racer, I can’t achieve a podium finish without first believing I can and imagining it happen. I let myself experience the start- and the finish-line sprint. Only then can I plan my Breakaway Moves.
  1. Use the term “Play to Win” with your team. They’ll get it. It’s energizing. Everyone loves to be on a winning team.
  1. Create an enemy. Create a race. Create a finish line. Create competition. High-growth companies create plans to crush their competition. Flat-lined and slow-growth companies stop competing, stop getting upset when someone else wins.

Create a Play to Win mindset for you and your team, and get your company on the podium every time!

 

Image: Skeeze / Pixabay
BreakAway

Crush the Competition with a Breakaway Move Strategy

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You may know that when I’m not helping clients as head of Insight CXO, I’m fueling my passion for competition and training as a professional mountain bike racer. I envision business much like a race – initially, all of the competitors are in a tight pack, looking to gain any advantage that will put one ahead of the others.

Eventually, a few of the competitors begin to pull away from the pack to form a break – they’ve found something that differentiates them from the majority – but those racers still stick together in the lead break. However, at some point, one of those competitors makes a Breakaway Move™ – a strategy that enables him or her to separate from the competition and win the race.

In business, the Breakaway Move is something that has the potential to double revenue in the next 3 to 5 years. In order to drive top-line revenue growth, your company needs to have two or three Breakaway Moves it’s always working on.

New York Times bestselling author and leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith famously wrote What Got You Here Will Not Get You There. To find out if that’s true for you, ask your leadership team:

Will your existing products, services and capabilities be enough to drive serious top-line growth well into the future?

To help answer that question, project out over the next five years how much revenue each of your products or services will generate. There is probably a gap between that number and your desired revenue in five years.

One way to define a Breakaway Move is to explain what it’s not. Simply doing more of the same is not a Breakaway Move. Changing operations to increase profit is not a Breakaway Move.

Rather, Breakaway Moves drive top-line revenue. Working on Breakaway Moves may generate ideas and initiatives to increase profit, but it’s good to be clear on what Breakaway Moves are so you don’t stop short of creating revenue-generating ideas.

Where do Breakaway Moves come from? First, they come from consistent Breakaway planning sessions that leave room for flexibility (since things rarely happen exactly as they’re planned). Second, they come from looking deep into the world of your Core Customers:

  • What are their pain points?
  • What are their unmet needs?
  • What are their jobs to be done?
  • What keeps them up at night?
  • What will help them reach their goals faster?
  • What solutions can you provide to solve their problems?

Breakaway Moves must have a place in your annual planning process, both to make them a priority for scaling your business and because they can help you build a healthier, cross-functional team. Working together on ways to double the business is exciting and can make the team feel like they can win.

Are you ready to create your own Breakaway Move? Insight CXO has created a free toolkit, “8 Steps To Your Breakaway Move,” a step-by-step guide to get your team invigorated and thinking in innovative ways about how to push ahead of the competition and win the race.

What is Your Company’s Promise to the World?

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What is a BRAND PROMISE?  In short, it is what your firm is promising to the world and it is what (hopefully) makes your firm unique.  At Insight CXO, we believe a powerful Brand Promise can give you leverage in the market and operational insight more than almost anything else you do.  The definition of a Brand Promise is:

    1. Something your clients NEED and not just want. They can want you right out of business.
    2. Must be really HARD TO DO and hard to copy. Competitors should be scratching their heads on how you are pulling it off.
    3. MEASUREABLE.

It’s helpful to already know the Persona of the buyers and the market segment you want to own before creating your Brand Promise.  Next month’s BLOG will cover how to develop one.

Need

Think about your core customer and the things they need to be successful.  What are their options?  What is the pebble in their shoe?  What are their major jobs to be done?  What kind of ‘normalized pain’ are they living with?

Hard to Do

This is how you separate yourself from the pack and find a place where there is very little to no competition.  At first, the ideas to pull this off may seem crazy or even impossible.  But do not stop because this is exactly what your competitors will do. Keep driving deeper and start asking the operational questions that just might be the key to success. Remember the customers who will buy in on your Brand Promise will also buy for optimal profit.  A well deserved price increase or extra velocity in sales can fund the operations of the new Brand Promise.  Another way to think about operations is to think in terms of an anti-Brand Promise.  Things you will lower the value proposition on and related cost structure and double down on the operations that empower the Brand Promise.

Measurable

A good Brand Promise must be measurable by both you and the client.  It’s important to know how well you are doing on execution.  This becomes a great metric for the management team to focus on.  It’s how you know if your operations are really in support of your sales and marketing efforts or not.  I think this is the Holy Grail of running a business. The former CEO of Federal Express said there are two things every business should focus on.  “The Promise and the Process”.  Are your operations really setup and perfectly aligned with what the sales team is selling and what the marketing team is promoting?  This is where we see the most internal conflict and frustration.  What is being sold is not properly aligned with what and how things are produced.

Find your unique BRAND PROMISE and sell where there is no competition and get your entire organization in complete alignment!!!