I was in a partnership a few years ago that also got off to a tremendous start. Globally appealing products, an awesome team, first mover advantage, international press; you know the story by now. Girls would offer to buy me lunch or dinner just to hang out with a young seemingly successful entrepreneur. Investors loved the brand. When I was out of the country, the offers for equity investments were flattering. We even received a Presidential award to boot. That looks like success right? In some sense we achieved some celebrity status but I started getting concerned about what the outcome of all this was going to be.
Were we going to be the leader in our industry or was it a popularity contest? Was our income going to break into the millions of dollars or did we have to endure the startup grind of what I regarded as a few dollars here and there?
Was it all about the money? No! As an entrepreneur I believe money is common but impact is not.
Interestingly, when you create value for enough people, the impact usually brings the billions. I had to leave that business but I learnt an invaluable lesson about what really matters and picking an outcome that the whole team can rally behind. If you are building a business that will be on 3 continents in 10 years, please let your team know as often as possible. Making clothes or designing artwork just because you have the talent is not enough. Which stockists or galleries would you like your work to be seen at? Is the ultimate result to be on the cover of Vogue or Fortune?
It is like building hotels or apartments just because you have land to spare. How will you fill all those rooms, and is there a strategy to get occupants in case you do not sell everything off-plan?
Whatever the ultimate result is, please find out why you want that and which activities will be steps to getting there. For all you know it may be easier and cheaper to achieve than you realize.
Steps to setting your ultimate strategic outcome or result
1. Pick a strategic outcome or ultimate result
2. Ask yourself why you want it? Having an emotional or logical reason that you can always refer to will help if there are any challenges along the way. You won’t abandon ship just because there are problems if you know why you are doing what you set out to achieve. You also will not dabble in new businesses or create new products just for the sake of it if you know this. More product lines have been created out of boredom by business owners than you can imagine.
3. List the activities that will be the most efficient in getting to the ultimate strategic result
Look for things that will help you skip steps instead of mere incremental growth. Just because you have an invitation to speak somewhere or a supplier offers you a good discount does not mean it will help you achieve your ultimate result. Activity for the sake of activity is what leads entrepreneurs to invest in unnecessary frills like expensive PR when they do not have a backend to take sales or distribute their products. An artist mentioned that he wanted to have an exhibition. After asking what the ultimate result was, I found out he wanted up to about 20,000 people to see his work. He later realized that the gallery could only seat about 300 people so maybe aggressively marketing online would be a better activity. Before I spoke with him, he thought the exhibition was the ultimate result and not the 20,000 new fans. Perhaps he may decide $50,000 worth of commissions may be his next goal. I personally believe about 99% of launches and events are a waste of time and resources. The entrepreneur usually does it out of either ego, ignorance or pressure from friends who will contribute less than 3% to her business’ growth. The event usually has some drinks, hors d’oeuvres and people walking around hugging and greeting each other. Very few people buy unless there is profitable auction. I always ask my clients, “will this grow the business or not?” You can have any event you want but at least know why you are doing it and make plans to achieve that exact result.
An example of how I practice what I’m preaching here is that we always promise a school a specific strategic outcome. In the case of Aves’ all the students will be able to build their own websites from scratch by the end of our time with them. People deserve to pay for results so as entrepreneurs, the responsible thing to do is to let them.
Side note: This is one reason advertising has such a bad name. Many people buy advertising instead of paying for results. They pay for the activity, not the result. I will share more on how this relates to the above in a later post.
Look at your ultimate result or strategic outcome every day. It will save you from reacting to challenges, help to determine who should be on your team and why you woke up so early to go to work in the first place. In addition to this, you will make decisions for the long term while others in your industry are in a rat race against time.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
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