Secrets of 2012’s fastest-growing company executives (part 1 of 4)
Together they shared more than an hour’s worth of great insights, best practices and advice for companies big and small, old and young, with a focus on how they have accelerated innovation, driven culture, cut costs and sped up revenue growth for their businesses.
Featured panelists included:
- Steve Carrigan – CEO of ABC Legal
- Joe Pritting – Managing Partner of Elliott Bay Design Group
- Hiram Machado – CEO of adaQuest
- Norman Vigre – COO and General Manager of BrambleBerry
Below, and over the next four blog posts, we’ve edited some of their best advice shared during that breakfast.
What I’ve asked my distinguished clients and colleagues to do today is share some of their experiences with you in terms of what they have done to deploy The Four Decisions to gain a high level of discipline and drive exceptional results for their growth companies.
The process includes Four Decisions that you have to get right if you’re going to continue growing your fast-growth company. It starts out with people, then strategy, then execution, and then cash. I’ll give you the foundation in a quick overview.
- People is about having the right people in the right positions that are able to do what you need them to do, and able to do it with initiative, with confidence, and with the skill set so you don’t have to micromanage them. And ultimately, are they contributing to a happier and happier culture within your organization?
- Strategy is about driving top line revenue and do you have the right strategies to be able to scale your company and grow your revenues on the top line.
- Execution is about the discipline of getting things done and having people deliver on their commitments.
- Cash. Ultimately, if you are doing the first three things right, cash often times will begin to take care of itself. On the other side of the equation it is important to know that as your company is growing, and many of you have probably discovered this in the last few years, you need capital. Some of the capital markets have become much more restricted.
First of all, to our panelists, with each of the four decisions from the Rockefeller Habits — people, strategy, execution, and cash — what specifically have you done, given your exposure to the processes, to lead, influence, and ensure performance in each of these areas in your company. Hiram, why don’t you lead off?
One of the things that Ron brought to us was discipline. I guess that was the number one thing—the discipline – the rhythm of the business—the discipline to meet often enough, the discipline to discuss the right topics at the right level in the organization with the right people, identify the right people.
To be honest with you, in the very beginning when we started this process there were a lot of missing pieces in my organization. We did not have proper marketing personnel, or investment, in the company. As we started to go through developing the strategic plan and understanding what we are about, how to message our company, understand how our cost is structured, the first several months I didn’t really see the result on the profitability line but I saw a lot of progress around the foundation of the business and preparation for the growth. So it was really, I guess, the second year of that implementation that we started to see the result that we were looking for, and we have evolved so much on the finance part as well.
My CFO learned a lot with the rhythm to understand our numbers, understand where we needed to go, understand what our goals were. They will tell you I am the typical shiny-object type of CEO and I am after anything that shines in front of me. I think that worked for a long time while we were small, but after a certain size you need to start narrowing your focus a little bit and understand what you really want to do. I guess in my mind that was the number one thing that I benefited from, that having the process together brought to my organization.
This might be number two, but for us we kind of knew early on that the people thing was the biggest for us because we don’t have big plant equipment, a factory, we just don’t have that. For us it is all about the people. I always used to have examples of some of our super star people and we talk a lot about our software and different things, but that we could give certain people just a notebook and an abacus or something and they would outperform the average people with all of our best software and tools. So I think that’s true and the people part was a big part for us. I know Ron introduced us to this book Who, which is a condensed version of Topgrading.
So we just spent a lot of time focusing on getting the right people because for us it feels like if we do that, we can be wrong about a lot of other things and the right people will just figure it out and solve the problem. So I think that has been more important for us than probably any of the other things.
I can add on to the people piece there. We have vigorous discussion when our team gets together to talk about our strategy and our execution and all that. Often times I remember we’d leave our sessions with a plan and weeks or months later someone said, “Well I agree with that but I don’t really agree with that.”
One of the things I remember very distinctly, Ron, is going back around the group and gaining concordance with the team members. Well, if you don’t agree with this than say so now, otherwise agree with this and we’re moving forward. Just from our team’s interaction, that has really helped us with accountability and getting people to do what they agreed to do.
When we look at strategy and execution and communicating, what we decided to the rest of our company was having it all documented on a one-page strategic plan is so valuable to be able to put it up on the screen as I meet with staff and describe, “Well here is what we decided this last week in our strategic planning and here is where we’re going.” Just a powerful way to communicate the strategy with the people, I guess is kind of how I’d add that.
Did they put this in the order of people, strategy, execution, cash, on purpose?
Yes they did. There’s a reason for that order.
Yes, because as I reflected on this, thinking about it, it was much like Steve and Joseph had said, people is what brought us to it as well. We were a high-growth company adding a lot of people. The first thing we attacked was how do we get better people because we need to produce more as a growth company. So we started with people, we then moved as we got into the process and got past people, we moved to strategy, and then moved into execution, and we’re now firmly in the cash stage after years of working on this. But it is a progression through there and it is very nice as far as alignment. As Joe was saying, you get alignment for putting your strategies together.
Execution and accountability is another huge, huge advantage for running it that we’ve seen and some of the results that we’ve had. Now we’ve taken this and moved it from our management team to our mid-level managers and they’re implementing the same sort of process, and we’re seeing the accountability and execution on our mid-level team just skyrocket and go through the roof of them being able to deliver on time as far as quality and ownership and the work as well.
So you definitely get things like how do we improve these small areas, but you’re going to notice across-the-board change as well just because there is a “This is on paper, this is what we’re going to do. Who, what, when.” You know when things are going to be done.
My favorite part of the process is the no real blame that comes into it, because that was something that we’ve never really had personal conflicts, luckily, in our company. I think a big reason is that you don’t have blame. If it didn’t get done in The Four Decisions Process, it’s just, “Well when is it going to get done? What are the challenges? What are the hurdles? What do you have to get around?” That has avoided us from having to fall into that trap that I know a lot of companies fall into where all of a sudden marketing is fighting with the warehouse, and customer service doesn’t like the way a promotion was put together. You avoid all of that, most of it, because of that communication level and because of the way you go through the processes.
So we’ve put them into work through that, starting with people and the strategy execution, and then to cash, and I think the big benefit we’ve gotten out of it that hasn’t been spoken about before or listed out in the title is the accountability and the way that everyone works together.
Continue to part two of the roundtable here.