Episode 39 – The Growth Whisperers
The Growth Whisperers is a weekly podcast hosted by Brad Giles and Kevin Lawrence two advisors to mid-market businesses, one Australian, one Canadian, who each work with CEOs and Leadership Teams across the world with a mission to build enduring, great companies. Each weekly episode covers interesting situations and questions from the world of strategic planning, leadership development, talent and hiring in high growth entrepreneurial companies where real results matter.
What you must do on execution and data heading into 2021 (part 3 of 4).
This week on The Growth Whisperers we continue the third of a four-part series where we discuss the important things you need to do heading into 2021. In this third part, we discuss two aspects. Why you must improve your execution in 2021, and the importance of your data in 2021.
Why you must improve your execution heading into 2021.
Brad and Kevin talk about the importance of focussing on effective execution in 2021, and why this is so valuable at the moment.
The importance of your data heading into 2021.
Next, they talk about how you should be using data in 2021 and provide 3 specific action items and tools you should do to improve your use of data in 2021.
Brad Giles 00:13
Hi there, welcome to the growth whispers where everything we talk about is building enduring great businesses. I’m Brad Giles, and as always joined today by my co-host, Kevin Lawrence. Good day. Kevin, how are you today?
Kevin Lawrence 00:51
I’m doing great.
Brad Giles 01:08
So welcome, everyone. Today we’re talking about part three of our four-part series on building an enduring, great company. Now, we’ve spoken so far about what you need to do about people moving into 2021. Then last week, we spoke about what you need to do around your strategy and vision moving into 2021. But now we’re talking about execution. So what do you need to do in terms of your execution? How do you reset? How do you build a better and improve your execution moving into 2021?
Kevin Lawrence 01:46
Yeah, and the idea today, we’re going to break it down to two spots, actual your execution systems to make sure the most important high-value stuff gets done and gets done well. And then to data to help your data is your friend data to help you make better decisions, and evaluate down the road if your decisions were as good as you would like to believe they were. So what we just dropped right into the first one, Brad, and it’s about the execution systems. And basically, you know, having things to make sure that those priorities are identified and completed mechanically, again, breaking down like our, our three ideas for each of these like we’ve done the last couple episodes. So the route of execution is it is about the basics. It’s relentless execution of the basics, mastering the basics, staying on the basics, not forgetting the basics, and not getting tricked by advanced things when you still haven’t got the basics handled. So it’s all about the basics. And the first most basic of the basics is really being clear on your top three to five things your company needs to achieve this year. So you’ve got financial targets, it’s important to know those, these are top three to five projects, we call them priorities, goals, initiatives, you know, it could be like a version of okrs, wherever you want to call it, the top three to five projects that that company needs to deliver on to move ahead, and to be better, stronger, and ideally, have a great year. And as simple as it sounds. A lot of companies struggle with us.
Brad Giles 03:27
So maybe you’ve already got a one-page plan, maybe you’ve already got, like in Australia, our financial year goes from July to June. And so maybe that’s where your plan is aligned around. And maybe you’ve already got a current set of three to five priorities for the year. And if so that’s awesome. But yes, is the time of renewal. And what we’re trying to go, what we’re trying to say is, so look at those three to five, are they working? Are they not working? Use this, the opportunity that this New Year presents to say, well, are they working? What can we learn from the first six months or three months? Whenever you build your plan? And what do we need to learn moving forward? Are they right? How can we improve our priorities as we move forward? priorities are the essence as you see it of execution planning or great execution planning. But here’s an interesting one. Is there an owner so for your first priority, the most important thing you’ve got to do? Does somebody have accountability for it? Is someone going to say to you in a few weeks, or whatever it is, this is the update?
Kevin Lawrence 04:39
Yeah, as I like to call it, it’s like one throat to choke. Who or one person to yell at or one person to pat on the back. If we’re in person, ie one person stays up at night. If it’s not getting done a single point of accountability is key. Second is is it clear what success looks like? Like, and I see these objectives and a lot of companies that are these beautifully crafted statements, and they’re utopian in their, in their language, and they’re just beautiful. But there’s no way in hell of knowing if it’s ever done. Someone can just anyone could they could say yes before they started. Yeah, so having a clear, ideally financial outcome or tangible outcome, sometimes there’s no financial outcome, it’s Board approval, right, or certification completed, or submitted to whichever, you know, agency, whatever it happens to be, but some sort of tensile clear three to five priorities. The clear owner clearly ties back into the three to five-year strategy, and your flywheel and your strategy map and your BHAG ties and all that good stuff. And then you got a number to tell you whether you’re on track and or have delivered the value you expected.
Brad Giles 05:57
Awesome. And maybe you could tweak or improve those, as I said if you’ve already got them, but use them this time in January. Now moving on to number two, having a calendar that matches your priorities. Now another way to put that is, does your calendar, set your priorities, or do your priorities set your calendar, so I’m too busy, I haven’t got time to work on the most important thing in the company. Oh, which we see, right.
Kevin Lawrence 06:34
my hair’s on fire. And I got into this, and I got into this, and I got into this, and I got into this. And that’s what we set parodies because the problems don’t go away. You just got to get better at prioritizing what you deal with and prioritizing your time. So I love what you said there Brad, does your calendar, set your priorities as your priority set the calendar. And by the way, if we go back and do a forensic audit on your calendar, and just look at how many hours actually drove to the company is number one priority or the number two priority could be a little bit shocking and I will be a little bit uncomfortable for some people because we get so caught up in what we’re doing.
Brad Giles 07:14
Yeah. And look at the basis of good execution as well. Like if you let your email inbox dictate what you’re doing, if you carried like the wind, an engine, a leaf in the wind, it’s carried, whichever the wind goes is the way that you’re going to do you’re not in control of your calendar. And what we’re saying instead is to identify the priorities. And then let those priorities dictate your calendar so you can get the most important things done.
Kevin Lawrence 07:48
Yeah, and then you can go and look at all the activities that you do and take some time and think what do you need to stop doing? What do you need to sharpen up? Or maybe do better or more efficiently or shorten the amount of time you spend on what do you need to just drop and not do now whether drop means drop on someone else’s desk, as in delegate, or just don’t do it because it’s low value, you know, if you’re working on deals that generate your company, a couple million dollars of gross profit. And then you’re caught in a project that saves $2 of gross profit, maybe just let the $2 go and focus on the 2 million and there’s a lot of times where we’re focused on two bucks, when we could be focused on 2 million bucks. That happens. Exactly. And that’s why you know, numbers or money or time or whatever it is, are all great measures to look at. So what do you got to we got to based on evaluating where you’re spending your time, what do you got to change and be Feel free to be routed? I got a great compliment from a person I spoke to today he was referred to me as another coach or consultant that can be a great addition to our team. He’s like, I love that we have a 25 minute appointment. And I said Why? He said, Well, because you’re leaving a buffer, you’re leaving time. And you know, 25 minutes is crystal clear. My system said he has 25 minutes. And for me, it gives me a buffer in between. But it’s also I don’t do 60 minute meetings with people. I don’t know, it’s either 10 or 25. Right? 10 to be so I can get you know, you understand the slot, the time slot 10 for on a 15
Kevin Lawrence 09:32
Sometimes it feels like a lot of control. That’s a whole other story. Okay, cool. Well, let’s move along to number three. And you need meetings that help drive excellent execution of the goals and I’ll tell you like I we talked about this a lot with our clients. The weekly meeting is the bane of many people’s existence now. We’ve been teaching people how to do effective weekly meetings for years and I have to say, the weekly meetings that my team does are We’re part of our standing and I’m not wanting to brag unless it is damn good, but it’s damn good. We have 90 minutes a week, we review where we check in with each other wins and challenges. You know, we reviewer outward with client work and stuff, no new work that we need to deal with on potential opportunities. We review every one of the five company goals. Once a month, we review the individual goals, once a month, review our CEO sessions. And then we probably get through five or six other strategic discussions where things people are stuck, or they have opportunities every single week. And then we have a little show and tell where we show some of our best work. And then somebody teaches because we’re consultants and coaches. So we have a 10 to 15 minute education session every single week, and everyone takes the term. So even this week, Janice, you know, the glue that holds the firm together, did her own education session, and it was awesome. And inspired a lot of us to buy Christmas gifts for other people? Well, the point of it is, is that it’s a very tight agenda with time limits, I don’t run it perfectly. But the content is there every single week, and we have a meal, at least half of the meeting on the really high value of putting our brains together and troubleshooting which is the format that everybody else should use a very similar format.
Brad Giles 11:27
Well, because it works
Kevin Lawrence 11:30
The difference is that we are using our brains not just using our ears, we are not just listening to updates, we are spending half the meeting digging in and working through today’s are this week’s challenges and opportunities. Were many people’s weekly meetings become updates. And I just spoke probably for a minute and a half straight. And people will do that for 15 minutes in some of these hours. I wonder why people are bored to death. And you wonder why they’re disengaged, and they start doing their email and everything else.
Brad Giles 12:04
You know what if you’re leader, you get you have one single tool to hold people accountable to get people excited to measure the progress of the team in the individual. And that is the meeting you’ve only got one really one tool. Okay. Yeah. So what we’re saying in the context of January, if you look at your meetings, what’s working and what’s not working? And how can you in the context, again, of the renewal mindset, which is the new year, how can you begin to improve? Think about best practices around the weekly I’d say specifically, it could be the daily as well as this specifically the weekly and improve it, what’s one or two things you could do to make your weekly meeting better?
Kevin Lawrence 12:55
Yes, it’s the biggest potential opportunity for companies to create more values. And by the way, as a note, side note, I started talking about my team. Because we review the five company goals every week, we’ve reviewed them 13 times, by the time we get through the quarter, it’s pretty you can slip one week, you maybe could take the chance to slip in two weeks, you ain’t gonna slip three weeks, you know, you’re going to get on it and practically do an all-nighter not to show up week for looking like someone who shouldn’t be on the team, including me. It’s just, it’s a no brainer. Alright, let’s move on. So now we’re talking about the data is that data to make sure that the right decisions are made. And when knowing when we make the wrong ones, you know, when it’s great to go by gut feel. But we should use decision data to guide the decisions and evaluate them as well. So So and when we go into excellent execution and winning next year, is or this year, is that the first thing to really know is to use data to help us know what great looks like on our biggest goals and priorities before we commit. And we talked before about having numbers and measures. But this is where your finance team or your data team or whoever it is, that’s the source of data in your company can really help you pull in historical data to see the trends of things, helping understand today, helping you to project and forecast what you might be able to hit in 2021.
Brad Giles 14:22
So what we’re saying here is if you look at the way priorities are set, or decisions are made, how much of that is from the gut, okay, and as you look to 2021, what’s like one or two things that you can do to try to make less decisions from the gut and more decisions from data now maybe it’s having an agenda at meetings, you know, that’s a nice one. Maybe it’s bringing the person who brings the data or having someone accountable for data within meetings. So how can you use data more effectively when you’re making these decisions? And what’s like one or two things you can do in January to improve that system?
Kevin Lawrence 15:13
Yes. And often as companies grow there becomes kind of one source of the truth. And if your systems are amazing, it could be the system. Otherwise, it’s often partnering with your finance team around the data, because they generally seem to be the best source, but your company may be different. So the second thing is how do we leverage data or KPIs in your meetings, so you can help to make real time decisions when you know real time where you’re at? It can help you to make real time decisions. And Brad, what have you seen there that companies have done real? Well?
Brad Giles 15:50
Well, what I’ve seen is having a dashboard in a meeting, okay. So I’ve seen teams who they’re, first of all, they begin with an agenda. Okay? And then what do we need to do from that agenda? What data do we need to have, then we don’t need to have reports that are 50 pages long. No one’s going to read it. It’s not going to work. But it’s a simple dashboard that aligns with the meeting agenda. The first thing we’re going to talk about is employee Net Promoter Score. The second thing is customer’s Net Promoter Score. Okay, and then we’re going to talk about cash for cash flow, excuse me, and then we’re going to talk about new sales, whatever that is, and that data, is it and everyone keeps coming back to that.
Kevin Lawrence 16:40
Yeah, and it’s basics again, but a lot of companies even in their weekly meetings, don’t have a lot of data. I mean, ideally, you should have some good data in your dailies, and for sure, in your weeklies, but how do you dial it in further and there should be a handful of KPIs you look at or numbers that you look at on a weekly basis that give you a sense of where you’re at, and let you know, if you need to tweak or change, you know, and the key from a company levels, you can brainstorm with your team, whether it’s four, or six, or eight or 10, you should be able to look at them, and look at them on a chart. So you can see the trends and where it’s going compared to last year, it just gives you a pulse at one company, now used to run a monthly meeting with them. And we had 25 KPIs, we would go through them in about five minutes, because we’re gonna click and look at every single chart. Awesome. Awesome, awesome. Awesome. Whoa, let’s talk about that one later. Awesome. Awesome. Okay, and just it gives you a real quick pulse if they’re presented well, so how do you do it help you to make decisions and know when you need to have a debate or make a change?
Brad Giles 17:44
You know, the only other thing I’d make a comment on here, and that’s waterfall graphs. So if we look at our customers, what’s the gross profit as a quick comment, what’s the gross profit that we make from each of our customers? Who’s the best? And who’s the worst? And if we’ve got 30 customers making a graph that goes from highest to lowest? And then focusing on the bottom 20%? Let’s say how can we either exit those customers or improve that gross profit? dollars waterfall graphs in that type of environment
Kevin Lawrence 18:17
can be massively impactful, massive waterfall graphs, and my others is bridges. Even a bridge, gross margin bridge, a bridge for almost everything. I’ve got one CFO, amazing CFO. And we have a bridge for almost everything and the bridge shows what it was expected to be in the budget. And the 10 variables that are a part of that number, and how each of them might have changed to what the number is today. So income statement, you’ve got the budget and the actual, yeah, it’s showing every single variable to help explain the gap between the two. And my gosh, I just started drooling when I see bridges because it answered No, I do. I’m a numbers guy. It answers the questions and you get away from Well, you know, I think it’s this. No, it’s right there. I know. And by the way, side note Ali, who ran Ford for many, many years came from Boeing, spectacular CEO, you know, he’s quoted and saying that you know, and it’s a great article, I don’t know if it was Forbes or another or another magazine. He was quoted as saying, you know, I got tired of listening to my executives tell me it was all good. And then at the end of the quarter or the end of the month, it wasn’t. Yeah, so he said enough stories, they would review 300 charts every week in their weekly meeting. It was a data meeting, not an opinion meeting, and all of a sudden, shockingly, the company gets better and performs better. All right, let’s move on. The final thing is that you know, knowing your number one goal and you should know the most important thing you got to achieve in the coming year knowing that how you’re using data to help you win How we’re using health data to help you understand the current state of that goal. And to track progress and goal, and maybe do some predictive analytics or some correlation analysis or anything that you need to do to basically know how you can dial it in because sometimes, you know, I had one company, that on the third business day of the month, they could predict the end of the monthly revenue within two or 3%. On the third business day,
Brad Giles 20:31
right, and it makes better decisions, they would have been so much better. I had a similar example where a customer said, they were getting daily feedback from their field. And they said, we’ve got a four to six-week advantage over our competitors, because we’re able to turn things around much, much quicker. And what so what we’re really saying here is, so what’s the most important thing that you’ve got to do as a company in 2021? And in terms of January, how can you get more data or more important data, or look for different types of data or graphs to help you to understand how you’re performing there, and help to make better decisions around that number one priority.
Kevin Lawrence 21:21
So give an example of one of my favourites is a company to work with, in the United States. You know, they’re a sales organization. And they had some people saying, well, we want to see if maybe marketing can help to do lead generation. And, do this and the conversation, we had an almost reverse. And look, I want us to be able to prove the value of the marketing that you’re doing for Legion and I want to be able to him, they’re probably spending a couple of hundred grand a year, I want to be able to argue for you to have $10 million a year to spend on marketing, because you’re so damn good, right? Well, damn right, they came back, you know, a year and a half later, they ran the data and they’re proving it now, they’re not going to get $10 million dollars this year, but they probably get many million dollars. Because they’ve shown dollar spent in terms of what happens and the impact on the gross profit and bottom line of the company based on this, they’ve done outstanding, by the way, help them through COVID, like you wouldn’t believe to get new customers. But they’ve proven it with daddy. So now we can back up the truck cash and dump it into marketing, obviously monitoring very closely, because they’ve got a proven system for generating new leads where before they fully relied on sales, marketing was to support service.
Brad Giles 22:42
And so they’re making better decisions because of that data. And that’s what we’re really trying to get here. So in terms of the data, so the broad headline here is about data to ensure that you’re making the right decisions in terms of January looking forward. How can you get more data? How can you get the right data? How can you improve the data that you’re getting? So let’s go all the way back to the beginning of execution. So there are two broad headings in terms of building an enduring, great company and what you’ve got to do in January, around that. So first is execution systems to ensure the most important priorities are identified and completed. So the first one was clear priorities three to five of them, that they’ve identified and that you’re providing them with, they have tangible outcomes. We know when we cross the finish line number two, is having the calendar Metro priorities. So is your calendar, setting your schedule, or your priorities, setting your schedule and your calendar? And then number three meetings that help drive excellent execution of the goals? So how can you improve your meetings looking into 2021 just pick one or two areas, then we move to the second main point, which is having the right data to make the right decisions and know when the wrong ones have been made, as well. So here, we’ve got three elements. Number one is to know what great looks like for decisions and goals before you commit. So how can you improve the data in your decision making process, a point a person or find a way to improve the quality of your decision making using data? Number two is how do you leverage data in your meetings to make and manage decisions? So finding things like we said, around bridges or waterfall graphs or other types of ways to improve the quality of the meetings and then number three, what’s the most important priority for 2021 for your organization? And then how can you improve the execution of that goal? Using data? How can you understand the performance of that goal more deeply using data?
Kevin Lawrence 25:14
great summary there, Brad. So the whole idea here is how do we improve our operating system and get better performance next year. It’s been a crazy year. We want to reset, refocus, and do the stuff that helps us to drive better results. So thanks for listening. This has been the growth whispers with Brad Giles and I’m Kevin Lawrence, for the YouTube version, go to YouTube, and type in the growth whispers to reach Brad at evolutionpartners.com.au and for myself, Lawrenceandco.com all the best for an awesome 2021 it’s going to be an awesome year, and they’ve got some more tools to help it to be that way. Have a great week.