When it comes to accelerating your business’s growth, pace is not about being reckless or taking unnecessary risks. There is a clear difference between pace and haste. If you try to reach top speed immediately, without going through the gears, you will simply stall. Even the great Usain Bolt didn’t reach top speed until 50 metres in a 100-metre race!

This means that you should follow a clear sequence when delivering new strategic initiatives. Those companies that choose to miss out critical steps do so at their peril. Just ask Tesco about Fresh & Easy, the retailer’s failed US business!

Here is how I worked through the steps while leading the store development function at Boots the Chemists:

  1. Set a big, compelling objective.

    The bigger the goal, the bigger the commitment to achieving it. At Boots, we were once looking to grow the sales of a key product category. We could have set a smaller goal that was more easily achievable, but, instead, we set out to deliver double-digit growth. The goal changed the team’s mindset from incremental to breakthrough.

  2. Develop alternative concepts and ideas. 

    We organized a one-day workshop of staff from across the company to create new ideas to test. We didn’t over-think this, but established some creative exercises to ensure we had new and different concepts to try out.

  3. Test initial prototypes at a single site.

    For the next two days, we took the 10 best workshop ideas, developed a series of ‘cardboard and string’ prototypes and implemented them in a single store, and simply observed shoppers’ behaviors. One of the ideas immediately hooked customers – there was a clear winner.

  4. Prove and refine the concept.

    Over the next 4 weeks, we created a more physically robust merchandising solution and tested it in more stores, refining as we went. The results were the same, and in line with our double-digit goal.

  5. Build scale and roll out.

    Within 3 months the new merchandising solution had been delivered across the chain. This created a better experience for customers and higher levels of sales for the business.

The sequence of five steps can revolutionise your ability to rapidly deliver your goals. But there are a few critical factors you must follow:

  • Starting small may seem counterintuitive to pace, but it is in fact fundamental. If you focus on a single product, factory, store, team or region, rather than taking on your entire organisation, you can learn far faster. You have the ability to change things on a Monday, for instance, and see how it’s gone on Tuesday.
  • What’s more starting small doesn’t mean limiting your ambition. On the contrary, if you narrow the scope of your implementation, you can raise your performance aspirations and become more experimental.
  • Finally, the decision makers must be fully engaged with the process and need to be open to both the possibility of new ideas and to the reality of your trial results. A critical element of our success at Boots was getting the decision makers into the store, both to help develop the ideas, but, even more importantly, to observe the trials. A couple of hours watching real customers in action was worth 1,000 research reports in terms of their commitment to action.

You will drive rapid growth when you think big, start small and learn fast. Starting small gives you the ability to learn quickly and to build the knowledge and confidence to fire the investment rockets.

How can you incorporate the 5 key steps to start small, learn fast and deliver rapid results for your business?


© Stuart Cross 2017. All rights reserved.