I have been running my consulting business for nearly 10 years and over that time I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the UK’s leading businesses, including Boots the Chemists, Dunelm, Nectar, DFS and GSK, as well as many excellent mid-sized companies.
All success is both hard-earned and a combination of many factors, but I have identified five disciplines that make the difference between those companies that thrive and those that struggle to survive.
A clear #1 goal.
Ian Filby, the CEO of DFS plc once told me, “A strategy has to meet a clear goal. Without agreement about the goal, you can never settle on your strategy.” In my experience, settling on a #1 goal acts as catalyst for energy, action and commitment across the organisation. My first assignment with Topps Tiles plc, for example, was to help establish a #1 goal for the business, which the leadership team – after much discussion! – set at growing market share from 25% to 33%. The goal acted as a ‘magnetic north’ for all subsequent strategic decisions and Topps achieved this goal one year ahead of schedule at the end of last year.
A distinctive strategic position.
As a business you have to stand out, you must have clear competitive advantages. Topps strategy, for instance, can be summed up in their mantra of ‘out-specialising the specialists’, with a focus on superior range authority, inspirational service and locational convenience. This strategic position has helped accelerate their growth. Dunelm, on the other hand, has focused on offering its customers huge choice on homewares products at low prices. As both these businesses support their proposition with an integrated business model, their market position has become extremely hard to copy by their competitors.
Simplicity and speed.
All of the most successful companies I know are driven by a focus on rapid action, underpinned by a mind-set that encourages brevity and simplicity. This means the leadership team pursues a focused agenda, creates clear and distinct senior responsibilities, sets demanding timescales to their teams and follow-up relentlessly. As Richard Baker, the former CEO of Boots the Chemists, once told me, “You can’t spray and sprint!”
The leaders of the most successful businesses I have worked with spend a disproportionate amount of time engaging their teams and colleagues in the priorities and goals of the business. These leaders ensure that their people understand what is required of them. They don’t do this simply through newsletters and annual conferences. They do it in their everyday conversations and the stories they tell. Linking every decision they make to their company’s bigger strategic aims. Richard Baker was brilliant at repeating the same strategic priorities during his time at Boots. He never knowingly missed an opportunity to articulate the company’s priorities and why they were important.
The final discipline is about ensuring new ideas and initiatives are delivered brilliantly, and generate the results required. It’s not about dryly reviewing project plan timelines. But, as one of my clients put it, “working it till it works!”. That means having frequent reviews – at least monthly, but potentially weekly. A focus on action and having the sheer doggedness to ensure that your big, strategic priorities are achieved.
As ever, past achievements are no predictor of future success, particularly given the UK’s economic uncertainty following the referendum result. But by following these five disciplines you will step-change your chances of achieving your goals.
Which of these five disciplines does your business follow? Which should you now focus on to deliver your future success?
© Stuart Cross 2016. All rights reserved.