As an entrepreneur, you’re looking for all the ways you can be successful. It’s only natural that you compare how you’re doing to your competitors. In fact, it’s tempting to focus a lot of your time and energy on your competitors. What are they doing? What can I do better than they are doing? How do I stand out from them?
The trouble is, the more time you spend obsessing about your competition, the more you tend to lose focus and risk falling behind. If you truly want to crush your competition, you need a different focus and a different discipline. I had the pleasure of speaking with turnaround CEO Wayne Robinson and came away with some great insights I’d like to share.
Top Performing Companies Compete With Who They Were Yesterday
“Benchmarking your performance against others is a bad idea” says Wayne Robinson. “Instead, learn deeply how you can be better than you were yesterday.” Mr. Wayne advocates a focus on self-discipline, as it yields a much better benefit than driving discipline in others. This allows you to create a structure and process that you want to see in others. These are guiding principles that, when followed, create an opportunity for autonomy and innovation (see related article, Holacracy: Why Zappos Continues to Disrupt Itself).
Wayne Robinson has a 4 step process that he has used to help turn companies around. While he admits it’s a simple process, it’s one that many companies pay lip service to, but few actually act on.
Step 1: Strategic Planning
Start each year with a well-defined 3-4 year plan with the focus being the next 12 months. This is where the bulk of the details will be provided. What are the outcomes you want to see this year and what are the specific actions you need to take in order to get there? For larger organizations, this includes both individual roles and smaller group or divisional roll-ups. These plans are then reviewed quarterly to make tweaks and adjustments to ensure the desired outcomes are accomplished.
Step 2: Budget Allocations
Once the plans have been well defined, the next step is to focus on your resource allocation. Who’s going to be responsible for what? How much budget is needed to accomplish the plans? What new hires are needed to accomplish the vision and growth goals? Resource allocation is about ensuring that the desired outcomes can be met within your budget and current team. Without the right team and sufficient resources, no amount of planning will be sufficient. Conversely, with the right resources and the right plan, you’re half way there.
Step 3: Performance Reviews
To be effective, performance reviews should be split equally between: (1) Explaining what needs to happen in the next period and (2) Reviewing what happened in the previous period. The review itself should be an objective assessment of performance. This means the focus should be on what can be measured as opposed to qualitative (read “subjective”) assessments. While not all contributions will roll up to revenue, you can quantify most of the actions your team takes. How many quotes were sent out? How many meetings were held? How satisfied are our clients? What do your peers have to say (assuming you’re conducting a 360 review process)?
Step 4: Get ‘Er Done
“It’s not about intelligence, it’s about effort,” says Wayne Robinson. “This is a grinding process, but it is extremely effective.” The challenge comes in the follow through. While most companies start out strong with some form of a strategic and resource plan, the performance reviews coupled with the continuous right action is where most businesses suffer (see related articles, The Cost of Being an Entrepreneur and the Key Attribute That Determines Success: Grit and Mr. Accountability on Taking Action).
According to Wayne Robinson, “It helps to have a mentor, master, or coach to help nudge you along.” I find this to be incredibly accurate. People often think of coaches as wise sages who help you avoid making terrible mistakes, but the reality is they often are there to ensure you keep going. When you’re exhausted and ready to throw in the towel, that’s when you could use a good coach to help you think different and find the energy that is deep inside of you. After all, if you are competing against who you were yesterday, then you need to be just a little bit better than you were in order to achieve you goal.