Ideas are dime a dozen - anyone can have a great one. So what makes some entrepreneurs successful, and some fail to get their business off the ground? It’s more than IQ; it’s not all who you know. It’s not even that famous entrepreneurial passion and hard work. Ultimately, it’s the ability to execute. In business, even the best-laid strategies cannot withstand poor execution. In one Harvard Business Review study, Robert Kaplan and his colleague David Norton found that while 90% of the companies had detailed business plans, only 12.5% actually achieved profitable growth. Why the discrepancy? Bad execution. Furthermore, another HBR study found that employees at 60% of companies claimed their organization was “weak” at execution.
YPO member Kim Perell knows that execution is the difference between dreamers and doers, success and failure. That’s what allowed her to become a multimillionaire by age 30, even after unexpectedly losing her job at age 23 and subsequently starting her first company from her kitchen table. Today, Perell is the CEO of Amobee, a global marketing technology company, overseeing over 1000 employees across 25 offices. In Perell’s experience, plenty of people are smart, work tirelessly and with passion, and have great ideas. The ones who achieve the most success are the ones who execute - the ones who DO, who get things done and get results. They learn to adapt and change, moving forward despite the challenges they confront. It’s her fierce belief in execution that inspired Perell to write her first book, The Execution Factor. Perell has been recognized as one of AdAge’s Marketing Technology Trailblazers and is an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year. She’s also an angel investor in over 70 startups, 14 of which have successfully been acquired by Fortune 500 companies.
Here are Perell’s five traits that will help you, too, become a master of execution:
1. Vision: Your North Star
People who lead with vision know what success looks like. “As the line to success weaves its messy way to the top, your vision is your compass, guiding you to your destination,” says Perell. Having vision, she’s careful to point out, is not the same as being a visionary. She explains, “It’s about having a clear picture of what you want to achieve. Without a clear vision, you don’t know what goals to set or what actions to take. You need to be exactingly clear about what you want.” Your own deep understanding is critical to making others understand it as well. “No matter what your vision is, it’s essential that you can see it and feel it. It must be meaningful to you so that you, and eventually others through you, genuinely connect to it. That connection is indispensable,” Perell advises. This clarity of vision puts you on a path of greater success and fulfillment.
2. Passion: What You’re Willing to Sacrifice and Suffer For
Leaders often talk about the importance of passion. “The word passion comes from the Latin root ‘pati,’ meaning suffering or enduring. Thus, compassion means ‘to suffer with,’” Perell explains. She gives an example: “Think about all the times you have comforted a friend in pain, or felt someone else’s compassion yourself. Passion is, at its core, a form of pain that demands to be quenched. Passion is not just about the things you love - it’s about those things you would happily suffer and sacrifice for.” Passion in execution is about maintaining the emotional connection to your vision and goals. While you still need to be levelheaded, Perell believes that “this level of emotion is still necessary. It underpins almost everything good in your personal and professional lives: positivity, self-belief, learning, focus, satisfaction, and above all, motivation.” Passion will give you, and those around you, a sense of meaning to sustain you through the toughest times.
3. Action: Taking That First Step and the Next One
Perell jumps right in: “The first step is probably the most difficult. People who lead with action know how to take the first step, and then the next ones after that. They don’t hesitate or get stuck in analysis paralysis.” Every action gets you one step closer to your goals. Perell warns, “It’s too easy to play it safe and wait for all the data. It’s especially easy to get distracted when you’re thinking far ahead.” Leading with action doesn’t mean discounting the importance of strategy and planning. Perell explains, “Really, it means knowing that all analyses and projections are only approximations and guesstimations. You won’t know what will happen until you start, and action-oriented people know there is no wrong way to start.” Perell emphasizes one other key factor: “All five of these characteristics are interconnected. Action without vision is just busyness, and it’s important not to mistake busyness for progress.” Take that first step towards your vision ASAP!
4. Resilience: Dealing with Obstacles, Change, and Uncertainty
One of the most challenging aspects of execution is resilience. Perell says, “People who lead with resilience accept uncertainty and overcome the inevitable obstacles and roadblocks to success.” It’s not that they don’t see the dangers or feel the fear. Instead, it means they push it aside so they can still focus on their vision. Perell explains, “They’re not blind to the realities, but they thrive in change. There’s an elasticity to their confidence. They’re calm in crisis, and bounce back after setbacks.” This doesn’t mean they don’t stumble sometimes, as Perell found when the dot-com bubble burst and she lost her job at a tech company. Instead, Perell says, “They know when to give up and when to continue despite the challenges that lay ahead. Simply put, they fail forward.” Even if it doesn’t work out, always stay open to the learning, and get ready to try again.
5. Relationships: Having the Right People in Your Life
Most successful leaders will tell you the importance of your business relationships and your network. Perell agrees, but she also believes the same attention needs to be paid to personal relationship. She explains, “Building healthy, inspiring, supportive relationships is not just the cornerstone to successful execution. It’s the cornerstone to happiness.” At the end of the day, your life and your business are about people. “The most significant element in any person’s life is the people. We are biologically wired to connect with others, rely on those around us, and work together. We’re at our best when we have the capacity to collaborate. And of course, success is always better shared,” Perell asserts. She goes on, “Great relationships aren’t a luxury. They are a necessity. And like every other valuable asset, they need time, care, and attention.” You have much to gain from these relationships - but so do they. Perell explains, “Those who know the power of relationships are guided by a win-win mentality, and are always on the lookout for areas of reciprocity and mutual success.” In your business life and personal life, find people who believe in you and in whom you can believe. Having quality relationships in both of these areas instantly increase your chances of success.
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