During the last several months, The Michelli Experience added a new division – Business Supercharged (consulting/coaching services for an exclusive group of entrepreneurs and mid-sized business leaders). Previously, I worked almost entirely with senior leaders in Fortune 500 companies.
As I embarked on this new set of products, I spoke with many small and mid-sized business owners. Those conversations helped me appreciate how quickly the simplest components of business can become complex without guidance.
Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize
Those conversations also highlighted the challenges entrepreneurs face when it comes to prioritization and disciplined execution. As such, I thought I would take this opportunity in the new year to share a message about the finite nature of focus, attention, and resources.
Many leaders will begin 2018 with a long list of new strategic priorities. They will identify six, seven, or more new projects to add to business objectives carried over from 2017. All of those new initiatives may, in fact, be relevant to future success but few will likely garner buy-in and effective execution.
From my vantage point, the art of business success is identifying key business objectives and executing against them flawlessly. All too often companies drift in what I call “shiny ball syndrome.”
Lessons from Mr. Buffett
Having consulted for a couple of Berkshire Hathaway subsidiaries, I have long been a follower of the concise and transformational business wisdom of Warren Buffett. On the topic of business focus, Warren Buffett is quoted by Scott Dinsmore as identifying a 5 step process for prioritizing true success:
1) Know what you want – List your top 25.
2) Pick your top 5.
3) Plan for your top 5.
4 ) Marry your top priorities.
5) Know your “avoid at all costs list” and stick to it.
One More Thing?
Forgive me for thinking I can add to the insights of the Oracle of Omaha, but I would include “give up things that will not enable you to achieve your “top 5” business objectives this year.
That means while other leaders are making a bevy of “new” plans for a “new year,” I challenge you to play a zero-sum game. For each new priority, I ask you to identify something you are willing to “let go of” or some new found set of “resources” you can access so that your new priorities can be fully achieved.
The notion of letting go of something to achieve something else is anathema for many people. However, my experience with CEOs at companies like Mercedes-Benz demonstrates the importance of not only looking for what you wish to “add” in 2018 but also what you will “subtract” to make those additions possible.
Sharing the Vision
While working with Steve Cannon, then CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, I saw the power of declaring a manageable set of transformational leadership objectives – one of which involved being a world-class customer experience provider (not just best in automotive but best across all businesses who interact directly with customers).
Not only did Steve stay on message concerning the overriding importance of customer experience differentiation but he also boldly stated that customer experience at Mercedes-Benz would be HIS #1 priority and HIS desired legacy with the brand. To that end, Steve not only spoke about customer experience prioritization but he also captured his vision of that journey in a visual depiction:
The Dump Truck
Steve’s map had a significant detail embedded in it – a dump truck with the words “get rid of” on its side.
That image of the “get rid of dump truck” was Steve’s way of signaling the importance of “letting go” of unnecessary demands, priorities, and cultural legacy components that would have hindered Mercedes-Benz’s customer experience transformation. This “letting go process” was particularly important since Steve knew that success would need to happen without increasing headcount or making major expenditures.
At The Michelli Experience, we’ve certainly had to let go of historic aspects of our business as we readied to launch Business Supercharged in 2018. I suspect you too might need to “let go of some of the old” to make room for the high priority items that will help you achieve and sustain your success in the year ahead!
Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli