We all know planning and goals are important for any leader as well as their business. And the ambition of any leader is intrinsically connected with the business they lead.
Welcome to another New Year, which seems to be a time many naturally check in with their personal ambition and their ambitions for the business.
Personally, I don’t believe a plan is a true ambition unless it is written down. I find a simple approach is to use a one-page business plan, and there are plenty of resources online to assist in that process. An important part of the planning stage is to know what to measure, monitor and manage as you pursue your ambition – what are the main deltas that matter? A one-page business plan with a balanced scorecard is one option as a simple matrix to hold you and your team accountable.
To ensure your ambition is set up for success, you may find it useful to ask yourself these six questions.
1. Is your ambition fully scoped with a clear horizon timeline?
Today, it seems a three-year horizon timeline really makes sense. I think two years is just around the corner and five years can be just too far away in this fast-changing world.
Now, ‘scope’ is an open book and can be quite subjective. However, I do believe a leader’s role is to dream a bit – to see a bigger, bolder, different future and challenge themselves and the organisation to stretch. Last year plus 7% growth is probably not the strategy to prosper in this world of opportunity, particularly for SMEs.
2. Have you visualised and captured what success looks like?
Indulging in scenario planning your world in three years time in lots of different ways can be very beneficial. Visualise what success looks like, your resources, your team, your customers, your market position. Don’t forget to factor in ongoing disruption, consolidation and innovation in the market, both externally and internally.
In a consolidating world, one important question might be; is your business an acquirer or an acquiree?
3. Do you know the deltas that matter to monitor and manage for success?
Think now about those deltas that matter for success. What might those deltas look like in three years’ time?
In considering your deltas, try and avoid just looking at top line sales revenue. Think about actions that contribute to revenue growth. Think about team behaviour. What actions are needed to support the outcomes you want?
I find this next step is really important; to stage your delta milestones. If you know where you want to be in three years, where do you need to be in two years, and in one year? Next, you can break it down into quarters and even the months. These become the stepping stones to successful ambition achievement.
You may well be monitoring a dozen or more macro deltas, and there may be many more micro deltas within different parts of the business all supporting the macro outcomes. What should your ‘delta dashboard’ look like? When you know, build it and live by it.
4. Do you have Ambition Alignment and belief amongst those who are integral to its achievement? (are their goals aligned?)
As the company achieves the growth you want, the team contributing to that growth should see their ambitions achieved in alignment. I find Ambition Alignment™ takes time to map out at the outset, and it is mostly reliant on working with goal driven people. Specifically, in Sales and Business Development, I believe you need goal driven people. I am increasingly surprised these days that there is a growing number of people in frontline B2B Sales and Business Development who are not goal driven. Indeed, the trend for more fixed income and less reward income at risk in frontline Sales and BD should maybe ring some alarm bells for many businesses today.
Ambition Alignment set up well can be very powerful and underpin stronger retention as well as improved behaviours, self-management, internal team support and sales performance.
5. Have you embedded a universal selling system and transparent sales culture to ensure consistent productivity and performance?
In a B2B business, your Sales and Business Development ‘engine’ is the most critical component to have set up properly for the success of your ambition. You can have the best product or service and a superb operation, but if Sales and Business Development performance is not at the level you need, you are most probably not set up for success.
Sales and Business Development is often the least productive area of business. In my experience salespeople, themselves believe that the majority of their time and effort invested in sales activity does not result in orders or invoices. Fixing this productivity problem is the path to fixing any performance gap.
I have found that the main reason for this productivity problem and underperformance is the lack of a selling system, or as I call it a Performance Protocol™. You may be surprised how many businesses operate without a proper selling system. Often businesses have a CRM, a pipeline management tool and even strong sales marketing assets, but they don’t have a selling system. There is a big opportunity here to improve performance and outcomes for Australian businesses.
6. Have you mapped the cadence performance required for the whole journey?
At The McGinn Partnership, we use a Cadence Runway™ tool, aligned for company, teams and individuals. It stems from performance management in road cycling where teams train to maintain a cadence regardless of the terrain, the weather or the environment. Now think of this in business. Do you need to maintain the cadence required to achieve the deltas you are monitoring to stay on the runway to your ambition?
To win the Tour de France, you don’t have to win every stage, but you need to win the most stages. It’s the same in business life. There will be weeks when the cadence drops off for whatever reason. The important commitment you and your team must have when this happens is to get back on the bike and get back up to the required cadence. To achieve the ambition, you need to stay on the Cadence Runway™.