The most important predictor of successful revenue growth is a strong strategy and the ability to execute it.
Well, when we at The Artemis Partnership look at the landscape among agencies and professional services firms, all we can say is
One out of two ain’t bad.
When we’re called in to help a client get revenue growth to where it belongs, our diagnostics often reveal one of the following:
Lousy growth strategy and lousy execution.
Great growth strategy and lousy execution.
Lousy growth strategy and great execution.
Number 1 above needs little explanation.
Number 3 sounds weird. But it’s common. “Lousy” might not even be the right term. More like “No growth strategy” Maybe this is your organization: You chase after every shiny object that crosses your path. You respond to every RFP. You might even win a fair number. But you still miss your revenue targets and certainly your profit objectives. Though you win a decent percentage of your pitches, you’re not winning the big ones. And your people are burned out.
Strangely (to us), this is the way many organizations go about trying to create revenue growth year after year. So there are good years (lots of pitches, reasonable winning percentage) and bad years (maybe not as many pitches, disappointing winning percentage). As a strategy, it needs some serious adjustment.
So what about Great Strategy and Bad Execution?
We don’t see this a lot among companies that call us for help. I guess it’s because so few of these companies actually have a great growth strategy. But when we see it, it’s so, so sad.
What accounts for Bad Execution? Could be any number of things:
The team lacks persuasion skills
There’s too much emphasis on the organization’s credentials or solutions and not enough on understanding the prospect’s decision-makers
The team doesn’t know how to create true differentiation
Team members are poor communicators, poor at delivering pitches
And there’s more. But here’s one that struck a chord with me.
No Strategic Guardrails
Maybe a big reason for poor execution of a great strategy is that you are pursuing too many NON-strategic opportunities. Someone in the organization made smart decisions that drove your growth strategy.
So maybe you know the kind of new business you want. You know why those targets should work with you. You know where your competitive advantages are (and where they’re not). But you don’t execute that strategy. Instead, you pursue too much, dare I say, junk.
This HBR article on autonomy and innovation really resonated. Though not written for the business development universe, consider this quote:
Leaders often say they want to empower autonomous teams and free the front line to innovate, but they also fear the chaos that might be unleashed if they do. What if people go off in too many directions? How will people make decisions? What about resources? Who gets what, and how do you mitigate all of the risks? It’s possible to create alignment and control — while also giving your employees more freedom — by putting guardrails in place. These guardrails can help leaders make a real change.
If you fear that people will go off in too many directions — that they won’t be aligned with strategic priorities — here’s a guardrail: Cultivate a strategic mindset.
The Missing Ingredient
That’s what we don’t see in too many cases: The “strategic mindset guardrail.”
If you want to have successful execution of a strong revenue growth strategy, you’ve got to make sure that everyone who touches that strategy – especially those with the responsibility or ability to implement it – always think strategically.
In fact, does everyone involved in business development know what the strategy is? Have they been persuaded that it’s the right strategy? Do they understand the purpose it serves? Does it seem aligned with their personal and professional goals?
A great growth strategy isn’t the end of the process. It’s the beginning. Now comes the hard part. Sell it to your organization. Make sure they’re aligned with it. Create incentives and accountability. Don’t waste your efforts. When the shiny object crosses your line of sight, who stops and says “Hold on – not on strategy”?
When you’ve learned how to say “no,” you’re well on your way to becoming better at executing your growth strategy.
- Bob Wiesner