Every startup begins with an idea, but from that point forward, it is all about execution. Founders soon learn that customers only spend real money for solutions rather than ideas. Investors have also learned not to invest in ideas, but only in entrepreneurs and teams who can deliver solutions. Success requires moving your passion quickly from the idea to the business implementation.
A good execution requires a plan and the right people, combined to create operational excellence and exceptional customer value. Companies that do this best become market leaders. Google, for example, was not the first Internet search provider (think Yahoo!, AltaVista, InfoSeek and others), but according to Investopedia, Google was the first to really monetize search.
As a result, Google has become a verb, and the company is a tech giant with record growth rates and revenue of $74.5 billion in 2015. However, Google is not unique. Many other companies have followed a similar set of execution principles, which I believe are required for business success, no matter how great the idea:
1. Tune the business model to optimize value for all constituents. Smart entrepreneurs architect a value chain that includes customers, partners and vendors, based on market dynamics. They then drive innovations and solutions to feed that value chain. A growth model without monetization for key players is not a long-term success strategy.
2. Plan for pivots as improvements based on results. If every plan adjustment is a reaction to a crisis, you will not take corrective action quickly enough and will never find new opportunities. Continuous improvement applies to the business model as well as the product. Set business goals and milestones, and use metrics to track performance.
3. Enable team members to run the business as their own. Every team member needs the motivation, training and authority to make day-to-day decisions without review and approval. That means milestones have to be documented, measured and desired results rewarded. The whole team is required to deliver a winning customer experience.
4. Two-way communication — at all levels — is always top priority. People who do not know what is expected of them cannot do the job. Customers will not be happy if you and your team do not listen to feedback and expectations. Strong leaders realize that effective communication becomes exponentially more difficult as the number of players increases.
5. It is hard to improve results that you do not measure. In operationally excellent businesses, productivity and results are measured at every step in the value chain, not just at the end. Targets are benchmarked against competitors, customer reviews and industry expert expectations. Merely keeping up with previous results is falling behind.
6. Define at least one worst-case scenario and recovery plan. Proactively engaging the team in building a plan-B is the only way to assure a timely response to key challenges. A passionate commitment to an idea alone will not carry the business over downturns in the economy, market evolution or customer trend changes. A great business must be agile.
7. Optimize team efforts with the latest technology and tools. In this era of rapid technology advancement, an open mind must be the norm in leveraging the latest tools and process architectures. This means regular team training and update sessions, bringing in outside experts, and working with partners and vendors on win-win deals.
Business excellence is a convergence of technology and business elements to maximize customer value as well as company and partner returns. This convergence is not a one-time effort, but an iterative review and improvement mentality that has to be drilled into the team and built into every process and measurement. It has to start with the entrepreneurs at the top.
Google, with founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin leading the charge, demonstrated a technical leadership combined with the foresight to bring in business help, including Eric Schmidt and others, to optimize the business execution focus. Are you sure your startup is moving beyond the idea stage — with the execution principles outline here — to assure long-term business success?
Image credit: CC by Stephan Ridgway