Smart plays to ignite your team, scale your business and finish the year stronger.
Many start a race fast out of the gates. But as the saying goes "starting strong is great, but finishing strong is epic."
As the winter thaws here in Australia, and the sun warms up our beautiful spring days, it's easy for that Coke Summer Feeling to enter our sub-conscious. Lulling our people into a sense that the year is almost over.
The year is definitely far from over!
With at least 12 to 14 weeks left until school's out for the summer, and the sizzle of Christmas prawns on the BBQ, plenty of time to achieve your short-term finish line goals and leave your team and scale-up stronger for 2024.
So what can you do to summon the focus, reset the energy and ignite our teams to finish the year strong?
1. Visualise the Finish
"If you don't know where you are going chances are you will never get there." (Hall of Famer Baseball Catcher Yogi Berra)
What's different about your business by the end of this year compared to when you started?
What's different about your people, your cashflow, your strategic assets like your data, technology, capabilities?
If you had to change one thing about your business this year to finish in a stronger position for next year what it is?
Where are the persistent problems that seem to never go away? What if they did?
Well - if you can conceive it, you can believe it! (cue theme song from the "Greatest American Hero"!)
Now how do you communicate it simply and clearly to your people, your shareholders and yourself repeatedly! (yep...more Greatest American Hero music....)
Words and language are important. So keep it consistent and simply stated.
Images and visuals are more emotive and powerful. Incorporate these into your presentations and communication to ignite imagination and bring it to life.
2. Less is more. Focus on the main thing
Thinking about the strong finish visualisation above, what's the ONE MAIN THING you can do this quarter, above and beyond your current operations, to keep scaling and end your year stronger?
What's the ONE MAIN THING you can do this quarter to end your year stronger?
Maybe it is one of these;
releasing a new product upgrade so that you are in a stronger position capabilities wise for next year?
Closing out a large partnership with a corporate or distribution partner to increase orders and sales revenue?
Reducing costs and conserving cashflow - either by driving great efficiency and output or reducing unit costs (like cycle times of output, cost of acquisition or lead generation, cost of sales/goods sold ).
Improving sales execution and focus e.g. better communication of value, more higher average value proposals out the door and re-connecting with bottom of funnel clients.
If you had to choose your ONE MAIN THING, what would yours be?
3. Only work on high impact priorities
We (always) want to focus on high-impact activities that don't just keep us afloat and operational, but help us conqour our next big mountain.
Time to grab some post-it notes!
With your team, ask them to individually write down everything they are currently or planning to spend time on in the next 12 weeks. They should write down one thing per post it note.
Now rank them as High and Low on a 2 x 2 graph of IMPACT x URGENCY
(where Y = Urgency and High is t the right side and X = IMPACT with High at the top)
Thinking about Step 1 and your visualisation - now remove the bottom 40% of things by Impact.
Theory of constraints tells us that the bottom 50% of your activities when ranked by impact are likely to have less than 5% influence on your results.
4. Hyper focus on the short-term wins that deliver long-term assets
Select and align the 3-5 activities that will make the most impact on finishing strong in the next 12 weeks. Be sure to do this together - as a leadership / co-founding team.
Research proves CEO-Leadership incongruence over growth negatively impact performance and growth rates!
In today's fast-changing world, most scale-ups do not have the luxury of only focusing on long-term, strategic goals.
We need to be both long-term and short-term focussed.
To win long-term, we need to build capabilities that are "dynamic" - able to withstand constant and rapid change. (Teece et al., 2007 explains this).
Enough theory - what this means in practice is we need to improve our strategic assets - people, knowledge, data, technology, suppliers and partnership. Any asset that helps us build long-term capabilities. This is the secret to staying agile as you scale! To sniff out opportunities, respond quickly and outperform competitors.
If we want to keep growing and scaling, we can't play defensively. Now is the time for offense.
How can we use what we have today, play to our strengths finish strong?
Have we invested in a new CRM system (haven't we all in the past 2 years?) with data on our customers that we are underutilising?
Do we have a referral program with our key suppliers and customers or could we test one out?
Are our frount-liners and customer facing team fully equipped with sales scripts, playbooks and best practises for handling objections - written and trained - by our best performing sales leaders - to finish the year strong?
Is everyone fully across our ONE MAIN thing are are we harness the power of our peers/people to come with ideas on how to get us there quicker?
What assets are we underutilising right now that can help us deliver our ONE MAIN THING and finish the year strong?
5. Consciously manage energy
It's hard - I know - to keep energy levels at their peak all year round.
There are times when we have more energy than others.
Today's leadership less about activity management and more about energy management.
How can we expect our team to keep energy levels high ant to finish strong if we are not feeling it ourselves ?
Here are some tips and tricks I've used myself and coach others that may help:
What's my scene?
Change it up! Work from somewhere else for a day. Whether it's a space with a beautiful view (like the deck I am on now) that inspires you to finish that speech, presentation or plough through your emails. Or work from someone elses office or co-working space for a day, surrounded by energy and vibe from other start-ups and scale-ups.
Make a list , check it twice.
Of all the things in your week that GIVE you energy.
For me it's reading research and articles on scaling, writing content, coaching calls and workshops with founders and leaders.
Don't forget to include social or informal aspects of your day! Like lunch with a friends, colleague or anyone who gives you energy! (Make a list of them too).
Now make the same list of activities and routine tasks that DRAIN your energy.
Now check and balance your week! Are there MORE GIVE VS. DRAIN ENERGY hours in your week? Not easy sometimes to balance. Just being conscious of it may help.
Stop doing too many energy-draining things.
Not everyone GETS energy from the same things! Look for ways to reallocate low energy tasks (don't just dump them please). Discuss and brainstorm ways with your team to either STOP, POSTPONE or DELEGATE draining tasks.
Perhaps your team are doing too many low-value tasks which have "crept in" or have always been there, but no one really knows why anymore?
Perhaps there are some personalities in your team who really get off on getting through (for me - expenses) your energy draining tesks and would be happy to take this on for a short time for you? Are the happy to step in for that next presentation or webinar on your behalf?
Can you increase capacity via outsourcing for the next 12 weeks so you can finish strong?
Encourage your leadership team to do the same with their teams! Clean out the low value, low energy tasks first.
6. Make it fun - pick a theme
Think about the next quarter as a race to finish strong - where every week and every day counts.
Now pick a theme in line with your MAIN THING and/or priorities. Many people like sports or team analogies.
If sports is not your thing - maybe adapt a much loved movie or book title. (e.g. mine is Fifty First Dates! I am a sucker for a Drew Barrymore Movie)
What get's frequently talked about, written down and measured gets done!
Pick a lead for each priority from your team.
The lead may not be responsible for delivering all the actions or trasks necessary to make that priority happen, but they are accountable to the team for ensuring it stays on track, and gets done by communicating and working with others.
For each task, ask what needs to be completed by the end of each week? Write it down - it can be on a whiteboard or in your KPI, Scoreboard or Task Management software. It doesn't really matter. As long as you are frequently reviewing it, measuring and talking about it.
Have your team review and update the priorities they are accountable for before your weekly meeting.
Use time in the meeting not to update eachother but to focus your time on the areas that are off-track (orange or red traffic light).
During your meeting talk it out - brainstorm together ways to deal with blockers, constraints and lack of velocity to get back on track.
7. Stick to the routines that drive performance
Scaling your business requires both innovation and everyday routines and organizational processes that improve output and help your team to get s**t done.
Fortunately there is an easy way to execute your short-term and long-term plans and consistently achieve your goals.
Maintain disciplines and stick to routines that focus your team on executional performance.
Use the Mastering the Rockerfeller Habits checklist from Scaling Up to check if the habits and routines that drive outstanding and consistent execution are all there inside your business and where their might be opportunities to improve.
Now you've read this far - time for action!
Starting the year fast out of the gate is great, but what really matters is finishing the year strong.
This is the right time to get focussed together as a leadership team to #finishstrong and set yourself up for a 2024 in a better position. As a stronger leadership team, with more capabilities, cashflow, data and other strategic assets that will drive your success this quarter and beyond.
For those CEOs and Leaders serious about finishing 2023 strong and starting 2024 with even more capabilities, I am providing a two-day focussed Scaling Up Acceleration Workshop in Sydney October 30-31, 2023. Come along with your team and finish your year strong. More info below. See you there.