“Ideas are easy, execution is hard,” says Jim Sullivan, CEO of Sullivision, a Wisconsin-based marketing, sales, and leadership consulting company that counts Walt Disney Company, Starbucks, Target and McDonald’s among its clients.
So how do the best brands get things done? Here are four things successful businesses do to get consistent results:
According to Sullivan, a big problem managers face is focusing on putting out the “urgent” fires rather than on what’s important to the business overall. He suggests leaders plan only 65% of their day in detail, and use the other 35% to handle the unexpected things that come up. “If you’re reacting, you’re not planning [for the future],” Sullivan says. “Extraordinary results can only be achieved when you’re clear about what matters most,” he notes.
Saying you plan to increase gross sales by $120,000 in one year is both overwhelming and vague. Instead, Sullivan says leaders should break the numbers down to show their team how the goal is achievable. For example, if a restaurant wants to increase gross sales by $120,000 in one year, that means making $30,000 more a quarter, which is $10,000 more a month. If there are 56 shifts per month, it comes out to making $178 more per shift. That also means $18,000 in additional tips for servers.
When an employee gives a generic goal, like being more effective or hiring better employees, Sullivan suggests asking them this one question: “From A to B by when?” That is, what steps need to be taken? When (and how) will we get there? Having specific goals allows managers to make (and keep) employees accountable.
Sullivan says many employers get bogged down in lag measures instead of focusing on lead measures (important tasks the team must do each workday to reach the goal). Put another way, if you’re looking to lose weight, for example, lag measures are your current weight, and lead measures are exercising and counting calories, plans and actions executed today and in the future to reach your goal.
Everyone on the team has to know the business’s goals, Sullivan says. Otherwise, he says, you’re bowling through a curtain, and you can’t hit a target that you can’t see. “If [employees] don’t know your plans for the shift, they’ll substitute their own plan,” he says.
Leaders should regularly share how the team’s progressing toward its goals, and make team members feel appreciated, Sullivan says. At the post-shift meeting, for example, give recognition and encouragement to those who deserve it. Reiterate the problem the team member’s solving, describe how they’re adding value, why their work matters, who they’re helping, and how they’re helping the business reach its goals. Companies like Southwest Airlines, In-N-Out Burger, and Chick-fil-A are good at retaining employees, Sullivan notes.
Businesses go out of business because they spent money on the wrong things, Sullivan says. Hiring, training, and retaining quality employees are critical to a business’s survival. He also suggests getting rid of the negative employees that bring everyone on the team down. “They left three years ago, but they’re still collecting a check,” Sullivan says. If there’s no accountability or discipline, there are no consequences for bad behavior.
“If you walk past a problem, you’ve approved it,” Sullivan says.