You have an innovative and differentiated product that has withstood your relentless scrutiny and you are ready to go forth and conquer. (In other words, you’ve mastered what I call the “3 Cs of Entrepreneurship,” which you can read about here.) Now it’s time to talk about how to build your ideas into reality. I approach this process by working through five key steps. It’s critical to give all of them your equal attention and to understand how they influence one another.
Here are my “5 Steps to Strategic Execution”:
Vision: This is your dream—what you want to be and where you want your enterprise (whether social, business, or hybrid) to be in 20 years. Some may say your mission should come first, but I start with vision, because you need to know where you are headed to forge a road to get there.
While dreaming can be criticized as undermining an entrepreneur’s ability to stay grounded and focused, it is an extremely valuable pursuit, because it orients us toward where we are going. As Henry David Thoreau said, “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” Let’s talk about building those foundations.
Mission: This is what you were put on this Earth for, what gives you meaning and sense of purpose, and what you are ultimately aiming to accomplish. If your mission were to be fulfilled, what would the outcome look like? Mission is your raison d’être, imbuing everything you do with a higher purpose that can be highly motivating.
Sometimes it is useful to begin with understanding the mission underlying your vision before you begin to dream about the future. But the passion and meaning you derive from your mission can catapult you toward your vision, in which case it’s helpful to first uncover where you want to go. Whichever approach you take, you will need a strategy to get there.
Strategy: This is a big-picture, top-level construct aimed at building a pathway between your mission and your vision. Strategies should help you determine which forces you will rely on—do you want to be available to everyone, everywhere? Or should you build your anchor expertise in a particular channel before you branch out? Will you pursue retailers and wholesale accounts or focus on selling direct-to-consumer? Are you a premium service or mainstream?
I often think of strategy as what not to do. One of our greatest strengths as entrepreneurs is our drive to do. But this can also be the source of our undoing. Strategy forces us to focus. It helps us to set priorities and double down on our greatest opportunities without letting the smallest ones derail or distract us. If you haven’t thoroughly figured out from which pursuits you will abstain, regardless of the temptations, you haven’t done enough strategic planning.
Tactics: People often think of “tactics” as the boring or easy part. But just as a strategy can arm you with an entirely new playbook, so too can tactics help you outperform by doing things differently through how you execute.
If your strategy is to have best-in-class customer service, one tactic may be to ensure that team members are evaluated regularly based on the value with which they leave consumers. How can your evaluation practice be better than others? What incentives will you offer and what technology will you use for tracking? These details will go a long way in distinguishing you from your competitors.
Execution: To carry out your tactics effectively, you must maintain a commitment to excellence, relentless productivity, entrepreneurial spirit and tenacity, and integrity too. Take all the values that are important to you and make them part of your company culture and leadership style so that they permeate through every action, big or small, that you take.
Execution is about giving it your best, your gritty relentless best, and outperforming by running faster, with better form and better posture than others. Ultimately, it will make or break your success—you could have every other piece in place but then falter on your execution, and the rest would be worthless.
As you prepare to bring your product or service to market, working through these steps will help you to refine your launch plan. Now what are you waiting for? It’s time to make your vision a reality.
Daniel Lubetzky is the founder and executive chairman of global snack company Kind and the Kind Foundation. Through his family office, Equilibra, he invests in companies that help people live and eat well.