(extracted from Ojijo’s Sell Something: 5 Steps to Entrepreneurship)
“the world belongs to the doers. everyone can dream, only a few can execute.”
There were search engines before Google GOOGL +0.74%, social networks before Facebook, and other companies before the ones we know now as brand leaders. So how did these latecomers win? One word: Execution. First to market doesn’t always win. It’s all about execution. Even the most farfetched schemes can become huge successes if executed correctly. General Patton of the US Army once told his troops: “A good plan violently executed today is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”
Integrity, competency and innovation don’t mean a thing without execution. Any surge in profits reflects solid execution throughout the company. There’s no shortage of capital or necessary ideas, but it’s incredibly difficult to find the people to execute. As a businessman, anytime I fail to execute it is the biggest risk by far.
Great entrepreneurs are not afraid of their ideas being copied. Because they are constantly evolving. constantly innovating. constantly executing. You can xerox anything that stands still. You can’t copy anything moving.
First-mover advantage is often an advantage squandered. Those companies which grow to market leaders do so through execution. It is true, “Winners out-execute rather than outstrategize, their competitors.” Vision is one thing and there’s a lot of that going around. Execution is another, and there very little of people actually getting things done. A lot of people have good ideas, but not that many do anything about them. Vision and strategy are important, but the key to success is execution. Thomas Edison said once, “Vision without execution is a hallucination.”
It is easy to spot companies that execute: they are the leading brands. Ideas themselves do not have inherent value – it is more about your ability to execute them. This is why the law on intellectual property protects expressions of ideas, and not merely ideas. Ideas are worthless, execution is everything. An anonymous said, “Thinking – the strategies and designs – only gets you 5-10% of the way. 90% is in the execution.” The only limits to growth are those of execution.
So what does it mean to execute? Entrepreneurs execute. They live by one rule, take the product out. In the end, it’s all about execution. You can be right on paper, but if you don’t execute it, it’s not going to work. As entrepreneurs, our livelihood depends on our ability to execute. Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of facebook said: “It’s about execution, doing things faster and better, getting more users and more advertisers.” Everything depends on execution, having just a vision is no solution.
It does not matter if I have the best, smartest team. I must execute. Great teams do not lead to great execution. There is nothing better than a good strategy well executed.
It does not matter if I have the best vision of where I want to be. I can have the best company value proposition. I can have the problem the product or service solve. The leadership may have a clear vision of what their company stands for, and convey that vision to everyone in the company. If everyone—from marketing to product development to finance—understands the vision and values, the company is more likely to stay on course. However, we must execute. With a focus on execution, it’s amazing how much power can be unleashed. Belief and optimism cannot outweigh execution.
I can have the products which the market wants. After all, entrepreneurship is not about saving the world. It is about having something that people want to pay to have, and then, selling it. I must execute. Great companies follow the principle of Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Once people can buy, we should stop innovating, and start selling. Innovation without implementation is of no value. Companies that execute well have a laser focus on making products that matter to consumers. They use data, research and testing, and maybe some gut instinct, to determine what the consumer wants, and then they build it. But finally, they execute. If I have the most brilliant deal in the world, and I don’t execute, it’s worth nothing. The success of the strategy rests in execution. Leaders are people who can easily traverse the levels between the big picture and the nitty-gritty execution details. Those who learn the art of execution win, and those who do not fail. John Stumpf, Chairman, President and CEO of Wells Fargo, said: “We could leave our strategic plan on an airplane, and it wouldn’t matter. It’s all about execution.” The most common reason CEOs fail is due to failures of execution, by getting too far away from the business. Execution was, is and always remains the number one priority, the ‘must do’ part of the job.
I may even have the greatest advantage in a business. The economies of scale. A product I can sell over and over again. However, economics do not sell. Jack Welch, Former Chairman and CEO of General Electric, once said: “A leader is someone who can develop a vision of what he or she wants their business unit to be…and then can relentlessly drive implementation of that vision to a successful conclusion.
I can have a great team. I can have a product eh market wants. However, the bottom line, where the rubber meets the road, is when I set a goal to sell a given number of units; I start selling; and I keep track of my progress, always doing better. This is execution. Any craftsman or artist will tell you, the success of a vision is contingent upon its execution. Kevin Reilly, Chairman of Fox Entertainment, said: “We’ve gotten the public comfortable with very high quality of execution.”
Of course, there will be distraction. Maybe it’s a chance to take stage at an important conference. Maybe it’s one big customer that asks you to change your software for them. Maybe it’s the poisoned apple of a bad employee who distracts you while you wring your hands over what to do about him. A startup’s enemy is time, and the enemy of timely execution is distraction. When I execute, I will be the one to say, “Our ability to successfully execute our strategy has produced results that exceeded our financial objectives.”
By setting good goals and committing to working toward them each week while celebrating your victories, a company can having amazing and focused growth. Jerry Yang, Co-Founder of Yahoo! Inc., said: “The execution of our business plan has been key to the company’s success.” Ideas are cheap, execution is everything. I should execute. Execution is everything. As Nike says, Just do it.
The Author, Ojijo, is a public speaker and consultant in financial literacy, collective investment schemes (investment clubs and saccos), and business financial projections; lawyer and guest lecturer in financial services law, law firm management, and ICT law; author of 36 books; Rotarian, Inua Kijana Fellow; Poet Pianist; and owner, www.treazures.co.ug, www.luopedia.com, www.lawpronto.com, www.allpublicspeakers.com, www.ajuoga.com, www.bankitgroup.com, and www.achibela.com.
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