How do you protect your agency from the biggest threat to its success AND lift it above the mediocre majority?
Of all companies, only the top 4% – the ‘gazelles’ – increase their revenues by at least 20% annually for four years or more.
They have a secret to their success – but it’s probably not what you think it is.
This week’s blog explores lessons learnt from GYDA’s research into the 4%ers, alongside our leading coaches’ personal journeys towards understanding what success looks like… not as a destination, but in the actions we undertake everyday to ensure it.
These companies share common traits which will probably surprise you.
They’re NOT the smartest – they possess no more knowledge than other agency owners. They are as informed, but no more so, about their product, sector and tech than others.
They’re NOT the fastest – they’re not the first to get a product or service to market, they’re not delivering at a pace beyond their capacity.
They’re NOT the best – often, their product or service under-performs on quality within their sector (but their brand and proposition is good enough for people to buy into it).
What they have is quite simple: the ability to accept boredom.
One of the key contributors to their success is their ability to do the dull and boring components of business, well, and over and over and over again.
The biggest threat to success is giving in to boredom and seeking out only the exciting parts of your agency’s work.
Excess Entrepreneurial Energy
The paradox is that the character strengths you are likely to have drawn on to start up your agency, are the same that could eventually stall its growth, and impede its success.
If any of the following sounds like you, you’re not alone: it describes many agency owners, ourselves included.
- We’re enthusiasts for challenge, we have vision.
- We’re energised by possibilities.
- We enjoy multiplicity and newness… and we’re constantly scanning the horizon for the next opportunity.
Whilst all of these traits create the fire-ball of momentum required to launch our businesses, they play less well into strategising the day-to-day operations to sustain its orbit or, ideally, secure its interstellar success.
After the thrill of lift-off subsides, the real work actually begins. And it’s not glamorous, nor exciting:
“It comes down to who can handle the boredom of training every day, doing the same lifts over, and over and over.” James Clear, ‘Atomic Habits’
If you analyse your time:task ratios, you’re likely to be spending it in the wrong box….
The IMPORTANT BUT NOT URGENT things of Box 2 – strategy, systems, monitoring KPIs – will drive you to success. However, if you’re of the entrepreneurial character-type, it’s likely those things will also drive you to boredom, and to seek out distraction.
The Boredom Barometer
If any of the above sounds like you, then you might also recognise these boredom-dodging behaviours.
- Have multiple fledgling businesses?
- Drop internal projects if you don’t see results quickly? Change your brand/value prop regularly?
- Have no focus on a niche/sector/segment?
- Find it difficult to stick to regular meetings (with agendas)?
- Always focus on Box 1: important and urgent stuff?
- Fantasise about new business ventures and ideas?
- Reinvent the wheel?
- Introduce new software and systems because you enjoy new ‘tech’?
If this is you then you can reduce the threat these behaviours pose to your business, in one of two ways.
Can you reframe your thinking to get closer to the following work mindset?
- Have a goal, underpinned by a strategy
- Stay focused
- Have objectives
- Have regular meetings
- Have meeting agendas
- Say No: stay focused on your core focus
- Have KPIs
- Review KPIs!
- Focus on improvement not revolution
- Get up early and work on “important, not urgent” stuff
- Run the marathon, not the sprint
If you read this and know that it’s not possible for you to play this game, you’re not alone and are actually in some quite prestigious company.
Marc Randolph, the founder of Netflix, stepped down as CEO in 1999 after a frank conversation with his business partner, Reed Hastings.
They co-founded the company two years prior, with Randolph as CEO and Hastings as the company’s main investor and chairman of the board. But following Hasting’s brutal honesty about how – and why – the company was stalling, Randolph stepped aside to become president (and would leave the company four years later), and Hastings stepped in as CEO.
Randolph says, “The decision to step down as CEO was probably the best decision I ever made at Netflix.”
His lightbulb moment acknowledged some hard truths: that his mindset was not in the day-to-day execution, but in the chaos of creation itself.
“It began to dawn on me that what I truly loved was the early stages,” he says, “– and I’ll be modest here; it’s what I’m actually good at!”
He goes on to underline his realisation: “The number of people who have successfully scaled a company from dream to post-IPO success — you could list them on the fingers of two hands. I put Reed in that category. Jeff Bezos. Elon Musk.”
Learn from the best: accept that unless you are able to fundamentally change your mindset, visionaries need someone to integrate their ideas into systems, strategy… and consistent, focused delivery.
Which means? Employ one. Find the Wozniak to your Jobs; the Allen to your Gates.
FIND YOUR INTEGRATOR.
Solve big complex problems Identify and articulate the problems
Generate 20 new ideas per week Make the best ideas a reality
Are great leaders Are great managers
Are optimistic Are realistic
Are “outside guys” Are “inside guys”
Create the Vision Execute the Vision
When a business has a leader who can create vision and see things others can’t, teamed with a leader who can take that vision and execute it, the combination is dynamite.
Of the 65 candidate companies for the 2017 Ernst & Young annual Entrepreneur of the Year Award, how many contained this critical ‘pair of leaders’?
All of them.
The alignment of visionaries and integrators blows away the competition: they’re the gazelles you see leaping ahead.
If you’re seeking support to adapt your practice or mindset, the GYDA coaches and our mastermind programs can help you create change. Check out our programs, or reach out to the team for personalised coaching packages.