Mind The Gap

There is always a gap.

A difference between where we are and what’s next.

That discrepancy can make you crazy. You can obsessively focus on what must be done to resolve it, forgetting to enjoy what has been done.

And, every time you close a gap your eyes open a little further. You learn a little bit more. The veil of ignorance is lowered a fraction more, and voila - you see the next gap, which is bigger than the one you just closed and thought would be the last.

UGH

If we pause and reflect, and look at the curve of success behind us, we realize that it isn’t straight, it’s actually exponential and gaining speed.

If we focus there, celebrate, and then continue to chip away, reasonably and calmly, not obsessively, not with frustration about the gap, but with the celebration of the opportunity that the gap brings.

Things change.

It moves from we’re screwed, this won’t ever be right.

To we have come so far, what’s next.

Why It Doesn't Work Anymore

I am reminded from time to time that things are different. We don’t do things like we used to. We expect different things than we used to. This worked just fine before so why is it failing now…

I think the answer is yes. We are different. As we grow, we evolve, and expectations change, they are both raised and different than they used to be.

Why?

I think there are 3 major phases that a company can move through to become a “great” company.

The first is what I would call okay. It’s okay to be where you are at because you survived. Most don’t.. You dance well, grab opportunities, fight fires and have a great culture of everyone jumping in to pick up the pieces when they have too. And you might on rare occasions be making a little bit of money from time to time.

The second and third phases are where I blatantly borrow my labels from Jim Collins and his classic book Good to Great. They don’t necessarily line up with his definitions but they get my point across. I think an Okay company if it is smart will realize that some opportunities are better than others. They will start to double down on them, put processes in place and try to get better. They are a Good company. But, they still have their fingers in way too many things, and are not terribly good at any of them, and as such they often take three steps forward and two steps back. They oscillate between great profits and terrible losses. Their culture of everyone chipping in keeps them running but it can be exhausting and they tend not to pre-meditate disaster or take the time to post mortem to learn from their mistakes. Retrospection is not a word they use often.

The third phase - Great - applies to those companies that have a strategy that is being systematically executed. Everything that needs to be done is accounted for and those who are responsible are held to account. These companies constantly innovate and improve. They see problems hidden around corners and they eliminate them before they are problems. They are predictable. And they say no more often than yes. They are constantly triaging and focussing only on what truly matters and they ruthlessly eliminate everything else. And going back to Collins, they are on a 20 mile march every day - they put one foot after the other to continuously make progress. No oscillation. Consistent profit growth.

Are the skills the same from an Okay company through Great company? No.

Okay companies need people who react well, are generalists, and great team players. They will help with whatever comes their way and they say yes to everything.

Great companies need planners, proactive people who have deep critical thinking skills. They are continuously validating, learning and improving. They know where they want to be in three years, one year, this quarter and next week and they predictably deliver on that vision. They are specialists. They will make the tough call and say no to what can’t be done or what isn’t worth doing.

Good companies have a mix.

And… people do evolve. They can learn and grow on the same learning journey that the company is on. They too can move from Okay to Great. But to do this they have to realize things are not the same, they are different, and what worked before likely won’t work now. If that difference is understood and embraced the first step on that journey has already been made.

Solve For X

The general assumption is that to get to where you want to go you need to be additive in what you do. Scale up. Grow and expand.

The less common approach is to subtract. Do less, better. Have narrower but BIG goals. Use constraint to creatively achieve something great with less.

Both work. But they don’t mix well. You need to clearly understand which one you are following.

Don't Mix Meeting Types

2 types of meetings;

Status - keep everyone informed and identify problems. The goal is to share where a team is at with those who need to know in as short a time as possible. The team sticks to their turf and they work within their sphere of influence. If a cross team dependency is blocking something it’s okay to identify it, but don’t take on solving a problem for another team.

Decide - solve problems. Tackle one, maybe two, problems. This is a focused, all persons at 110% concentration, work it through and be decisive meeting. Only those who have expertise at solving the problem and skin in the game need attend. Kick the chickens out.

Don’t mix the two meeting types. They require completely different thought processes. Small problems, less than 30 seconds to solve, can be addressed at status meetings, otherwise if tough problems are identified at a status meeting pick an owner of the problem, one owner, and let them pick a date by when they will solve it. If they need help, they will call a “Decide” meeting to solve the problem they own.

6 Steps to Subscription Growth

6 steps to a successful subscription business;

Product - have something people want, and PEOPLE are the smallest slice of a tribe that you can imagine, preferably a slice that has lots of room to go up and sideways, start at the bottom - be disciplined, be a snob, only talk to your target customer, know the persona inside and out, only service your customer. Did I mention that YOU ONLY SERVICE YOUR CUSTOMER?

Sell it - tell people about it, and yes it might not scale, but that comes later, get started, get target customers, LISTEN TO THEM, and keep tweaking the product to make sure it moves beyond nice to have to must have - can’t do without.

Retain - you have a product, you know your customer, they will buy your product, don’t mess that up - make sure your customers are happy, don’t lose them, if you can’t get to negative churn, stop, stay here till you can.

Expand - and this is where things start happening in parallel, give them a reason to buy more, you have already won them over, trained them to pay you, and they are loyal, now do it all over and give them the means to buy more of what you have, or add on’s to what you have, or even better, both.

Refer - you have a “tribe”, they like your product, they are loyal, and they will buy more from you, before you spend too much on expansion make sure you make it easy for them to tell 2 friends.

Market - the “tribe” values what you do and they will tell their friends, you get them, you’re a credible guide, you have a history, you have testimonials, and you know your customer better than they know themselves, now tell the world, be discoverable, and crank the marketing automation - let sales focus on the higher end and “automation” takes care of everything else - now your are scalable.

Exponential actually.

Have at it!