Verne Harnish said it best in Mastering the Rockefeller Habits when he said, “The organization with too many priorities has no priorities.” Harnish emphasized the need for management in your company to “clearly articulate to employees the five most important priorities that must be addressed or achieved to move the company to the next level.”
Then each employee within your company needs to take the time to determine their personal Top 5, and make sure they align with the company’s. Using a Management Accountability Plan (MAP), employees then determine their number one priority out of their Top 5 by following a guideline of seven sore points that are adverse to company growth.
1. Not big enough to compete
A common problem many companies face comes down to the fact that there is always a bigger fish. Young companies, especially start-ups, can often face down a competitor that is much larger and has the capabilities of throwing the necessary funding and man power at an issue. Harnish explained that one of his clients was facing this exact situation and took it upon himself to take to the World Wide Web. He did nothing but focus on his “Top 1 of 5” issue, and was eventually bought out by an even bigger fish that could swallow his former competitor whole.
2. Company lacks a key player
A lot of CEOs in start-up situations face a common issue of stretching themselves too thin. An easy fix would be to find those key personnel that would take a load of work off of your shoulders to let you focus on what you need to get done. Another issue CEOs face is deciding when to replace themselves. Harnish said, “the skills required to start a company aren’t the same ones required to run and expand a company.” A good leader not only knows when to step up, but when to step aside.
3. The economic engine is broken
Maybe your company is facing a “wrong place, wrong time” situation. You’ve come up with a great idea, but the economy to fit your model just isn’t quite there. Harnish suggests to get out while you can instead of waiting around hoping that the economic situation you are facing will eventually improve. You’ve got to learn to make that tough decision.
4. Someone else is controlling your destiny
“If a competitor gets hold of a key relationship or patent or supply line, you’d better have a good counter-move or you’re in trouble.” When someone gets control over a key component to your business, it’s not necessarily the end of the world, but you must adjust because this WILL happen.
5. You need a war chest
In this world, you’ve got to spend money to make money. And if you want to charge out of the gate fast in your industry, you’ve got to have a lot of it. Do whatever you can to amass capital, and, according to Harnish, this can be one of the best reasons to go public.
6. You can’t raise money until you grow
The flipside to the “raising capital” coin is a company may lose focus on other key issues they face by investing the majority of their time into raising capital. This is a common “Catch 22” that you may face or are already wrestling with. Harnish spoke of a company that focused solely on raising $10 million for their company, but lost focus on day-to-day operations, which resulted in a steep drop in sales. While choosing to focus on your “Top 1 of 5” you must remember that there are four other important goals that will eventually need your attention.
7. We’ve got to scale back or we won’t survive
Oftentimes companies themselves can also be stretched too thin, usually through some form of rapid expansion by reaching more markets, taking on more clients, expanding to new locations or bringing in more employees. But what happens when a large portion of the supporting economy collapses? CEOs are faced with two extremely tough choices: either shut it down or implement large layoffs to scale back. You must be willing to retrench in the latter or face the results of the former. Making this tough decision to retrench could help your company live to fight another day and regrow when the industry moves forward again.
“The organization with too many priorities has no priorities.”
These seven priorities show that identifying and pursuing your “Top 1 of 5” is no easy task no matter how big or small the company. This isn’t a task one should take lightly or alone, advises Harnish. You may need the support of one of your key employees or a mentor to get back on track. It will be difficult, but as Harnish said, “You will be glad you made the effort.”