Execution. It’s one of those big business words that might apply more to entrepreneurs than anyone else. It’s also what matters most every day.
If a big business doesn’t execute, they might miss a quarterly earnings report. If an entrepreneur doesn’t execute, the rent might not get paid. Those are two very different things.
But before we get to execution, let’s talk about hustle. Or, perhaps I should say #antihustle. Chase’s video on how hustle is hurting us is one of the most popular things we’ve ever made.
If you’re like me, as you watched you thought, “Yeah, you’re right Chase. I’m done feeling like I’m supposed to be doing more. I should stop listening to other people and focus on what I want without feeling bad about it.”
And then you thought, “So if I’m not supposed to hustle, what do I do instead?”
The thing is, hustle isn’t necessarily the bad guy. Hustle for hustle’s sake is the bad guy. Hustle in the absence of an understanding of what’s really important is the bad guy.
So What should you do instead? Focus on execution.
Execution is the enemy of busy work. Execution is what slays those little demons in your head telling you you’re not good enough. Execution is the great equalizer. If you work two hours a day and execute better than your friend working 16 hours a day, your company will be more likely to succeed.
But execution of a terrible strategy that’s not connected to your business’ purpose is as bad as hustle for hustle’s sake. The right kind of execution is doing the right things at the right time at a pace you can sustain over time.
“The right kind of execution is doing the right things at the right time at a sustainable pace.”
So let’s talk about what it takes to focus on execution instead of the never ending hustle.
The Six Concepts You Need to Know to Focus on Execution
How do you decide what to focus on on a given day right now? My guess is that it’s some combination of the anxiety-driven feeling Chase knows we all get when we watch a video that tells us to Just Do It or Hustle… plus an agenda driven at least partially by your inbox and social feeds… and then maybe a long to-do list of all the things you know you need to do at some point.
If any part of that is true, I’m sure it doesn’t feel good. Execution over hustle means working on the right things at the right time. Easy to say, but hard to do. How are you supposed to know what the right thing is at any given time?
Let’s talk about seven concepts that should inform what you work on each day (aka execution).
Your business’ core purpose fills in the blank in this statement: [Business Name] exists to ___________. Your core purpose serves as the overarching “why” for everything you do.
For example, Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market describes their core purpose as: Bring whole foods and greater health to the world.
Or, in our format from above, “Whole Foods Market exists to bring whole foods and greater health to the world.”
When you decide to take on a project, ask yourself why. If you ask why enough times, the answer should eventually be your core purpose.
Core values dictate how you do things in your business. For solopreneurs, the core values of the business often directly reflect the values of the founder. But if you ever decide to grow a team, having core values well defined and on paper will help everyone else in the company understand how to make decisions.
Valures tell us how we should make decisions as we’re serving the core purpose. For example, here are Whole Foods’ values:
- Sell the highest quality natural and organix products available
- Satisfy and delight our customers
- Support team member happiness and excellence
- Create wealth through profits and growth
- Serve and support our local and global communities
- Practice and advance enrivonmental stewardship
- Create ongoing win-win partnerships with our suppliers
- Promote the health of our stakeholders through healthy eating education
When you have strong and well-defined core values, it allows you to ask two questions:
- Does this goal/strategy/project reflect one of more of our values?
- Is this goal/strategy/project in conflict with any one of our values?
If you can answer yes to #1 and no to #2, then you know you’re doing work based on the company’s values.
Jim Collins thinks of vision and mission in terms of how you’ll pursue your purpose over the next 25 years. He calls this your “big hairy audacious goal,” or “BHAG,” which is a term I love because it reflects what it means to be an entrepreneur.
You can think of this as of your vision as the answer to the question: If I were in this thing for the next 25 years, what’s the best possible outcome we could hope to achieve in pursuing our purpose over that time? How will the world change because of us over the next 25 years?
When Whole Foods was starting, their 25-year vision might have been to become the #1 seller of organic and natural foods in North America. (This isn’t actually true, but it’s a viable example.)
For most projects, it’s easy to make them too big. For your BHAG, the opposite is usually true – it’s difficult to imagine what we’re capable of doing over the course of 25 years. When in doubt, I like to dream bigger because of that corny quote about shooting for the moon, but to each her own.
Goals serve your vision. More specifically, goals break your vision down into specific, short-term milestones that are actionable today.
You can think of a goal as saying, “We’re going from A to B by X date.” For example, Whole Foods might set a goal to go from 400 to 650 stores by the end of 2016. Your goal might be to go from $0 to $25,000 in revenue by the end of 2016.
Two to three big goals in a year can be plenty to focus on, so the key in setting good goals is not to overdo it. When in doubt, set one goal for a given time period and then set a new one if you accomplish the first one early.
““Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” – Bill Gates”
Strategies are high level ideas about how you’ll reach your goal. Strategies take into account the components of your goal. For example, if you wanted to reach $25,000 by the end of the year, you might pursue a few strategies:
- Build an audience
- Launch a product
- Expand your network
These strategies should lead to projects that help you execute on your plan.
Projects are the things we can actually work on on a given day, which makes them the point of this whole exercise.
A well-defined project should include:
- A clear and concise name
- The desired outcome for the project (which should serve one or more of your strategies)
- The date the project will be complete
- The metric you’ll use to measure success
- Who will hold you accountable to getting it done
- Every task to completion in the format of Verb-Noun-Object
Perhaps more importantly, we know a project matters because it relates to every other concept we’ve already covered. Each project should serve a strategy. Each strategy should serve a goal. Each goal should serve the vision. And the vision should serve the core purpose of your business.
The way you execute on your projects should reflect your values and should never conflict with your values.
Side note: We like to plan our projects once per quarter at Fizzle. We’ve also found that it’s best for each team member to focus on one project at a time and then move on to the next one. The clarity of purpose in completing a single, well-defined project is powerful.
Your Job, Every Day
Execution is what happens when you get clear on these things and then get to work (in other words, the Worker Bee has to trust the CEO).
Your job when you show up to work everyday is simple: execute on the next task from the one project that is most important right now.
What project is most important right now? The one that will have the biggest impact in helping you execute on your strategy and reach your goals.
If you wake up everyday and complete just one task from the most important project on your plate, a year from now I think you’ll be surprised by the results.
And most of the time, the thing that needs to happen today does not necessarily require 16 hours of your time and attention.
“Execution over hustle. That’s the name of the game.”
The Top 10 Mistakes in Online Business
Every week we talk with entrepreneurs. We talk about what’s working and what isn’t. We talk about successes and failures. We spend time with complete newbies, seasoned veterans, and everything in between.
One topic that comes up over and over again with both groups is mistakes made in starting businesses. Newbies love to learn about mistakes so they can avoid them. Veterans love to talk about what they wish they had known when starting out.
These conversations have been fascinating, so we compiled a list of the 10 mistakes we hear most often into a nifty lil' guide. Get the 10 Most Common Mistakes in Starting an Online Business here »