December 17, 2020 8 min read
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This week I sat down with a longtime expert in Executive and Corporate Development, Dr. Jeffrey Magee. In all of the years I’ve known Magee (since 2013) he’s been one of the nation’s most actively involved keynote speakers, traveling, on average, to at least one new locale every week. I asked him how his business was going.
Better than ever, he said, thanks to shifts he was able to make quickly during the pandemic’s onset. His secret? The five pillars he applies to every business.
I asked him to share these five supports that have separated those who’ve done well with those who’ve struggled during 2020. Even more importantly, I asked him to describe what every business can do with this information right now to ensure success in 2021 and beyond.
The 5 Pillars
Of the five pillars Magee has used for years with business and military leaders at all levels, the first three are fundamental, he said. They are 1) Strategy, 2) Operational, and 3) Tactical and Behavior skills that align and support the strategy and operations of the organization.
The strategy is the “game plan” or the traditional business plan to define your product and approach to the market and your structure for selling that will create revenue and predict the level and efficiency of revenue in advance.
The operational structure should support the strategy like a hand in a glove. What do you need in terms of space, supplies, software and hardware infrastructure to accomplish the strategy goals? And what about the people? Do you have the right team and staff, and do they have the right mental DNA to understand operationally how to move your company forward?
3. Tactics and Behaviors
Tactics and Behaviors are where you ensure the company’s staff has an understanding of the strategy and the skills to use the operational system to move the company forward. Do they have sufficient training on the technology they employ and the structure they participate in? Do they buy into the company’s vision and role in the market? Do they understand the “why” around all they are doing?
Collectively, these three pillars have been instrumental in successful businesses for decades. The strategy begins at the top of the pyramid with leadership. In the center, management translates and implements the strategy into operation and process. And the company’s staff and teams, at the base of the pyramid, bring the tactical elements together to drive the operational systems and propel the company forward.
In eras such as 2012, Magee notes, a number of companies believe they were “pretty damn smart” because the momentum of their companies, based on sound organizational DNA, could carry them forward. The challenge comes, he maintains, when we believe we have a winning strategy, but fail to look anew in every new season at the world and the market around us.
Interestingly, when Magee asked at the beginning of 2020 how many leaders had prepared a business plan for the year, almost every hand went up. Yet by April and May, many of these same organizations were struggling for life.
The world had changed. The fundamental question of “What can my business do that can be absolutely essential in the world right now?” had been forgotten and not re-examined with attention to nuance and depth, as most were simply pulling forward the same business plans with minor updates that had served them in 2019 and before.
But 2020 has been an entirely new ballgame. For example, the National Restaurant Association estimates that more than 40% of restaurants that were open in January and February of 2020 are now closed and will never come back. And 85% of the remaining restaurants are in jeopardy. But those who “leaned in” paid close attention to the new realities and took fast action to develop or enhance multiple channels of distribution such as drive-up windows, touchless curbside pickup or delivery have survived.
Some, such as Chick-Fil-A and Pei Wei, have even improved upon their prior models to find new efficiencies, new models, and even new food offerings (such as kale salad through a fast-food delivery window) that are more aligned with our current tastes and realities.
In some respects, the pandemic has been the mother of innovation as work from home and shelter at home has forced almost every business to address what would have been 3-5 years of innovation within the space of 3-5 days. These are rugged transitions, but the necessities are allowing innovation to thrive.
Pillars 4 and 5: Execution and Accountability
Beyond staying up to the minute at every minute with the right strategy, operation, and delivery of the ideal offerings, Pillars 4 and 5 — Execution and Accountability — are the additional magic that Magee maintains will allow your business to thrive.
Execution and Accountability are the areas where human capital development remains key. How do you grow your talent set in the areas of your company where the execution will happen? The people who are willing to learn new skill sets are your MVP (Most Valuable Product) for 2021 and beyond, Magee says.
These are the utility players who are bringing value to themselves, so they won’t become unemployed. They are also bringing guidance to organizations on skills such as how to use Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WebEx or Skype to work with customers and clients, to convert prospects, and to correlate and administrate employees and teams.
Today we can contrast the outcomes of those who said in January “remote work is something we’ll look at within the coming 2-4 years” with the people who’ve simply stepped in and thrived. These are examples of superb execution that allow the company’s vision and growth to thrive in any economy or season. This is Execution at its best.
Then there’s Accountability. With no margin for error, the pandemic has rewarded cultures and people who hold themselves accountable while vetting out those who are disengaged (56%, according to Gallup) or even the 15% who are “actively disengaged” — clocking in to collect a paycheck for as long as they can while complaining, passing the buck, and doing the company damage for lengthy periods of time.
For true Accountability, these are the times to interview and investigate candidates a little bit further and to avoid the “career nomads” who claim credit on resumes for things they’re not really capable of achieving or have never stayed in a job for more than two years.
There has never been a more important time to instill a sense of engagement and purpose in our best employees or find the courage to part ways with those who perpetuate disengagement at every organization they join.
The Secret to Success in 2021
In all, Magee advises, think of 2021 the way you should, in actuality, consider every new season: As a chance to restructure your overhead to find and optimize the KSA (knowledge, skills and abilities) you will need, within the format of the fundamental five pillars.
Then use the five pillars to accelerate your trajectory with offerings that make your customers’ outcomes faster, better, and more desirable in ways that make your offering the thing they can’t afford to not have.
For example, think about a home office chair that is more comfortable, efficient, and healthy or a food alternative that answers our needs and desires for speed, convenience, price efficiency, great taste, and good health.
Or perhaps you could develop a line of clothing pieces that are sustainable, washable, comfortable, and versatile enough to look professional on Zoom.
Notice, for example, that in all of our transformations during 2020, Magee says, we seldom see a Starbucks that doesn’t have a line of cars around the block of customers willing to buy a $7-8 coffee drink.
If we continually view our offerings with a fresh eye and structure our organizations for the market’s conditions, there will never be a shortage of opportunities to pursue.
Related: Why You Need to Learn to Adapt