Monday, May 3, 2010

Good to Great: Pushing on the Flywheel Requires Focus

It’s been a while since I blogged about Good to Great, but one of the concepts has been really hitting home recently. In the book, Collins relates much of the work done by the good to great companies to pushing on a flywheel. They settled on a goal and then persevered until they achieved it. He relates this to pushing on a flywheel when at first nothing at all seems to happen. After many pushes, it starts to move, almost unnoticeably. After pushing a lot more, it starts to spin pretty well. The great companies keep pushing until it spins almost on its own so that additional pushes serve only to keep it going.

In some respects, the cliché “Don’t give up” might summarize the flywheel concept. They aren’t parallel concepts, however, unless you are doing the right things to push on the flywheel. Sometimes, you may need to step back and switch tactics before pushing again. It becomes easy to stop pushing when results aren’t readily seen or when they aren’t as good as we think they ought to be. It might be tempting to change directions or simply quit pushing. However, it is important that we continue to push toward the goals in our plans. Don’t grow weary. Don’t get distracted. Don’t pull the plug unless new information indicates that you should. Keep pushing on your request for zoning variances, on your target consumer market, or on your employees to improve. The disciplined persistence will almost always pay off. Indeed, that is exactly what frequently differentiates the successful and unsuccessful businesses.

A former student’s experiences clearly bear out my point. She has worked for years to convince the ownership and management of the family business to make a significant change in how they market their products. She planted the thought maybe 10 years ago, arguing that commodity production wasn’t going to be as profitable as direct marketing their products. Over time, the family transitioned more of their produce into their farm market and diversified their production. They then brought on expertise in marketing to make the farm market even more successful. Other family members got involved in marketing, not just in production. This approach served the business well as residential neighborhoods popped up around them, gobbling up land that had been in farms like theirs. She viewed these new homeowners as potential customers.

She’s still pushing! They are working with zoning authorities to gain approval on a new market, where more products will be sold. The family plans to expand the bakery enterprise as well as some of the traditional types of products they have grown. Pushing is getting easier as family members and employees buy into the vision and success builds on success. That’s the whole concept.

Although pushing on your flywheel can get tiring, keep doing it. The rewards are worth it.

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