由于担心利润下滑，奥斯汀票务经纪公司Ticket City的创始人兰迪•科恩2008年一度进行了裁员，并削减了经理人员薪资。后来，科恩读到了一篇老文章《别害怕》(Don't Be Afraid)，文章谈到的正是其曾经专注于成长的这家公司。他意识到自己陷入了打安全牌的思维定势。因此，他调整了思路，新雇了10名员工，增加了营销投入——2010年营业收入从3,000万美元增加到了4,000万美元。利润亦呈现增长。如今，他进一步增加了投入，赞助了一项全美电视转播的全新大学保龄球比赛Ticket City Bowl。这是主动出击！
作为北美最大的网上隐形眼镜零售商之一，Coastal Contacts在结束两天的策略规划议程时，对如何加速业务增长仍无头绪。因此，接下来的六个月，首席执行官罗杰•哈迪和其高管层每周都给客户打电话，看看他们有何想法。让公司意外的是客户们反复提到了一件事，即他们希望第二天就能收到隐形眼镜。“我们开始实施所有订单隔夜交付，” 哈迪说。最近做出此项调整的美国市场2010年销售额增长了41%，推动公司销售额达到1.55亿美元。
几年前，位于美国印第安纳州费希尔斯的软件公司Single Source Systems的首席执行官托尼•派卓契亚尼及其团队每年都设定15个目标，诸如实现部分软件功能的自动化。但由于有太多目标分散了公司的精力，公司实现的营收比目标810万美元低了11%。“没有人专注于一件事去做，”他说。后来派卓契亚尼决定只设几个重要的优先目标。去年，公司实现了1,000万美元的销售额目标。2011年你有多少优先目标？少即是多！
--Verne Harnish是高管培训公司Gazelles Inc.的首席执行官。
Fired up about your company's strategic plan? Great, but before you commit the rest of the year to executing it, make sure you pass these five litmus tests. If not, head back to the drawing board with your management team.
Remember: You're betting your company's future on your strategic plan. If you haven't gotten the details right or shaped it from the proper perspective, those two days you spent at your offsite will ultimately hurt your company. There's still time to polish it so that you can make the most of 2011.
1. Play to win
Worried that profits were declining, Randy Cohen, founder of Ticket City, an Austin-based ticket broker, laid off workers and cut managers' pay in 2008. Then Cohen came across an old article about his once-growth-oriented company titled "Don't Be Afraid." He realized he'd slipped into playing defense. So he changed his mindset, hiring 10 new people, investing more in marketing -- and driving revenue from $30 million to $40 million in 2010. Profits rose as well. And he's raised the ante further, sponsoring a new nationally televised college bowl game, the Ticket City Bowl. That's playing offense!
2. Ask customers for ideas...
Coastal Contacts, one of the largest online contact-lens retailers in North America, came out of its two-day planning session at a loss for how to rev up growth. So over the next six months CEO Roger Hardy and his senior team called customers each week to see whether they had any ideas. To the company's surprise, one recurring theme emerged -- customers wanted lenses the next day. "We started overnighting everything," he reports. Sales in the U.S., where he recently made the change, were up 41% for 2010, bringing company sales to $155 million.
3 ...but know which to ignore
If you act on every suggestion your customers make, they can "want" you into bankruptcy. At customers' request, Hardy, who also sells eyeglasses at Coastal Contacts, started letting them choose and try on four frames at home, then place an order and return the testers. Data soon showed that shoppers who tried on multiple frames were just as likely to return purchases as those who ordered just one pair. Hardy canceled the program because the added shipping costs weren't offset by additional sales.
4. Involve middle management
Doug Schukar was thrilled when USA Mortgage, his residential mortgage bank in St. Louis, increased the loans it funded from $113 million in January 2009 to $1.2 billion by the end of the year. While other lenders struggled, he ramped up his sales efforts. Yet by failing to keep key middle managers informed of growth plans such as acquisition, he let them get blindsided by the work that came from the company's rapid expansion. Result: Almost all resigned, and he hired replacements. Today he includes middle managers in annual and quarterly planning sessions.
5. Set fewer priorities
A few years back CEO Tony Petrucciani and his team at Single Source Systems, a software firm in Fishers, Ind., set 15 annual goals, such as automating some of its software functions. But the company, which got distracted by having so many items on its goal list, missed its $8.1 million revenue benchmark by 11%. "Nobody focused on any one thing," he says. Going forward, Petrucciani decided to set just a few key priorities. Last year the company met its goal of $10 million in sales. How many priorities do you have for 2011? Less is more!
--Verne Harnish is the CEO of Gazelles Inc., an executive education firm.