By Frank J. Rich
Most catchphrases gain value when used to further a goal, even as simple a goal as enjoying what we’re doing in the moment. Take the phrase: “The end justifies the means.” You’ve heard it; and hopefully its meaning to you creates a reaction. At least then, you’ll know you’re breathing – a good thing. It’s what warms the stomach that ignites our passions, that which moves us to do the things that bring us closer to the goal in mind. It is this, the things we do – the means; to accomplish the goal – the ends that most affect the achievement of our goals. We not only set expected outcomes, but we also set the means in place. In other words, will the means as well as willing the ends.
Goals are the drivers of most activity. When clear, realistic, and measurable, they can be sustenance for organizations of all kinds – for profit and not-for-profit alike. They have been so honored that god-like, goals have come to define most initiatives for their ability to succeed. If stated and supported they position potential higher. But however well thought out and aggressive or high-minded they are nothing is gained without the “means” to achieve them. It is this lesser god that makes all else possible.
A key element in the organizational success model, an execution culture ensures that what is hoped for can actually be accomplished. It’s the bricks and mortar of market making that is alone capable of delivering on the promise of goals. Without soldiers to carry out the tasks that build dreams, little more than talk of great things would result. “Chop wood, carry water” is the sine qua non of an execution culture, the little things that accumulate big results.
Consider a local lumber yard competing with the two or three large chains that usually dominate the market for traditional contractor and homeowner project supplies. Assume the small business owner “believes” he can compete with anyone, a good start in developing an effective market mindset.
He knows that technology has leveled the playing field. Once too expensive for small companies to use, new digital and print-based direct marketing tools are as accessible and affordable to him as they are to bigger companies. He also knows that he can distinguish himself with things uncommon to large chains; such as knowledgeable staff that has real experience in the trade disciplines – plumbing, heating, carpentry, masonry, and electrical work. Further, he trains staff to engage customers in solving problems through the use of his products while adding valuable tips on money-saving materials and tools.
His promotions contain extraordinary offers for up to 75 percent off selected items, knowingly unconcerned with profit on these items for a chance to be face to face with his customers, where the opportunity to grow the sales of products and services is greatest. Every purchase is followed by a written email thank you and an offer for more product at little or no cost to the customer. A loyalty card is included that accumulates more product and service discounts after purchase milestones are met. And everything sold is guaranteed by the manufacturer or the lumber yard. Every Saturday he serves hot dogs and fries to all customers who visit the store, and opens up the practice stall, a place where customers can try out any tool in the store to test its “performance and feel” before they buy it. Kids are welcome too.
Few stores are able to compete with this lumber yard, and for obvious reasons. A clear understanding of the means to achieve the store’s goals not only grows customer appreciation and loyalty but profits as well, since the cost of marketing per sale falls as his customer base grows. This customer has prepared goals that most small businesses don’t believe is within their reach. But he has not only willed the ends, but also the means to those ends in building an execution model that is certain to deliver sales and profits for years to come, while securing his place in a competitive market.
The means to ends are the mechanism through which organizations succeed. It is not enough to know where you want to go; you must also know how to get there.