Breaking the bottleneck starts with asking the right questions. Innovators ask what could be, not what is. They ask, “How can I find greater potential from every person, situation, process, experience and outcome?”
Before you even start the process, you have to understand the difference between execution vs. innovation. If you focus only on execution, you won’t get exponential leverage. Carve out a small amount of time for innovative thinking and you will scale the company. For instance, your planning sessions – whether they’re weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc. – should break down this way:
- 90% on execution
- 10% on innovative thinking
One area we encourage people to really think about is industry bottlenecks. What are five industry bottlenecks you face (including your top three competitors)? We like to break it down into five diagnostic levers:
- Eliminating expense
- Customer buying or usage experience
- Customers’ psychological barriers
- Winning hearts and minds
- Eliminating negative externalities
For example, when it comes to eliminating expenses, you can look at your top five costs or how those costs relate to your revenue. Your main expense may be labor or, getting more specific, revenue per employee. Of course, you don’t want to just eliminate labor – you want to look at ways to increase productivity.
What is getting in the way of customers buying or using your products or services when or how they want to? Write down five industry bottlenecks related to that. Jumping into customers’ psychological barriers, why might they be embarrassed or unsure about using your products or services? What are five psychological bottlenecks in your industry?
We also look at the hearts and minds. What can you do to win the hearts and minds of a key constituency group that would really propel your company to growth? It doesn’t just mean winning the hearts and minds of customers, but those of your workers. Consider Chick-fil-A vs. McDonald’s. Chick-fil-A delivers a high level of service because their workforce is happy. Their profit per square foot basis is more than that of McDonald’s, and they’re only open six days a week.
Lastly, in eliminating negative externalities, look at the “harm” your business may do to things like your community or environment. What can you do to mitigate these things? This isn’t always an easy one to figure out or answer – and there might not even be anything. But look for things that have the potential to do harm, whether it is your community, customers or even the business itself.
P.S. See the full Petra Coach webinar for Break The Bottleneck: The X-Factor For Exponential Advantage at PetraCoach.com/break-the-bottleneck-the-x-factor-for-exponential-advantage-with-barrett-ersek.
Barrett Ersek is a serial entrepreneur and regular speaker on business innovation, with an expertise in the green industry. He created his first company at age 17 and later founded Holganix, a manufacturer of 100% organic plant probiotics. He has lectured at the London School of Business, the India School of Business and the Massachusetts School of Business. He’s also the co-author of the Harvard Business Review article Break Your Industry’s Bottlenecks.