In 1926, when Dwight D. Eisenhower graduated first in his class from the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, his friend George S. Patton wrote him a note of congratulations.
The note was sincere and thought-provoking, telling Eisenhower, "Victory in the next war will depend on execution not plans."
Eisenhower became supreme commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during WWII, dealing with planning and alliances.
Patton was the Allied commander most feared by the enemy because of his singular approach of always being on the attack. Patton liberated more territory and killed, wounded and captured more of the enemy with fewer casualties, when compared to his peers.
Patton believed that "A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week."
But what does it take to grow top-line revenue?
It takes more than a plan. It takes defining the target market, people responsible for executing the plan, those people taking initiative and accepting accountability, and having the willingness to execute day after day.
A few years back, I brought in an outside resource expert to run an all day workshop for my clients. The deliverable was a one-page marketing plan for each client to use to grow revenue that year.
To create an effective marketing and sales plan, the target market must be defined clearly.
It was fascinating to see more than a few clients struggle with the definition of their target market. All clients should have had this part of the plan down cold before they walked in the door. Some of them never were able to answer the question.
If you do not know what you are aiming at, everything is a target.
Years ago, I visited a local company and met with the owner. On one of the walls in his office was a map of the area with certain areas highlighted in different colors. I asked what the colors were and why the areas were spotlighted. It was explained to me that those areas were the geographical locations of his current and potential client base.
What the owner never explained to me was his plan for reaching those clients and prospects. I suspect he did not have anything more than the map as his plan. As a result, neither he nor his company ever reached their potential revenue.
If you know where you are going but do not know determine how to get there, your map is art.
For several years, I served as the acting director of marketing and sales for a company. My assignment was to stir things up with the sales team, construct a plan and increase revenue. One large region was determined to be operating at less than potential.
The responsible sales person had been hired some years prior on the basis that he could work from his home.
Many sales people operate successfully using a home office. The difference is that this person never left his home office.
All sales conversations were on the telephone and via email. This individual never visiting a single prospect or client in-person.
For too long, this person collected a paycheck and commissions based on sitting at a desk taking orders. While the sales person was satisfied, the company was not.
If the right people with the right attitude are not on the sales team, the results will never be what they could be.
About six years ago, I met someone who had an idea for a business. Once the ball got rolling with incorporation paperwork, he started walking. He had clearly defined all aspects of his target market and had a plan. All he had to get started was the company name, business cards and a drive to succeed.
He started walking throughout the geographic market he had defined. Using a map, he set goals to meet as many people in this area as possible. When he met someone, he quickly introduced himself, handed out his card, asked a few pointed questions related to information he needed. He was polite, thanked the person he was talking to and moved on.
He had no one to hold him accountable but himself. He was not interested in partial success or being mediocre. He knew for the business to succeed, he was going to have to do more than the competition, including staying motivated and keeping moving when things did not seem to be going well.
It takes more than a plan to succeed; it takes executing the plan every single day, even when things get tough.
That individual, by the way, still walks that same area, and his business continues to grow as a result, while other companies still struggle.
Ken Keller is president of STAR Business Consulting Inc., helping top executives make better decisions. He can be reached at (661) 645-7086 or KenKeller@SBCglobal.net.