[Transcript]E002: Why Blending Strategy With Tactics is Crucial for Success

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Catapult Business Growth Podcast. If you are a CEO with revenue exceeding seven figures, and you’re looking for ways to catapult your business, then this podcast is for you. We interview business leaders and talk about issues relevant to growth, management, leadership, and balance. Our goal is to empower you to unlock your potential and manage the unexpected with confidence. Learn more at CatapultBusinessGrowth.com. And now today’s episode.

Nina Radetich: My name is Nina Radetich, I’m your host for today and here with me is the founder and CEO of Catapult Groups, Brad Mishlove.

Brad Mishlove: Hello Nina.

Nina Radetich: Brad thanks for being here today again, appreciate it. The focus of our podcast today is strategy. Strategy is one of my favorite topics. There seems like such a real disconnect between strategy and then, of course, the tactics needed to execute on the strategy. Today we’re going to talk about blending strategy with tactics is so important to business success. Correct me if I’m wrong. There’s two different schools of people. Those who really excel at the high level strategic direction of a company and then the tacticians if you will, who excel at making at strategic vision a reality. How common is it to see a disconnect between those two because those two have to really come together to make things work.

Brad Mishlove: It is extremely common. The communication between strategy and the actual implementation of that strategy is typically a very significant gap. Closing that gap produces much greater results.

Nina Radetich: When it comes to taking a strategic vision and turning it into tactics to support that. It’s almost like there’s a missed step between the strategy getting to the implementation piece. There’s almost that in-between step of how we take this strategy and then turn into tactics that will support it.

Brad Mishlove: Right. I’m sure you’ve sat through plenty of strategic planning sessions where people come up with the plan, which is typically just an idea. Ideas are great, you need to have them. You might have a company that says, “Look we’re going to go from $5 million to $10 million over the next three years. We’re going to add an operating division in Los Angeles and one in Portland. We’re going to bring in some new product lines and we’re going to grow. We’re going to have 30 employees. We’re going to have 60 employees.” They build this beautiful binder. There’s a pro forma financial statement. There’s charts and graphs. They have a PowerPoint and then it comes time and a year goes by or three years goes by and they have moderate growth and they’re not achieving those plans. Maybe they opened an office in Los Angeles but the results were mediocre. And you have to wonder what happened and I think what happens is, is that vision of the typically executive team that does the strategic planning and the vision and  implementation of all the people who actually have to do the stuff that’s required. And there’s a lot of work required to double your business in size in say a three year period, that there’s a significant disconnect. There’s a disconnect between what the objective is. Understanding the why. Understanding the how, what the resources are required. What the investment is. The people, the human capital if you will. The people part of the business the most important. It’s the hardest part of the business and unfortunately, it’s the most overlooked part of the business.

Nina Radetich: Is it something as simple as communication then, is that what you’re saying?

Brad Mishlove: I think it’s in part communication. It’s in part hiring the right people. It’s in part giving them both the responsibility and the authority to act to the business plan. And it’s giving them the tools, the measurements, and the accountability to do it. I think we fail often times in entrepreneurial businesses in doing that.

Nina Radetich: What is the first step then in repairing that disconnect? Here you are you’re sitting in a room. You’ve got your high-level executives. You’re coming up with a spectacular strategic plan. Then how do we make sure that that gets passed down to the people who are actually going to execute on it?

Brad Mishlove: That’s a great question and I don’t think it’s directly linear. It’s different for all businesses but one idea that I would suggest that would work I think very well is, is expand your group. Bring more people into the fold and into that strategy so they know what’s going on.

Nina Radetich: That’s a hard thing to do sometimes because you want buy-in but you also don’t want too many opinions that are going to cloud the conversation.

Brad Mishlove: Right so there’s a time and a place for it. You are maybe not asking for the strategy but you’re asking for what they need to implement it at times. But having that group expanded, brings in more minds. More connectivity and communication and I think that in turn, it helps bring those ideas to fruition.

Nina Radetich: You need a strategy about whose going to be part of the strategy session.

Brad Mishlove: Right. For example, if your business is say dependent upon your email list but your email server isn’t capable of expanding. You don’t necessarily at the executive level know that. The person that’s in charge of running that might say, “Nina, we need an upgraded system. You’re going to need to invest whatever the quantity of dollars, time, energy to produce that in order to get that out. Or we need an expanded call center to receive the increase in business calls coming in. We’re going to need to invest in that.” There’s just so many things. We might need better sales and more staff on the ground in certain areas. We might need various partnerships to be brought in, resources, new equipment. I think expanding that group doesn’t hurt but you’re right entirely that sometimes when we have too many people in the kitchen we’re cooking a recipe that doesn’t work. There’s this concept though of once you decide then you’re implementing it. What we don’t want to do is we don’t want to have an unclear strategy so clear, focused and then a team that implements. Of course, it takes the right people, perhaps people who have experience in implementing those strategies on the team. I would encourage companies that want to
execute right away to really look at the team that they have executing that. I was watching Nina, parts of the recent Apple new launch.

Nina Radetich: The iPhone launch. Yeah.

Brad Mishlove: Yeah whatever it was. The 10 and the 8 and the new watch. I’m sure the products are great and they have a reputation of being a great company. What amazed me was how I’m imaging that in their boardroom that they’re having these conversations like, “We’re going to launch this really cool stuff. By the way, we’ve got to build it so we can launch it worldwide. We’re going to sell a billion
of these things. They need to be in the stores on this day.” I happened to go to their website right after the presentation and the completely redesigned website with all the new products was on there. They had ship dates. They had all this information and full, beautiful color. They had the ads prepared. They had everything and it was done and executed. I’m assuming because I don’t know specifically what they do but I know or maybe it’s just an assumption. The CEO didn’t do all this work. He had a great team. They execute, they deliver on time, a very complicated product manufactured overseas. Lots of parts and pieces. Lots and lots of people and yet they’re executing brilliantly. A company like that has almost unlimited resources but I think they have unlimited resources for a reason. That’s because they’ve been able to execute brilliantly on a repeated scale.

Nina Radetich: Should there be a proportional amount of time spent on strategy and execution planning? Or is there a disproportionate amount of time that people spend on strategy and then they don’t spend enough time on figuring out the execution piece?

Brad Mishlove: Yes. What that number is exactly I don’t know. I think right now many of the people I see spend 80% of their time on the strategy idea and maybe 20% on the how are we going to actually do this. I think it should be flip-flopped. I think the strategy might be a 20% investment and 80% should be in figuring out how and who and what and what resources are necessary to make this plan work.

Nina Radetich: How involved then should the executive team be in planning the execution of the strategy?

Brad Mishlove: I think very involved in making sure that the right people have the tools and understanding of what’s necessary. And very uninvolved if you have those people accountable for their own results.

Nina Radetich: What do you see in your peer advisory groups? In Catapult groups specifically, when it comes to the time spent on strategy versus execution and the disconnects?

Brad Mishlove: In our meetings though we spend a lot of time on strategy because the strategy has to be right. The wrong strategy brilliantly executed is still wrong strategy. If you have a bad idea and you execute it really well, you still have a bad idea. Having a good idea I think is probably the most important thing. You have to be moving in the right direction, right? If you want to go from Los Angeles to New York and you travel west, you can get there but it is a very, very long way to go all around the globe. We would prefer to see at the right strategy so I think you need to push and test on the strategy. Then once you feel like you have that right and remember strategy is just an idea. It might be backed with all sorts of good research and statistics and experiences and the like, it’s just an idea. And until you execute it, it doesn’t
become reality.

Nina Radetich: Do you find that most people talk about the two as separate things? Where they just think of strategy as this pie-in-the-sky vision piece but they don’t actually, like you talk about, blend it with the tactical side?

Brad Mishlove: Just yesterday we were spending some time in one of our executive sessions in one of our Catapult meetings discussing this very topic. How do you get your teams involved in executing strategy? We spend a lot of time creating strategy. How do you get them to execute? How do you get that brilliant execution? Another interesting story. I was watching and got the USC football game. It was
their first football game of the year.

Nina Radetich: I’m sorry. I’m a Bruin but anyway.

Brad Mishlove: I know that. That’s why I bring it up.

Nina Radetich: Of course, you had to bring up USC.

Brad Mishlove: I did. It wasn’t that USC was important in this but there was a young gentleman on the team who is blind, he’s completely blind. There’s a long and really terrific story. When he was 12 years old the former coach there Pete Carol had him on the sidelines watching the game just before he had his last eye removed due to I think a cancer. Now he’s I don’t know 19 or 20 years old. He’s the snapper, the
long snapper for kicks but he’s not regularly playing but he’s a full fledged member of the team. Great personality, outgoing. All that sort of stuff. They put him in the game. It was the fourth quarter, maybe three of so minutes left. They had this thought of we’re going to put this gentleman in the game and he’s going to snap the ball and we’re going to kick a field goal and it’s all going to work out. I started thinking about that there was all this strategy that went into that. They called the other team, they didn’t want him to get injured so nobody tackled him when he snapped the ball. They brought him in. He snapped the ball. The
kicker kicked the field goal. It all worked out. I was thinking, what an incredible story of leadership that the coach put him in the game. That he’s on the team. That they had the confidence to do it. They were clearly going to win the game but it wasn’t a giant blow out. It was the first game of the year and not the last game of the year and it worked. It all worked out but it could have not. They could have missed the kick. I was so impressed with the coach. The team. The reception. The execution of that strategy must have taken hours of practice. Imagine how many times that young man snapped the football and he did this all without the benefit of sight

Nina Radetich: That’s amazing.

Brad Mishlove: That we mostly give for granted. Really impressed. The execution of this idea, was amazing.

Nina Radetich: What do you think companies can learn from that?

Brad Mishlove: Well I think they have to trust the team. That was a team effort. You have to know the plan. You have to communicate the plan. You have to practice the plan and then you got to let them do it. They could have missed. There was some risk. They didn’t. They got the extra point. That football player has got to feel great. The team felt great. They did it all on their own. The coach was not in the game, he was on the sideline. But I was most impressed that sometimes they do that in the last game of the year if it’s a big blow out. This was the first game of the year.

Nina Radetich: Amazing.

Brad Mishlove: Yeah, they set the tone properly. It was an amazing experience.

Nina Radetich: You mentioned the communication piece and we talked about that playing a role in this obviously. What can the executives do to get better at communicating their vision to the team so that the team can then fully execute?

Brad Mishlove: I think a number of things Nina, one is you can spend some time. I think having some conversations and they should be not formal, intimidating board room conversations. They should be sitting around, chatting with a cup of coffee. Say, “Hey this is what we’re thinking of doing. I want to hear from you, what do you think is involved in this and how you can execute on this. What you need from
me.” Really the responsibility for the leadership is one, you have to set the appropriate strategy. Two, is to have really terrific people and the other is to support them with the appropriate tools, resources. Make them responsible. Make them accountable and give them what they need to succeed. You have to support them. You’re in a support role. We often look at the person running the company as the most important in the company. While that’s probably true because if it’s a poor strategy that the people can’t execute even well it doesn’t work. That being said, the person at the end of the register or operating the shovel or the sales person, most important because they’re the ones that are having that interaction with the end user. I think we have to remember that. They have to be properly supported.

Nina Radetich: And know what their expectations are too.

Brad Mishlove: Absolutely.

Nina Radetich: And that’s a communication thing.

Brad Mishlove: It is.

Nina Radetich: It goes back to communication.

Brad Mishlove: Right. It’s communication, it’s delegation and I think we need to remember that delegation’s not a one-way type, it’s a two-way.

Nina Radetich: Talk about that a little bit more.

Brad Mishlove: When you think about somebody that’s delegating and there’s somebody receiving the delegation, I think the both have responsibilities. The person who is delegating and I think has a responsibility to be clear in their communication. Make sure that that person receiving the delegation understands, and the person receiving that delegation needs to make sure that it’s clear to them and that they understand. I think we often go so quickly that we don’t pause for that. I don’t know if it’s a mistake. I think it’s a mistake. There’s often no checking so there’s no intermediate step. It’s like, “Hey I’d like you to do this.” and it’s a long project and then it’s delivered at the end and it’s not what you had in mind. I believe building in right in that delegation intermediate checks, yields significantly better results. It’s two
things. It’s incumbent upon that person to receive that delegation. If they don’t understand fully what’s required, I like to look at big things like where you begin with the end in mind. If they’re not clear on that, what’s the end product look like, how can you do it properly? We need clarification. We need to have communication. That happens better. And when I say slow down I don’t think slowing down actually takes longer. I think it actually shortens the time. We just need to pause long enough to make sure that everyone understands what’s expected of them.

Nina Radetich: Tough thing to do in this day and age

Brad Mishlove: It is.

Nina Radetich: … with the speed of technology, but super important and will save you time in the long run.

Brad Mishlove: Right. And to the extent that those delegations can be done in person and not via text message or some chat, the better off we’re going to be. Those are great for short communications. Difficult to convey on meaning and emotion, things get lost. The more face time you can have with your people the better you’re going to be I think.

Nina Radetich: If I’m a CEO and I’m having trouble blending strategy with tactics, what’s one thing that I can do to change that to get started on the right foot?

Brad Mishlove: First thing is focus so having a plethora if you will, of strategies is more complicated than having one overriding thing. If we can accomplish this one thing this year or this quarter or even this week. And we have focus and then clarity. Instead of, “I want to do these 27 items.” I want to do this one item or these three items and having it extremely clear what those are. What the results should look like. How we’re going to measure it. Whose accountable for what. I think produces much better results.

Nina Radetich: And gives you confidence to know you’re moving in the right direction.

Brad Mishlove: It does, it does that.

Nina Radetich: Brad great insight about blending strategy with tactics and the importance of making sure they hand-in-hand. We hope you our listeners gain some valuable insight for your business today.

Speaker 1: If you are ready to catapult your business, the first step is to figure out how to optimize your opportunities. That’s why we offer a free gap analysis. Just go to CatapultBusinessGrowth.com and click on “business gap analysis” to get started. We’ll review your results then schedule a time to discuss them with you. On behalf of the team at Catapult Groups, thank you for joining us for the Catapult Business Growth Podcast. If you like what you hear, please leave us a review in iTunes. We’ll see you next time.

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