Why you need the Discipline of Getting Things Done
Every high-growth start-up and scale-up is supported by a strategy. But this only leads to results when the strategy is executed in a skilful and disciplined way. Getting things done is a challenge for many companies. Edouard Fourcade and Matthias Klaesener, advisors at Fortino Capital, experience this first hand. At the CEO Summit 2022, they gave their advice.
For Edouard Fourcade and Matthias Klaesener, Formula 1 pit stops are a perfect example of getting things done. In the space of a few seconds, the race car is lifted off the ground, tyres changed, the front wing adjusted and any other problems fixed.
Strategies are not enough
F1 races are won or lost in the pit stop. And 'winning' happens to be the only thing that matters for the tech companies in Fortino Capital's portfolio. According to Edouard: “There's no room for failure if you want to outperform your competitors. Nor are strategies enough. They also have to be executed.”
Together with Matthias Klaesener, Edouard helps tech start-ups and scale-ups face the challenge to make things happen. Edouard focuses on French companies. Matthias on German ones.
“Procedures are the way to go,” says Matthias. “They provide an accurate plan of action.”
Peter De Brabandere, founder of BizzMine, also believes in procedures and saw the results in his scale-up. “I believe that 'good enough is not enough'," says Peter.
“Because everyone wants to be the best, including your competitors. Sales are one of the areas where we've tightened up procedures and ensured perfect execution. We've eliminated the non-productive time which means our salespeople no longer have to wait for the customer to come back to us. Now they know exactly what actions they can take whereas before they just had to wait. This means we no longer lose time and can keep the conversations with customers going. This is the differentiator in sales, with significantly better sales results.”
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Three key factors to get things done
Clear procedures contain three factors, according to the Fortino consultants:
- A procedure tells everyone exactly WHAT their job entails, where it starts and ends. For example: when is a marketing lead ready to be handed over to sales.
- A procedure describes HOW the job should be done. “Even the most experienced people need continuous training,” says Edouard. “I think of a sniper who practises every day, even though his job is to protect people and never shoot. But if he does have to shoot, he mustn't miss the target.”
- Every team member knows what the CONSEQUENCES are for the others if they don't do their job properly. “In other words, you know that the goal can't be achieved if you make mistakes. And you can step in for others if something happens.”
Discipline is crucial in this. “You can only become and remain number one if you scrupulously follow the established procedures in finance, sales, marketing, etc. at all times,” Edouard adds. “If you do this, there's no room for uncertainty and doubt."
The Fortino advisor likes to refer to Admiral William McRaven's famous speech to students: “'If you want to change the world … start off by making your bed’, says the admiral. In this speech, he emphasise the importance of discipline and small routines.”
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Beware of the danger of procedures
Sticking to routines and always focusing on small steps is extremely difficult. Details seem less important after a while as long as you follow the spirit of the procedure, people are quick to think. One of Edouard's friends unfortunately experienced the catastrophic consequences of such negligence: “He knew the diving procedures very well. But that one time he didn't check the rebreather of his diving equipment properly. At a depth of eighty metres, things went wrong. Water ended up in his lungs and he died.”
But procedures also have dangers. “Germans like to follow procedures,” confirms Matthias, who is German himself. “That makes it easier to get things done right. But sometimes we tend to define rules too strictly and too extensively, making them very complex and hindering innovation and change. However, a culture of innovation is crucial in a rapidly changing SaaS market.”
Cultural differences also complicate matters for people whose job it is to monitor procedures. “The French often look for shortcuts in procedures,” acknowledges Frenchman Edouard. “They want to bend the rules and look for reasons to avoid applying them.”
Professional management has to be able to deal with these challenges, subject to one last piece of advice: perfection is not necessary. “Looking for the perfect procedure is dangerous. It's better to draw up good rules and then stick to them,“ Matthias concludes.