A quote that ranks right up there with the best of Voltaire and Montaigne is the late Coach John McKay’s famous response when a reporter asked him, after another Tampa Bay Buccaneer loss, what he thought of his team’s execution. Said McKay, with a straight face, “I think it’s a good idea.”
Of course, when McKay spoke those now-famous words, his team was in the midst of the longest losing streak in NFL history. I’ve never suffered through twenty-six straight losses at anything, but I must admit that I have long favored execution for those who fail to execute.
Why would a kind soul like me be so harsh when it comes to people who fail to execute? Call it a pet peeve … or a fetish … or just a lack of tolerance. All I know is that for anyone who actually cares about his/her work, the most unpleasant aspect of daily business is dealing with people who act as though they’re sleepwalking.
For me, execution involves three distinct areas:
- Sense of urgency.
- Attention to detail.
Sense of Urgency
One of the signs of a true entrepreneur is an ever-present sense of urgency. A lot of people take umbrage with this, because it gets in the way of their evening sitcoms and weekend barbeques. People who want things done sooner rather than later irritate them no end.
Nothing bugs me more than the use of the future tense when it comes to executing. It seems as though everyone is always going to do something. Whatever happened to the present tense? Or, even better, the past tense?
Why is sooner rather than later so important? Because every one of us has to deal with an irreplaceable, finite commodity: time. The entrepreneurial mind gets it; most others don’t.
I can’t tell you how many deals I’ve closed, how many ads that were successful, how many projects that made it through the open window because I took action one month sooner, one week sooner, or one day sooner. Even an hour – sometimes a minute – sooner can be the difference between success and failure.
On the other side of the coin, I’ve seen hundreds of deals and projects go up in smoke because one or more people involved had no sense of urgency. I like to refer to it as the Fiddle Theory: The longer you fiddle around with a deal, the greater the odds that it will never close.
Never forget that time is your enemy when it comes to closing deals, mainly because circumstances are constantly changing.
Attention to Detail
It’s very frustrating to care deeply about accuracy when those around you don’t. Accuracy doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a direct result of caring enough to carefully check your work … then double-check it … and, if necessary, triple-check it … and continue to check it until it’s right.
People who can’t comprehend double- and triple-checking often get in a huff when they are called to task on something that is incorrect. Their attitude, often verbalized with anger, is: “How many times do I have to do this ! %?*!# thing?” The answer, of course, is: “Until you get it right!” The objective is not to finish the project. The objective is to finish the project correctly and on time.
Never use the excuse that you were too tired or, worse, too busy to check your work. My considerable experience has taught me that no one has a great deal of interest in how tired or how busy I am. What they are interested in is my giving them what I promised, giving it to them correctly, and giving it to them on time. In motivational circles, it’s called: Whatever it takes!
Follow-through means seeing things through to completion and doing so on time. Not near to completion – completion. Clearly, most people don’t seem to know the difference between the two.
Recently, I visited a new UPS Store to rent a mailbox. The manager (Ted) was a cherubic young man, appearing to be no more than twenty-one years of age. He greeted my wife and me with a big smile and an infectious enthusiasm in his voice, and he was remarkably accommodating.
While we were talking to Ted, another employee happened to press the wrong button and accidentally “closed out the register for the day.” It was 3:30 p.m. on a Saturday, and the store was scheduled to close at 5:00 p.m.
Ted apologized profusely for the inconvenience, but said that if we could come back before 5:00 p.m., he would have the problem fixed and would be able to finalize renting us a mailbox. He gave us his business card, and I told him I would call and let him know if we could make it back by closing time.
With that, my wife and I departed and ran some other errands. The time slipped by without our noticing, and when I finally looked at my watch, it was 5:01 p.m. – past closing time. I called the UPS Store and asked Ted if it was too late for us to come back and complete the mailbox rental transaction. In a cheerful voice, he responded, “Not at all. Just come on over. I’ll be happy to wait for you.”
When we finally arrived at the UPS Store at 5:25 p.m., Ted unlocked the door and greeted us with his affidavit smile. He welcomed us back and apologized for his subordinate’s careless mistake, then finished signing us up for a mailbox.
Now here’s what’s interesting about all this. There’s another mailbox store just across the street from the one Ted manages. Had he told me it was too late to come in because it was past closing time, I probably would have ended up renting a mailbox from his competitor. Losing customers is as good a reason as I can think of as to why it’s so important to have a sense of urgency, to follow through, and to get the deal closed now.
One final word about follow-through. All too often, when someone tells me, “I’ve taken care of that,” what he really means is that he told someone else to take care of it. I’ve seen days, sometimes even weeks, lost because people don’t understand that a key component of delegation is to have a system for checking to see if their delegation instructions have been properly carried out.
There’s nothing worse than a person who misstates the facts by proclaiming that something is done, then blames it on the person to whom he delegated the project when it turns out it isn’t. No one wants to hear about someone’s delegation problems. If the person with whom you’re dealing delegates the matter to someone else, that someone else is answerable to him. He, however, is answerable to you.
You’ll be happy to know that if you manage to become a master at execution, a free membership in the Oyster Club goes along with it – as in, the world is your oyster. But be forewarned that it’s a very small club, and being a member tends to lead to a lonely existence. That said, allow me to close with another quote from the late John McKay: “You don’t beat people with surprises, but with execution.”[Ed. Note: If you’re ready for a treasure chest of proven ideas, strategies, and techniques that are guaranteed to dramatically improve your dealmaking skills – and, in the process, increase your income many times over – you won’t want to miss Robert Ringer’s bestselling audio series, A Dealmaker’s Dream.
Robert Ringer is a New York Times #1 bestselling author and host of the highly acclaimed Liberty Education Interview Series, which features interviews with top political, economic, and social leaders. His recently released work, Restoring the American Dream: The Defining Voice in the Movement for Liberty, is a clarion call to liberty-loving citizens to take back the country. Ringer has appeared on numerous national talk shows and has been the subject of feature articles in such major publications as Time, People, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Barron’s, and The New York Times. To sign up for his e-letter, A Voice of Sanity in an Insane World, visit www.robertringer.com.]