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Execution Eats Strategy For Lunch

Written by Corey Chambas, President & CEO, First Business Financial Services, Inc.
First Business Financial Services, Inc. Board Member
First Business Bank Board Member

When I started doing this blog, one of my concerns was sharing our “secret sauce” for success, and allowing our competitors in on some of our strategies and tactics. We are a niche financial services company and we definitely do some unique things. I was worried that I was making us vulnerable by letting competitors know what we were trying to do and how we were trying to do it. But I no longer worry, as I’ve come to realize that execution eats strategy for lunch.

An analogy would be when I go to the gym to workout. Let’s say I have specific strength-training goals. I develop a series of well thought out exercises for my time at the gym –– but there’s still a lot of room for failure. What if I lack motivation when I get to the gym, and I only halfheartedly go through the exercises? What if I see friends and end up only exercising my jaw muscles? On the other hand, what if I arrive without a great plan but am motivated to work out and really get after it? Unlike the first scenario, I’ll get in a good workout. It might not be the perfect workout but I’ll still be way more successful in reaching my end goal.

In the same way, if a great strategy is laid out for an unmotivated staff, nothing much is going to come of it. On the other hand, positive things can still happen when engaged, motivated employees are armed with even a mediocre strategy.

Don’t get me wrong, I (and many others) work hard making sure our company has the best possible strategy in place. But I truly believe if you have the best team of people, and they are fully engaged, the execution that results will cause you to win, almost regardless of strategy.

We just completed our employee engagement survey. The results were really good and it made me not only very happy, but also very optimistic about our future prospects. If your employees are engaged and happy, your clients will be too. If your employees are engaged and you have their hearts as well as their heads, they will be committed, go above and beyond, and their execution will cause you to outpace your competitors. Because of this, employee engagement might be the most important measure there is for forecasting the future success of a company.

When you wonder about the value of a great culture in a business, this is it. The right culture creates a positive, committed team atmosphere. And these engaged employees then execute the heck out of whatever is put in front of them.

There are some businesses that are very complicated and extremely innovative. But, realistically, ours is not one of those. Very likely neither is yours –– it’s really the exception, not the rule. That’s why I like to talk about our business as being “simple, but not easy.” It’s not easy because it’s hard to maintain the discipline in your focus and energy that allows you to outcompete. The focus comes from a strategy and vision that people understand, and the requisite energy is only sustainable if you have fully-engaged employees. Quite simply, if you don’t have the engagement of your employees you can strategize all you want, but you will miss the mark on execution.

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