I believe companies, and particularly GNB-type companies, need to get three things right to enjoy sustainable success: idea, execution, and culture.
Great companies start with an inspiring belief or question. For example, the idea behind Atomic is a belief that there are better ways of building software. Our belief has been consistent from day one even though we’ve evolved our service offering quite substantially in ten years. Simon Sinek has a book and TEDx talk about this sort of idea (he refers to it as your “why”).
But the idea isn’t everything. In fact, the idea has been called a commodity in comparison to the hard work of execution. Derek Sivers claims an idea is a mere multiplier of execution, giving the following breakdown:
AWFUL IDEA = -1
WEAK IDEA = 1
SO-SO IDEA = 5
GOOD IDEA = 10
GREAT IDEA = 15
BRILLIANT IDEA = 20
NO EXECUTION = $1
WEAK EXECUTION = $1000
SO-SO- EXECUTION = $10,000
GOOD EXECUTION = $100,000
GREAT EXECUTION = $1,000,000
BRILLIANT EXECUTION = $10,000,000
As this chart shows, a brilliant idea with no execution is still just a $20 idea.
Execution involves delivering value to your clients or customers and running your business profitably. At its core, every business in the world operates according to the simple diagram below. The myriad of issues and considerations to actually execute on your idea are where you roll up your sleeves and get to work.
I believe culture is the most important factor of all, especially for companies like ours. The reason culture is so important is the primary role people play in these companies. Every company obviously benefits from good people, but firms like Atomic typically have very few assets other than their people. Innovation and creativity can’t be manufactured, so you need to have a strong culture to recruit great people and support, challenge and inspire them.
I’ve written more about the three factors of idea, execution and culture in a recent Rapid Growth guest blog post.