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How to Scale at Speed

Guest: Meghan Watkins, a coach at CEO Coaching International. Meghan has over 20 years of experience in sales, marketing, and supply chain management in the wine and spirits industry.

Quick Background: There are no shortcuts to getting BIG faster. CEOs who scale ahead of schedule follow the same tried-and-true best practices that support any effective annual plan. But the best CEOs also know which buttons to push to keep motivation high and how to leverage talent and systems to achieve just a little bit more every single day.

On today’s show, Meghan Watkins reflects on the 5 factors that helped her quickly scale her businesses from startup to $100M+ in revenue.

Keys to Scale at Speed from Meghan Watkins

1. Hustle with urgency.

“Businesses that scale are led by people who really have that unstoppable mindset where failure is not an option,” Meghan says. “You just do whatever it takes to get it done. I can remember times when I was making deliveries in high heels because there were more stops and I was wrapping up a dinner entertaining a client. Or being told that I couldn’t be established as a vendor at a large retailer and elbowing my way in so that we could start shipping. It just comes back to having that mindset and that sense of urgency so you’re jumping at every opportunity, you become the go-to person for your customers, and you outwork your competition.”

One of the four Making BIG Happen Questions that we help CEO coaching clients answer is: What could get in the way of your growth plan? If you’ve done your homework and identified potential roadblocks, your annual plan should include both strategies for pushing forward and enough flexibility to adjust for things you can’t anticipate, like a pandemic or high inflation. As Meghan reminds us, success is then just a matter of committing to that plan, working hard, and refusing to take No for an answer.

2. Reconnect to your network.

Of the five essential CEO responsibilities — Vision, Cash, People, Key Relationships, and Learning — managing professional relationships is the one CEOs have been most likely to neglect since the pandemic. Part of the “new normal” we’re inching towards has to include reconnecting with the people who matter the most to your business: employees, potential M&A partners, displaced talent, and perhaps most importantly, customers.

“The goal should always be to create that raving fan,” Meghan says, “someone who will be a staunch advocate for your brand and help you really scale that business by spreading the word. And so listening to your customers, the feedback and the criticism, is the most important thing so you can hear their feedback on how to get better. That’s how every great brand has always been built. So I think keeping that as a core principle, being able to continue to grow the relationships you have, and then the depth of each of those relationships, is really critical to scaling at speed.”

If you’ve rolled back some of your travel plans this year because of the ongoing tumult at the airport … well, we don’t blame you. But cancelled flights are no excuse for cancelling face time with your most important stakeholders. All CEOs have put in enough reps on Zoom by now to leverage video chat as an advantage, not just a last resort.

“I’ve always thought that breaking bread and enjoying a glass of wine with somebody is the perfect way to build rapport,” Meghan says. “And I think that it certainly still is. But I will say that I got to actually see a lot of my customers and my suppliers more frequently because of the ease of use when Zoom became more and more perfected. And so what normally would be a once-a-year face-to-face and maybe a few phone calls throughout the year ended up being a monthly Zoom where we were seeing each other. And I, quite frankly, felt a lot more connected to a lot of my extended network.”

3. Assemble great talent.

“Bringing in great talent ahead of the curve, while that can seem sometimes a little counterintuitive and a little scary, that’s really key to getting that hockey stick, exponential growth,” Meghan says. “You want to constantly be lining that bench with the best A players that you can find.”

At CEO Coaching International, we’re big believers in behavioral profiling. It’s too easy to let a winning personality and a sterling resume blind CEOs to fit issues that aren’t going to manifest themselves in a typical interview process. And, from the opposite perspective, an enthusiastic applicant might be putting the goal of working for your company ahead of what they know are the best uses for their particular skillset. Our TTI Success Insights tool is invaluable for revealing these intangibles and helping both parties figure out what they need now and in the near future.

“Profiling gives us a bit of objectivity to the subjectivity of recruitment,” Meghan says, “finding people that want to win and not just be liked who can be those hustlers that will be farming new accounts. Complimenting the hunters with your relationship managers can help to form that great team. As the CEO, you just can’t handle everything on your own. Developing that management team that’s flexible and can grow with the company is just a vital component when it comes to learning how to scale that business, being comfortable with letting go, and delegating responsibilities as the business starts to grow. It’s a life-changing moment when you let go, and it’s when you become ridiculously productive.”

4. Systemize accountability.

“What gets measured gets improved,” Meghan says. “We have to make it very clear to our team what their expectations are, and then measure at a regular cadence. It might be the number of phone calls that were made on a daily basis or number of new accounts that were won on a weekly basis or revenue for the month. It needs to be done on a regular cycle so that the team recognizes that they are going to be under fire if they are not meeting expectations. It also provides a lot of clarity for middle management to know whether or not their team is achieving success.”

Much like the communications piece, leveraging tech to improve accountability should be standard by now. If you haven’t kept pace with the rapid advances in AI and data, consider investing in a chief technology officer who can bring your tech stack and your company’s analytics up to speed, or a CEO coach with extensive tech experience. Work with that expert to identify the KPIs that are going to help you scale and be rigorous about tracking them.

“The metrics and the data that we have access to today are so helpful for us to be able to run well-oiled machines,” says Meghan. “I think the monitoring of the sales and monitoring of the business overall in the form of a score can be an afterthought because there’s so much chaos going on just running the business. Taking the time to put the metrics in one concise format, to be able to share that with the leaders of the organization, can seem a bit tedious, but it’s really, really vital so we know how we’re doing.”

5. Motivate and inspire.

Does your company create “Instagrammable” moments?

Meghan defines these as priceless experiences that incentivize and reward high achievement while also reminding employees why they’re part of your team in the first place. 

Sure, working in wine and spirits gave Meghan some advantages when it came to creating extraordinary experiences. But any successful team that’s celebrating a major win and helping the company scale deserves the Napa Valley treatment, regardless of what industry you’re in.

Perhaps just as importantly, celebrating wins of all sizes should be a part of your business rhythms. Take a team out to lunch if they hit a target ahead of schedule. Publicly recognize a customer rep who stayed late to deliver exceptional service. Close early on Friday after a tough week full of challenges that your employees rose to meet. These moments where the CEO recognizes the vital contributions of every employee are the culmination of all that tracking, measuring, and executing that keeps pushing your company towards BIG. 

“These are all really simple practices,” Meghan says, “but it’s important that they’re repeated consistently. It’s just critical that we stop working inside the business and, as leaders, work on the business. That’s when you see that magic happen.”

Top Takeaways

1. Work harder, smarter. A good tech stack and a team of A players should help the CEO focus on key responsibilities essential to achieving scale.

2. Set expectations and don’t settle for employees who aren’t up to the challenge.

3. Celebrate wins. Top talent wants to be part of a culture that acknowledges and perpetuates a winning mentality. 

About CEO Coaching International

CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average revenue CAGR of 31% (2.6X the U.S. average) and an average EBITDA CAGR of 52.3% (more than 5X the U.S. average).

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