By Sheldon Harris | Solve Magazine
When I joined Cold Stone Creamery in 1999, we were a relatively small ice cream chain—just 70 stores—and we were keenly aware that no one really wanted another ice cream concept. Nonetheless, we set an audacious goal for growth: we wanted to have 1,000 stores within five years. By the time I departed as president in 2007, the number of stores had shot to 1,400 and system-wide revenues had catapulted from $28 million to over $500 million. How did we do it? I’m going to share the secrets with you, just as I do with clients in my current role as a coach for CEOs who want to drive their businesses to dramatic growth. My colleagues and I typically work with clients heading up companies who represent all different kinds of industries from all around the world. But while every client’s situation is unique, we find that they deal with the same types of issues—and that almost all are capable of leading spectacular growth in their company’s profits. Here’s how.
At Cold Stone Creamery, we decided we would own our market and become known as “the ultimate ice cream experience.” Framing everything that way and setting our growth goal changed how we hired, the systems we implemented—in fact, everything we did. We made the key decision to open a flagship store in Times Square, even though the rent for the location exceeded the annual sales volume of our average store. But in those days, Manhattan was where the news stories were being created, and journalists only had to fall out of their offices to get to our store. As a result, we became the “big ice cream story.” I attribute much of our accelerated growth to that big decision.
“Think big” can be expressed in new products or new markets—all kinds of ways. Very often, though, CEOs are using the rearview mirror. Our job is to get them to stretch mentally to see the bigger opportunity. We work our way through a sequence of four questions:
- What does success look like?
- What do we need to do to guarantee we get there?
- What’s going to stand in our way?
- How are we going to overcome what stands in our way?
As basic as it sounds, going through this simple thought process is usually a revelation for CEOs. Leaders make hundreds of decisions over the course of a year, but only three or four are big ones that move the needle, and that’s what we need to dial in on.
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Serial CEO Sheldon Harris (Cold Stone Creamery, Complete Nutrition, American Agritech) is a partner at CEO Coaching International.