20 Mile March

By Dick Stark

20 Mile March? Turns out that’s what it takes to become a 10Xer. But make sure you have a SMaC….

To really understand what I’m talking about, you should read Jim Collins’ latest book Great by Choice. For those not familiar with Jim Collins, he is the author of two other business classics: Good to Great and Built to Last. In Great by Choice, co-authored by Morton Hansen, the authors studied several great companies, like Southwest Airlines and Microsoft, over a 10 year period to understand what makes them great.  Concepts like thriving in uncertainty, 10Xers, 20 mile march, Fire Bullets, then Cannon Balls, and SMaC are introduced.  The authors relate plenty of interesting stories, but how do these concepts apply to a small company like RightStar?  What is a 20 Mile March anyway?

The authors borrowed the 20 Mile March concept from Joe Brown CEO at Stryker, a medical equipment maker who set a 20% net income growth objective every year.  In other words, make a steady amount of progress every day, quarter, and year regardless of external circumstances. The most interesting part is the importance of not doing more when external conditions seem good… but just doggedly sticking to the plan.

The authors relate the 20 Mile March to a group of hikers walking from San Diego to Maine at a pace of 20 miles per day, no more no less every day, regardless of weather or conditions.  They even go a step farther, and describe the race to the South Pole in 1911 between Scott and Amundsen.  Amundsen, a “20 mile per dayer” methodically planned the entire trip making progress every single day.  He made it to the South Pole within a day or two of his plan and returned safely home also as planned.  Scott did not plan with the worst case scenario in mind, did not have enough food stockpiled, and went all out on good days and did not attempt any amount of hiking on bad days.  Guess who perished and did not make it back?

What’s RightStar’s 20 Mile March? We all know that RightStar has seen some remarkable revenue growth since 2003 when RightStar was founded.  Service revenue, what really matters, has grown much slower about 25% per year, which should be attainable every year in the indefinite future.

What’s not attainable is to continue growing our resale revenue faster than the market is growing and when BMC is funneling more and more of that revenue to their GSA aggregator.

But since service revenue is more profitable (and more reliable), a 20 Mile March of 20% year over year growth seems doable and desirable. What’s required is a recipe or SMaC. SMaC stands for Specific, Methodological, and Consistent. A SMaC recipe is a set of durable operating principles and practices that create a replicable and consistent success formula. That’s what the RightStar management team will focus on when we meet in early next year to plan the new year.  Get ready for our own 20 Mile March in 2012!

About dick1stark

As President, CEO, and Founder, Dick brings RightStar more than 25 years of experience in leading, building, and managing technology companies. During his career, he has also led and managed technical, consulting, and finance operations. Dick is a graduate of Stanford University and a Project Management Professional (PMP).
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