Do you want to have a $10-million or a billion-dollar business? | Inquirer Business

Do you want to have a $10-million or a billion-dollar business?

/ 02:02 AM November 28, 2022



In my work with the CEOs and owners of countless businesses around the world, from medium-sized to global conglomerates and the Fortune 500, I have seen how important it is to get everyone streamlined around a shared goal. As the CEO of Coca-Cola CCI said, “Tom played an awesome role in making us One Team!”

Focus, focus, focus. That is how you build—and keep growing—a billion-dollar business. But how do you do that in practice?


It already starts at the planning stage. In most of the strategic planning sessions that my team and I have guided and led around the world, people and companies lose themselves in details but do not get the big picture.


It starts with planning

What is the overall goal that you are trying to accomplish? How do the goals of each one of the businesses or business units in your group fit into the larger cohesive strategy and vision of your business?

I have seen businesses put up the same slides with the same goals over and over again every year because things did not get solved or done. That is bad. If that happens to you as the CEO or owner, you need to take charge. You cannot let people off the hook. I call that the “onion.” You have to keep peeling till you get to the bottom of it.

In practice, that means not taking for granted any excuse or superficial reason from any of your business heads for not delivering. You need to make clear that the buck stops with you. You need to demand ruthless accountability from every one of them.

Keep asking “why,” peeling every layer of that onion, until you hit the actual root cause of why things did not get done. Do not let people off the hook! Your goal as a business leader is not to be liked. Your goal is to get the results in and to make sure that your business machine produces the outcomes it is supposed to produce.

Death by PowerPoint

What mostly happens in such strategic planning meetings is that people go to great lengths to create beautiful slides to distract from the BS that they are giving you. I take a simple perspective: the more beautiful the slides, the more I assume the person is hiding something.

An example of one of your clients: the president was so in love with beautiful presentations that the entire organization exploited them ruthlessly. I sat in meetings where business unit heads were presenting beautiful slides to hide extreme shortcomings in their unit, major failures on their part and a complete lack of leadership.


The president did not see through it. It became so bad that a lot of people were spending 50 percent of their time preparing these beautiful presentations to keep distracting the president. My team and I had to call the BS and put the finger where it hurts. You need to do the same thing. Do not let people off the hook. This is why ruthless accountability already starts at the planning stage.

Focus, focus, focus

The Chinese philosopher Confucius said, “A person who chases two rabbits catches neither.” This is not adequate for most companies. From medium-sized family business groups to global conglomerates and Fortune 500 companies, I have seen first-hand that the saying should rather be, “A company that chases 50 rabbits catches nothing and ends up exhausted, clueless and loses half of its profitability and performance.”

You should have a clearly defined overarching breakthrough goal for your entire company, and communicate this clearly to everybody. Then ask your leaders to come up with their own goals that support the achievement of that breakthrough goal.

In short, you need to ask every one of them, “How does that fit into the cohesive larger vision and strategy of our business?” And if you do not know what that is, or have not defined that clearly, then this is your wake-up call.

The only thing you have 100 percent control over is your productivity: your own, that of your people, and the productivity of your organization. You cannot control external factors or the economy.

And the productivity in your organization is enhanced by well-defined, challenging goals that are written down. Goals create alignment, clarity and job satisfaction. Focus breeds clarity. And clarity breeds success.

The magic of the breakthrough goal

I was leading a strategic planning session for one of our clients recently. And it became clear very quickly that there was neither clear alignment nor clarity in the organization about what the actual overarching goal for the entire business was, or should be. Again, this happens more often than you think. In my strategy meetings with business owners of some of the largest companies in the world, I saw how easily distracted they were from the elephant in the room—no goal clarity—by all the countless slides, numbers and images they had to look at over hours and days.

The client I was just talking about benefited most from defining a clear breakthrough goal, a sprint goal that would focus everyone around one shared purpose. A lot of clients ask me, “What is the secret of the best performing, fastest growing and most profitable companies in the world?” The answer, of course, is a combination of many different factors and would take too long for this column, but one important element is focus.

The mistake most companies make that fall far short of ever reaching their full potential is having too many goals at the same time. Yes, you may still have some success. But you will be far from ever reaching your full potential. This goes back to the title: Do you want to have a $10-million or a $1-billion business?

You can still coast along and be comfortable. If this is all you want, then fine. But if you want to trigger explosive growth and expand to reach your full potential, then goal focus is a must.

Laser-like focus is the key to unlocking explosive growth. The principle behind the magic of the breakthrough goal is: You can accomplish much more by reaching goals in sequence, but not at the same time. By trying to reach far too many goals at the same time, companies are caught up in the illusion that “we are doing many things.” But all they end up being is “busy.” That should not be your aim.

Say no to the good to say yes to the great

You have to say no to the good to say yes to the great. Steve Jobs could not possibly control every little thing his top people and teams were doing. So instead he asked, “What did you recently say no to that was painful?” The reason behind this was genius; he was testing them if they had recently made some hard decisions, and if they were now ruthlessly focused on their top priorities instead of trying to accomplish too many things at the same time. Steve Jobs wanted excellence. And he knew that excellence could only be achieved by ruthless focus.

Three to thrive

1.Ruthless accountability already starts at the planning stage.

2.Decide on a clearly defined overarching breakthrough goal for your entire company, and communicate this clearly to everybody.

3.Say no to the good to say yes to the great! INQ

Tom Oliver, a “global management guru” (Bloomberg), is the chair of The Tom Oliver Group, the trusted advisor and counselor to many of the world’s most influential family businesses, medium-sized enterprises, market leaders and global conglomerates. For more information and inquiries: or email

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TAGS: Business, PROFIT PUSH, Tom Oliver

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