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Xceptional Execution – A Small Business Guide to Profitability

What if launching and leading an xceptional business was simpler than you’ve ever imagined? Not easier. Not less time consuming. Not less gut wrenching, but simpler. Guess what: It is.

What if I told you many successful entrepreneurs didn’t start with a compelling vision or indeed a workable business plan? Guess what: That’s true.

What if it was possible to dominate a market without any previous background in it? Well: It is.

Xceptional execution is about taking a relatively simple idea from brainstorm to breakout hit. Ground-breaking research conducted by Columbia University’s Amar Bhidé in 2000 titled “The Origin and Evolution of New Businesses” revealed that 88 percent of “breakthrough companies” were the result of xceptional execution of an ordinary idea, according to their owners. Only 12 percent were the result of new inventions.

In my latest book “DO! the pursuit of Xceptional Execution,” described by Tom Peters as the one he would love to have written; I interviewed nine CEO’s from some of the biggest break-through start-ups, e.g. Dwolla, Globant, Balsamiq, Blo Blo Dry Bars and Outfit 7. In it I delve into the DNA of the CEO’s of these start-ups, who I call the ‘Xceptionalists’, highlighting the thinking behind those who live and breathe the Xceptional Execution mind-set and approach to business and life.

So how does one achieve xceptional execution of an ordinary idea?  And let’s not forget we are all in the ‘ordinary idea business.’

As highlighted in my research there are four pillars that underpin an xceptional execution culture.

Self awareness

Self Awareness – described by Stanford Business Advisory committee as the most important attribute a leader should develop; Xceptional leaders know who they are, their strengths and weaknesses, their dreams and their fears.

In a small business, the leader is the culture creator. Their presence either creates an empowering or disempowering working environment.

So the question that you the leader needs to ponder is – what are you projecting? And just to challenge you further – do you know?

Over the past 25 years as a consultant, one thing I know for sure – if I sought only the wisdom of the CEO or owner when assessing the prospects of a company, this would have been a grave error. In the majority of cases, the owner’s opinion was far removed from what I was getting from employees or the marketplace.

Numerous studies highlight the gaps between leaders’ perceptions of reality and insights on the ground: Some companies believe they are providing a good service, but customers don’t concur. A study by Avaya showed that 80 percent of companies believed they were providing a quality service, only 8 percent of customers agreed. The message is clear – take timeout to develop and understand yourself and also surround yourself with people who can assess your eyesight!

The critical ability to deliver the most powerful drug in business to both customer and employees – quality authentic Attention

The average attention span in 2012 was 8 seconds, which is down significantly from 2000 where it was 12 seconds, according to statistics published in the Associated Press. The average attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds. Are you a goldfish because if you are – your business is suffering?

One of our Xceptionalists Tim Clark founder of Business Model You sums it up: “There’s a reason it’s called “paying” attention: it’s a substantial cost in terms of time and energy. But nothing fundamental has changed. Everyone is still amazed when you actually listen deeply to what they are saying, and respond to that rather than simply waiting them out so you can spew forth your own talking points.”

Are you paying attention? Have you detailed each contact point with the client, set standards for each and strive to exceed this every time.

The customer as a concept is dead so a focus on building friendships, not customer relationships will give you a better ROI. Customers leave unannounced – friends at worse tell you before they do.

The power of friendships helped Globant the Argentinian technology giant build their global business. When they committed to starting a company, their first exercise was to write down all their friends and contacts on a white board. Then, with a developed sales presentation and a $5000 start-up budget, they sat down with them in different parts of the world and ended up identifying many business opportunities. It was the start of an xceptional journey that has brought them from 4 owners to 3500 employees and a client list that feature Linkedin, Google, Electronic Arts etc.

Learning but not just as you know it!

Xceptional business people are lifelong sponges but not in the traditional way – they learn from everybody from the Janitor to the award winning thought leader. In their mind everybody is a potential teacher regardless of who they are.


And finally all Xceptionalists are Doer’s – they don’t just dream, they execute on their ideas. They learn, they pivot, they persevere and in the end find themselves at their chosen destination.

Very often they Do!  even when knowledge stands in their way or so it appears! In my early days I worked as a feasibility consultant –charged with saying whether or not an idea had potential. Looking back I can recall easily finding enough reasons why many ideas shouldn’t get the green light.

And therein lays the challenge for owners/entrepreneurs who dare to dream – knowledge will always give you enough reasons not to act.

Regardless the true entrepreneur DOES!

Go on! Let’s DO! it.

Speaker Summit

On Feb 19th we are holding the inaugural Speaker Summit for coaches/speakers/consultants in Croke Park, Dublin. Be inspired and informed by some of the best speakers in the world –for more info

Also as a special offer to Small Business Can readers I am offering a signed copy of my book “DO! the pursuit of Xceptional Execution” delivered to your door for €12. (Just pay via Paypal to

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