A Trade Magazine for New Age Retailers

4 Pillars of a Successful Business, Part 3



Embracing the magic of execution — the key to independent retail shop success — is the third article in a series that explores the four pillars of a successful business. These pillars, based on the book, Scaling Up, by Verne Harnish, helped me increase my revenue and profits 10-fold. With the business roller coaster ride of the past three years combined with the unsteady retail economy, this is the perfect time to get back to basics and I am bringing you with me.

Scaling Up as well as Traction by Gino Wickman became my how-to guides over the past decade for building a business that is sustainable and scalable. The things that I have learned allowed my store to weather the pandemic shutdowns and the wild swings in sales that followed. I am revisiting the guides this year to inspect my business’s foundational pillars. Those pillars are:

Strategy – Creating a business growth strategy that you can live every day.

People – Leading is about letting go and building a team.

Execution – The plan is only as good as the execution.

Cash – Manage your cash flow, manage your growth.

In the bustling world of retail, the dream of sustainable growth and success is often intertwined with the art of execution. As an entrepreneur or business leader, crafting and executing a living business plan is the key to turning visions into reality. In this pillar of success, we dive into the world of business execution in a small retail shop, exploring how aligning strategies with core principles can propel businesses to new heights.

In this journey of discovery, we’ll rely on the wisdom of Harnish, a business strategist renowned for guiding entrepreneurs and business leaders along a path to success. Let’s explore the magic of execution together and uncover the secrets to driving remarkable results in your retail venture.

There is an art to executing your business vision. It starts with understanding the unique challenges of your business. Every retail business faces its share of hurdles when it comes to executing plans. From resource constraints to communication breakdowns, the challenges are real. Not only are they real, but they can also pull you off the path of your plan and next thing you know, you are drowning in everyone else’s emergencies. But fear not! A systematic approach can help overcome these hurdles. By embracing a clear focus and determined mindset, businesses can navigate through the challenges and thrive.

You can find your power in a systemized execution. Effective execution isn’t just another business saying. It’s a transformative force that can revitalize your retail shop in this changing economic climate. Stories abound of companies that achieved remarkable results by focusing on steady execution. Through their journeys, we see that dreams do come true when coupled with unwavering execution strategies. Remember, these stories only tell you the outcomes of the plan and not all the stumbles that the owners went through to get there. No one executes perfectly, what they do is stay true to their vision and fight to stay on course. Harnish has a Rockefeller Habits Checklist to help you stay on course and create a systematic execution plan.

Crafting Your Execution Plan

There are three disciplines to execution:

  1. Priorities
  2. Data
  3. Meeting Rhythm

The 10 Rockefeller Habits all fall within these three disciplines making it easier to build the habits of execution that will help your company grow.


Really, it’s not priorities, it’s THE PRIORITY. Just like the Highlander, there can be only one. There is one guiding star that is born from a clear vision, mission, and core values. This North Star is what keeps your leadership team in alignment and focused on the number one thing that needs to be accomplished in the next three months.

Vision: “A vision is a dream with a plan,” writes Verne Harnish. This is a quick who, what, when, where, and why of your business. It distills down to one sentence that is memorable, which is important, because you will want everyone in your company to memorize it!

Mission: This is the ‘how’ of your vision. How are you going to deliver your vision? Again, this is another simple, memorable sentence that connects your vision statement.

Core Values: These are the five values and beliefs that drive the culture and personality of your business. There may be five simple words or phrases. If you choose descriptive phrases, keep them to four words or less to keep them memorable and instill them in everything you do.

Purpose or Guiding Star: This is one word or phrase that encompasses everything and aligns your team. “At Coventry, it is Magic! When we move away from Magic, we lose our focus.”

There are five habits in the Priority discipline:

Priorities #1: The executive team is healthy and aligned

Many of the independent retailers I talk to laugh at the idea of an executive team as they ARE the executive team. Whether you are a team of one or have a few team leads and managers on staff, making sure your leadership is working in alignment is important. If you have just a few part-timers helping you, they are, by default, a part of your exec team, and making sure that you all understand each other’s differences, priorities and styles is part of staying healthy and aligned. Meetings regularly, continuing your education, and constructive debates that all members are comfortable participating in are signs of a healthy and aligned team.

Priorities #2: Everyone is aligned with the number one thing that needs to be accomplished this quarter to move the company forward

This is where the visibility of your priority is critical. From this singular focus, you can identify the three to five goals that will move that one priority forward. Everyone on your team gets a goal to champion and together you celebrate the wins at the end of the quarter. Why not create a theme for the quarter to keep everyone aligned and in a fun mindset?

Priorities #3: Every Facet of the organization has a person assigned with the accountability for ensuring goals are met

This is the secret sauce of execution and empowers your team to do more. Everyone is accountable and empowered and it helps you ensure you have the right person in the right seat. This also starts the process of making everything measurable. Yes, everything is measurable from sales to customer satisfaction, and knowing the number helps you hit your goals. Not all goals are equal, assign the appropriate level of responsibility to each person.

Priorities #4: Core values and purpose are “alive” in the organization

What good are your core values if no one knows them? When they are alive in your business, they are referred to when making decisions. This supports your team in making decisions in a way that you would support because everyone is using the same core values and purpose.

Priorities #5: Employees can articulate the key components of the company’s strategy accurately

Everyone in your business is in sales. They talk about where they work, what they do there, and if they like it. When they understand the strategy and BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) of your company and can speak excitedly about them, they are your best salesperson.


Data-driven decision-making is the path to success in the retail world. It may seem dry and boring, but tracking key metrics that matter to your business will guide your way to growth. There are four habits that drive the data in your business, and the discipline needed to get them makes it worth the work.


Data #1: Ongoing employee input is collected to identify obstacles and opportunities

Harnish says “bring every brain into the game.” He recommends having start/stop/keep conversations in one-on-ones with your team members every week. This gives your team time to think and communicate and builds the habit of them giving your input on the obstacles and opportunities they are seeing throughout their day.

Data #2: Reporting and analysis of customer feedback data is as frequent and accurate as financial data

Collect and share customer conversations, reviews, and complaints in your weekly meetings. This is everyone’s job and it’s not personal. These insights can make a difference when you are wondering why sales are down. Social media is an obvious choice, making sure to look at your Google reviews, and even parting comments from customers as they leave your store.

Data #3: All employees can answer quantitatively whether they had a good day or week

Everyone has at least one number they can report that tells of their productivity. This KPI (Key Performance Indicator) is simple and aligns with the goals and North Star of your store — things like the number of sales, average sales per customer, number of walk-in customers, engagement on your social media, etc.


Data #4: The company’s plans and performance and visible to everyone. Visibility is transparency

If your goals are not visible, they are not top of mind, measured, or cared about. Keep them in a place where they are seen, reported on, and celebrated! The whiteboard in the break area or office is an easy place to start. This is also where everyone tracks their KPIs in preparation for the weekly meeting. Whiteboard, Google Docs, sticky notes . . . as long as all parties have access. Make a system and then make it better.

Meeting Rhythm

As an owner and manager, meetings can feel like they run your life and are a waste of time, but really, they can have the biggest return on investment if you run them with the right rhythm, have them for the reason, and have the right people there. It is so important that we only have one habit listed in this discipline:

Meeting Rhythm #1: Communication rhythm is established and information is moved through the organization accurately and quickly

If you want to sabotage your success, ignore internal communication. It’s challenging, annoying, and at times feels juvenile and petty, but well-run internal communication can be the fine line between hitting your goals and feeling like you can never achieve them.  Having a daily huddle, a weekly staff meeting, days of learning and quarterly planning meetings keep your momentum going and communication transparent across all levels.

There are four critical meetings to establish to create a powerful communication rhythm in your business:


Daily huddles

Weekly staff meetings

Monthly manager meetings, and

Quarterly planning meetings.

These are timed meetings with a clear purpose and agenda to keep them from becoming emotional energy and time sucks.

Daily huddles: For the staff that is in for the day to review what goals, challenges, and information from the previous day they are working with.

Weekly staff meetings: For everyone on your team that has a number they are responsible for. Your team will be reporting on their numbers, challenges, and items they will need to inform the entire team of and use their help resolving.

Monthly Manager Meeting: For a day of learning, resolving big issues, and what Verne Harnish calls a “DNA transfer” of knowledge, values, and strategy. This is an approach from upper to middle management.

Quarterly/Annual Planning Meeting: All-day offsite meeting once a quarter to set your theme for the next 90 days or year and set the strategic direction. Additionally, you have a 30-45 minute meeting with your entire team to communicate what was decided at that meeting.

In the exhilarating journey of retail entrepreneurship, execution is the magic that turns dreams into reality. By adopting the Rockefeller Habits, you can conquer challenges, craft solid plans, and master the art of execution.

Strategy is only as good at the execution you achieve. This is the discipline that will allow you to watch your small retail shop soar to new heights of sustainable growth and success. Remember, the magic lies within your grasp, waiting to transform your vision into a vibrant, thriving reality. As you embark on this exciting adventure, let the magic of execution lead you to triumph!

Jacki Smith
Author: Jacki Smith

Jacki Smith is the co-owner of Coventry Creations. Her passion for personal empowerment and small business has been the driving force in her success and her journey of lifelong learning. Jacki is a regular contributor to the magazine and loves sharing her experience, successes and cautionary tales.