Vision Without Execution Is Hallucination

Todd Schrock, Advisor with The CEO Advantage

How to Overcome the Unique Challenges of Emerging Businesses (20-100 Employees)  Article #7 in the series

“Incredible things in the business world are never made by a single person, but by a team.”

(Steve Jobs, Apple co founder)

Small company CEOs must transition away from the role of a one-person spark plug for leadership and action—and for execution and bottom-line results. The Founder-CEO’s personal strengths, endless energy and entrepreneurial mindset may have been the original platform for success.

But if the CEO’s ultimate vision is bigger than he or she can achieve by brute force of will through 20 or so people, then in order to realize that future vision, the execution platform must become the entire company, instead of only the CEO. Therefore, CEOs must learn to leverage a leadership team that can accomplish organization-sized results.

Execution, getting the right things done, must no longer be primarily personal, but rather an integrated, firm-wide task.

Are you still an entrepreneur only? Or are you adding the key CEO skills that can increase the execution capabilities of your whole company?

A company’s lack of integrated execution is an early indicator of a current skill gap for many entrepreneurial CEOs. Entrepreneurs who grow into small-company CEOs too often still rely on some combination of their own intuition and the bottom-up, self-directed action of others even as the firm hits this critical 20-100 employee size.

Bottom-up proactivity is essential for decision-making, problem-solving, customer satisfaction, and more. But effective leadership, through the clarity provided for overall vision, strategy, and execution planning decisions can only come from the top.

Success at this stage involves establishing a leadership team, then growing and maturing the team until it is unified and working in sync. Reconfigure roles. Or even replace certain members, if you must. But find the group that can lead the company through the unique challenges of this emerging and low-midsize growth stage.

This leadership team, as it learns and grows in its ability to use a successful strategy execution process, can clarify the original vision and translate it into the results of the whole company.


“Vision without Execution Is Hallucination”

(often attributed to Thomas Edison)


Execution is critical for the entrepreneur from the start. Now it is the critical focus of the whole Leadership Team.

Opportunity: Build an Effective Leadership Team

Growing a cohesive and aligned leadership team is the CEO’s biggest opportunity to crank up organization-wide execution of the company goals. An effective leadership team is one of the best possible ways to avoid the predictable problems (explained earlier in this series of articles) caused by the three deadly distractions:

  1. Undisciplined pursuit of growth (instead of focusing on the right customers)
  2. Cash crises, both now (from the lack of internally generated cash flow) and in the future (from the lack of sufficient accumulation of capital and credit-worthiness)
  3. Layers of complexities that multiply when adding each additional employee (and system and location)

So, why does the first Leadership Team usually get created? And what are the first steps? We will explore that more in the next article about second leadership opportunity.

Questions for CEO Reflection

  • How well does your whole company execute its goals, getting the right things done?
  • Does your company execute significantly better than in your early days with only a few employees, as evidenced by profit or operational cash flow per employee? Or not?
  • Could your company still hit its goals if you had to be out-of-touch for a whole month?
  • As you think of your company’s three- to five-year plan, where does your leadership team need to grow most?


Strategic thinking?

Execution planning?

Growing your people’s skill and effectiveness?

Accountability for results?

© 2017 From the Top, LLC

CEO Rhythms Forum

If your company is in Northeast Indiana, consider expanding your circle of informal advisors by joining your CEO/Owner peers and me in a CEO Rhythms Forum, a new opportunity for those with the unique challenge of owning or running businesses of 20-100 employees.


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