The Execution Factor: The One Skill That Drives Success


The Execution Factor: The One Skill That Drives Success
Author: Kim Perell
Published: 9/10/2018
Kim Perell made headlines for her amazing transformative story of a startup entrepreneur to an internationally renowned CEO and prominent angel investor. From her modest beginnings at her kitchen table, she went from broke to multi-millionaire in just a few short years. Today, she has investments in over 70 startups many of which have been sold to some of the largest Fortune 500 companies.

Book Summary - The Execution Factor: The One Skill That Drives Success by Kim Perell

Key Insights

If you’re an entrepreneur, you probably know all about hard work. You know you have to be determined and persevere. Likely, you have some idea of what achieving your goals means. Maybe you want to be your own boss or you want financial independence.

But the reality is that not everyone succeeds. Some people have good ideas that never take off or a great product that doesn’t sell. For many aspiring entrepreneurs, this may feel disheartening. Why do some people succeed where others fail?

The difference between dreams and success comes down to execution. You have to be able to take meaningful action to make your goals a reality. This capacity to chart a course of action and carry it out is known as the execution factor.

Kim Perell knows all about execution. She went from an unemployed 23-year-old to a multimillionaire in seven years. As an angel investor, she’s seen that the execution factor over and over in the successful companies she’s invested in.

Perell explores the execution factor. The factor is made up of five traits: vision, passion, action, resilience, and relationship-building. The good news is you can learn this critical component of entrepreneurial success. You just have to be willing to put in the work.

Key Points

Having a vision is critical for mapping out where you want to go.

Vision is the first part of the execution factor. You need to have an articulated idea of where you want to go. This is the long-term aspiration you have. If things don’t go as planned, you try to get back on course towards that goal.

President John F. Kennedy set an ambitious mission for America in 1961. It was the middle of the Cold War. The United States was competing with the Soviet Union, trying to determine who had more power and influence on a global scale. Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet cosmonaut, became the first person to go to space. President Kennedy responded by stating that the United States would put a man on the Moon by the end of the decade.

President Kennedy’s statement was a vision. It was something you could visualize and work towards. Inspiring the nation, it set the tone for actions that culminated in the 1969 Apollo 11 mission. Neil Armstrong took those steps on the lunar landscape and realized the vision.

Your goal doesn’t have to require leaving the planet. But you need to know what you want to accomplish if you’re going to figure out how to accomplish it. You won’t know if the work you’re doing is helping you meet your goals if you don’t have a final destination in mind.

A vision is any sort of goal that isn’t immediate. You could be trying to complete an ambitious task that requires a lot of preparation, such as running a marathon. You may want to acquire a new skill, like baking. Your goal may be broader, like helping the environment or achieving financial freedom.

The path to achieving your vision will probably not be smooth and easy. If it was, you would have done it by now. The vision keeps you focused no matter what obstacles you encounter. Maybe you get injured during training. If you still want to accomplish your goal, you adjust your timeline and plans while keeping the finish line in mind.

It also opens you up to possible avenues to get to where you want to go. Financial freedom comes from a variety of sources and you don’t want to close off opportunities. There are many ways to accomplish your goals. Your vision guides you while you figure out the best way to get there.

Your vision should fit your needs and motivate you.

To work best in supporting execution, a vision needs to be clear and relevant to you.

Clarity allows you to visualize exactly what you’re trying to achieve. Brevity is an important part of being clear. Your vision shouldn’t be a long and complicated statement. Ideally, you should be able to articulate your vision in a sentence.

Specificity is also important for clarity. Your vision statement may be short, but it directly captures what you want to achieve. When you imagine what that looks like realized, you have a robust sense of everything it entails.

Clearly imagining what the reality looks like can be harder than you think. For example, if your goal is to own a food truck that is a clear vision statement. But you have to imagine the day-to-day reality of owning a food truck. This means the hours, the customers, the cooking, and everything else that comes with it. You can seek input on the practical reality from others. Determine if this is something you really want for yourself.

The other side of a good vision is that it is able to motivate you. It expresses what you truly want and doesn’t just take on what others see for you. Your vision should be relevant to you, meaningful for what you want for your life, and compelling to you. Notice that it is all about you and not objective ideas of what might be “good.”

Think of someone who cooks for friends. They rave about what a good cook he is and how he should open a food truck. These ideas stick and he dives in. But he hates it. From the start, he’s inhibiting his ability to succeed from the start because this isn’t something he actually wants. The vision doesn’t fit his needs and won’t motivate him.

To avoid falling into the trap of someone else’s vision for you, try to test it out. If you think you might want to quit your job to open a food truck, try cooking professionally with lower risk. You could enter a cooking competition or have a stall at a weekend festival. Figure out if you enjoy it as more than a hobby before you give up everything to pursue it.

A well-articulated vision that captures your desires is going to be the beacon that guides your success.

Make your vision a priority.

Once you have a vision that you know is a true expression of what you want, you have to do everything to realize it. This means making it a priority and approaching it strategically.

Visualize what your future looks like if you succeed. Use that imagery to focus on what you want to achieve. Also, ask questions about the specifics of that vision. It helps you flesh out what success looks like, including details of your physical space and the kinds of people you want on your team.

Write down your vision and find a way to remind yourself of it daily. You want to make sure that you’re working towards your goal every day. This means that the tasks on your to-do list should be prioritized based on what gets you closer to achieving your vision.

You have a limited amount of time and you need to use it wisely. Sometimes, that means passing on some things you enjoy in order to get what you really want.

You need to be willing to suffer to accomplish your goals.

Passion is the second key to the execution factor. Your passion is more than just something you’re enthusiastic about doing. The word comes from a Latin word that means “suffer or endure.” The origin better explains the nature of passion in the execution factor.

In trying to accomplish your goals, you’re not just going to be doing what you love. You have to be willing to suffer hardships or endure the less enjoyable tasks because of how strongly you feel about what you want. That is the measure of passion.

Passion in this sense is essential to execution because it likely won’t be smooth sailing. Your love of what you’re trying to accomplish has to be able to keep you going when things get hard. If possible, you also want others that share your passion to help as well.

Feed your passion using related activities and by celebrating wins.

A strong passion keeps you charging towards your goals. Maintaining a connection to your passion is important for keeping it strong.

Regular activity that is related to your passion helps keep it strong. For example, if your passion is animals you can start a blog. To allow for time for those activities, you have to prioritize them. This means that you may have to pass on fun things like social engagements. But you have to make time for what matters and your passion gets you closer to your big goals.

In pursuit of your passion, you should also celebrate any win you have. Big or small, every accomplishment should be acknowledged. Relishing the good things that come with your passion helps deepen the passion and fuel your efforts.

Start small and don’t overthink it.

It may seem obvious that to execute, you have to act. But the first step is often the hardest one to take. This is why the third part of the execution factor is action.

So, where do you begin? You have a clear vision for what you want to accomplish and you’re passionate about getting there. There are usually a variety of paths to your destination. You could waste a lot of valuable time trying to figure out the best path. In the end, you’ll have gotten nowhere because all you’ve done is overthink it.

Gather some data before proceeding. You may miss your chance if you wait until you have all the information. Aim for getting between 40 percent and 70 percent of the data to inform your choice.

Do something. Pick a path and take a step forward. This doesn’t mean you throw caution to the wind and jump all the way in on the path you’ve picked. You don’t want to quit your job and pour your life savings into a venture without testing the waters.

You are starting small and then reassessing whether or not that’s the best path for you. The advantage of starting small is that you minimize the risk. You can also figure out what may offer you the greatest chance of success while setting up a side hustle that helps fund your dream.

For example, don’t quit a well-paying job to open a costly restaurant. Start with the farmer’s market on weekends. You could establish a loyal base of customers, identify your best sellers, and bank some money to invest in an eventual restaurant if you still want to open one.

Keep assessing your steps as you go.

Once you’ve taken the first step, don’t stop. Even if the first step is a wild success, you can’t relax. Use the inertia to keep moving. The first step was not your vision, just a start to getting there.

Apple is a good example of constant progress. Even after bringing to market innovative products, Apple doesn’t stop. The company keeps looking to its next product or improvement. They weren’t the first company to bring out a smartphone, but Apple relentlessly pursues better versions of the iPhone.

To keep moving forward, you should evaluate your progress and recalibrate as needed. Each step can get you closer or it may not work out the way you intended. Reviewing it helps you determine what comes next.

You should implement a daily review process. This means you identify everything you did for your vision. Determine if these actions supported the vision and brought you closer to achieving your goals. If you aren’t headed in the direction you want to go, adjust your actions accordingly.

Develop and harness your resilience.

The fourth piece of the execution factor is resilience. It is not only the ability to handle the ups and downs that life (and entrepreneurship) bring. Resilience is also about working with the challenges to make the best of them. You’re not just trying to survive. You want to thrive.

Positivity helps spur resilience. Maintain that you will succeed, rather than accepting defeat and wallowing. Hold onto your confidence and grow from the setbacks. View each challenge as an opportunity to become better. For example, Elon Musk responded to injuries at the Tesla factory by meeting with injured employees to identify potential improvements.

You can develop resilience like any skill. First, set yourself up mentally to respond well to challenges. This means getting to a calmer mindset where you can keep stress under control. Build calmness by using activities like journaling, physical exercise to burn off stress, and meditation. When you face negative emotions, use the activities to center yourself. Identify activities that are relaxing to you, like spending time with loved ones.

Having a calm mindset will help you become unflappable in the face of adversity. Growing from each obstacle is also an approach you can learn. If things don’t go as planned, you can always try to fix it. Force yourself to ask how you can salvage a bad situation or even how it could turn out better. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it.

Relationships can make or break you. Make as many deep and positive ones as possible.

No matter how strong your first four traits are, you’re going to be limited if you try to do everything yourself. The final part of the execution factor is building relationships.

Use relationships to free you up to focus on pursuing your goals. The time and energy of a team of people are better than you on your own. Others can bring skills that you don’t possess. You can’t know everything and tapping those you trust is a more efficient way of bringing in expertise.

Relationships are also a two-way street. Pooling resources mean everyone can do what they’re best at and pitch in. If someone offers their talents to you, reciprocate when you can with the skills you can offer them. Having more mutually advantageous relationships increases your capacity.

The bigger your network, the greater your relationship opportunities. Look for a diverse group of people to add to your social and professional networks. You want people that are in other industries and from different backgrounds. The variety translates to a range of skills and expertise to pull from.

Relationships also take work to maintain. Be thoughtful and remember the important dates for people in your network. When you can, send handwritten notes to wish them well or thank them. And take spare time to connect with them outside of when you need help.

Building a great network also means weeding out bad relationships. Not every person is a good fit for you. Sometimes relationships are lose-lose or they are a one-way street where you feel like you give without getting anything in return. Relationships also evolve and may start positive and become negative.

Periodically review all the relationships in your life. Identify the ones that help you grow or provide support, energy, or inspiration. At the same time, figure out which do the opposite and cut off those relationships.

Of course, it isn’t that easy to cut off every bad relationship. Even if you don’t like a colleague, you still have to interact. The same goes for an in-law that is married to a sibling you love. Make reasonable exceptions and find ways to minimize their negative impacts on you.

There’s also one more category of relationships. Some people are temporarily bad relationships because of circumstances that are out of their control. Grief, illness, or career challenges may make people harder to be around. But you can be there to help pull them through, restoring their positivity. You would probably want them to stick around if you were going through something similar.

Your ultimate goal is to maintain a network of positive relationships. They buoy your resilience, help you take action, celebrate victories to feed your passion, and support you as you pursue your vision. The people around you can help you achieve your goals.

The Main Take-away

The difference between success and failure often comes down to one thing: execution. You can plan all you want, but that’s not going to realize your dreams. The way in which you execute your plans is critical.

Fortunately, the execution factor isn’t just a trait you have or don’t have. It is made up of five components, all of which can be developed. The five parts of the execution factor are vision, passion, action, resilience, and building relationships. These work together for meaningful execution.

If you think of yourself as a driver on a journey in a car, the execution factor is how you get where you want to go. The vision is your destination. You think about it and you have to be specific. It is hard to go to a general place. You need an actual location to be able to drive there.

Passion is the gas in the tank. You need it to get your engine going and you can’t run out. Small tasks related to your end goal and celebrating victories help keep the gas tank full.

Action is actually putting the car in drive and moving. There may be different routes to your destination, but you have to pick one and start moving. Pay attention to your progress and adjust your route as needed.

Resilience helps you deal with unplanned obstacles. Maybe you hit a small pothole and you just have to deal with the brief rough patch. Or you get stuck in a major traffic jam. Cars have safety equipment to handle the worst stuff and keeping a positive attitude even will help you even when things get frustrating.

Sure, you can drive alone. But maybe there are parts of your journey that would be better with some company. Long road trips can get lonely and tiring. If there is more than one driver and you share the burden, you can get there quicker. Or you need special skills on a road that is difficult to navigate. The relationships you build will support you on your journey. Make sure you surround yourself with positive relationships.

With the five pieces coming together, you have what you need. Make it a priority to reach your goals and execute on your plans. Reaching the destination you set out for will be well worth the journey.

About the Author

Kim Perell is an entrepreneur with a background in marketing and advertising.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Business Administration from Pepperdine University, Perell joined Xdrive Technology. In her role as the Director of Marketing and Sales, she brought in more than $9 million in revenue from advertising. Xdrive was an internet startup that eventually went bankrupt and Perell was laid off.

Perell took her marketing expertise and founded Frontline Direct. In seven years, her firm grew to over $100 million in revenue. Building on her success, she sold her company to Adconion Media Group.

After the sale, the two companies merged and Perell became the CEO and the first woman on its board. Four years later the company was sold again but for more than $200 million this time. Perell again stayed on as a leader, serving as president for two years before moving up to CEO.

In 2019, Perell shifted her focus to investing and supporting entrepreneurs. As an angel investor, she’s supported more than 60 businesses. She has judged business ideas on Entrepreneur Magazine’s Elevator Pitch series and appeared in Good Morning America’s segments Side Hustle Showdown and Kidventors.

She lives in San Diego with her husband and their two sets of twins.

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