Keep your annual revenue plan on course after setting it in motion

In my many years of working with companies to develop their annual strategies for long-term revenue growth, I have discovered that inevitable day-to-day business distractions are a common impediment to successful implementation. Constant attention and adjustment is required. Once a strategic plan has been launched, it will not self-correct! Real-world influences will demand a continual effort to stay on track by monitoring interim results and regulating activities accordingly.

Applying the concept of “trim tabbing” to the revenue growth process allows you to use small efforts to have a large impact on how well, how quickly – or even whether – your plan’s goals are reached.

So, what is trim tabbing? In marine and aeronautical design, a trim tab is a small surface attached to the trailing edge of a larger surface, such as the keel of a ship or the rudder of a plane. By applying a minor touch to the trim tab, a very significant impact on the craft’s direction can be implemented with very little effort. Without it, the helmsman or pilot would need to make frequent, large, sudden course corrections requiring extra energy and often jarring all the passengers and crew.

Imagine driving along a straight road, with your hands gently placed on the wheel; those tiny motions you instinctively make to keep the car in the middle of a lane, or to negotiate a very gentle curve, are just like trim tabs. Think of how it would be if you were restricted to only major turns of the wheel.

In the same way, specific, minor, focused actions, executed frequently, can have large impacts on your revenue growth plan over time. We often skip the small, immediate actions because we aren’t focused on the longer-term. And that represents a major, missed opportunity.

Let’s face it, we humans naturally resist change. Simply because committing to a formal strategy can be daunting, we sometimes keep pushing that important, proactive step back to deal reactively with our day-to-day demands.

Why not do both?

  1. Create a detailed and precise revenue goal along with an implementation plan to support achieving that goal.
  2. Declare a position for yourself as trim-tabber-in-chief, so that when the inevitable distractions occur, you are constantly making small adjustments to move your organization back on track to achieve that goal while avoiding major changes that could rattle any organization’s staff.

In VCRO’s strategic planning workshop, Intentional Revenue Growth, our clients create a detailed, precise, and clearly articulated revenue growth goal, and a path to successfully achieve that goal. However, we do not ignore the fact that “stuff happens” and, as we caution our participants, from time to time you will likely find yourself off your chosen path and this is not necessarily a bad thing.

You might be further along toward your goal than you expected at that point, or you might be behind and not meeting your KPIs – Key Performance Indicators. Maybe you had a win beyond what you thought possible, or maybe you lost the last couple of business pitches and aren’t hitting your projected revenue numbers. When it’s clear that something needs to be done, it’s time to trim tab! To nudge the entire company along with minimal effort and minimized disruption.

If the “stuff” was positive, you might want to increase your goal, and if you are below target you will need to take action to get the entire company’s new business effort back on track. But gently! It would be disruptive – and probably inefficient – to change everything the organization is doing just because a revenue target was missed, or to suddenly increase your revenue goal for the next quarter by 20% to make up the loss. You need not achieve the target today just because you missed it yesterday. Acknowledge the gap, refocus everyone’s eyes on the declared target – goal and time – and make small adjustments to what you are doing now.

And, above all, don’t keep doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. Apply your expertise and change something for the future. Remember: A small effort can move a big enterprise on its way to tomorrow’s goal.

A final word to affirm the power of trim tabs: The great innovator, architect, and philosopher R. Buckminster (Bucky) Fuller was renowned for his comprehensive perspective on the world’s problems, ­ pioneering solutions that applied innovative design to create technology that does “more with less.” Bucky translated the trimtab concept from ships and airplanes to management, and his gravestone says: “CALL ME TRIMTAB”

Buckminster Fuller’s gravestone at the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.