The founder and CEO of Pleasant Ridge-based ePrize says that when he considers what’s happened to some of his competitors, he’s clear on what he needs to do to stay on top.
“When I see what we’ve done to others, it makes it that much more relevant for us to be on top of our game and be the ones innovating, rather than being innovated,” Linkner says.
With five U.S. offices and one in London, ePrize creates interactive promotions for the world’s most recognized brands, and Linkner predicts 2006 revenue of at least $40 million.
Smart Business spoke with Linkner about how he sets and achieves goals, and how he measures his success.
How do you grow your company?
I’m a big fan of the book ‘Good to Great.’ Jim Collins writes about doing a lot of little things right that ultimately create momentum.
One thing that was fairly critical to the growth was our culture: building, nurturing and empowering our team members and providing an environment that enables them to bring out their best.
We do a lot of tactical-type things. We get together every other week for a full companywide huddle. We’ll conference in my other offices, and we make sure that everyone is singing to the same sheet of music. We laugh a lot, compare notes, share successes and take challenges head-on, so that’s a good opportunity.
What I’ve tried to foster is a balance of passion, creativity, urgency, fire-in-the-belly, but that’s also tempered by accountability and discipline. Having both sides of that coin is hard to foster but when it works, it really works great because you have people who are aggressive and creative, but they’re not sloppy. There’s a method to the madness, so to speak.
How do you plan to meet your goal of growing revenue to $150 million by 2009?
We’re in a very strong, fast-growing market. There’s a lot of external opportunity around us. Internally, we have a very focused, march-down-the-field game plan that involves expanding our product offerings, increasing sales, marketing and distribution, and nurturing and growing our clients. So it’s a lot of good, old-fashioned roll-up-your-sleeves and grow a solid company.
The thing we’re doing specifically is looking at 2006 as a building year. At the board level, we said, ‘You can either pay now or pay later in terms of investment.’ So we said with 2006, even though we’re growing dramatically, we’re going to keep profitability about the same, and the extra money that we would be making this year, we’re pulling back into the company.
We’re literally making millions of dollars of investment in infrastructure, facilities, people and our brand. The idea is that, by investing in 2006, it will really support our mid- and long-term goals.
How do you set effective business goals?
I’m a big fan of that SMART concept, goals which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. If you have a goal, ‘I’m going to lose weight,’ that’s very arbitrary. If you say, ‘I’m going to lose 10 pounds by a certain date,’ that’s something you can measure and track.
As a company and I’ve been doing this every year since I started it I solicit feedback from everyone in the company, regardless of role. ‘Give me two suggestions that you think should be on our top 10 goals as a company for this coming year.’
I read through them, and it’s very collaborative. Ultimately, we roll our top 10 companywide goals.
We then break those goals into subsections, and each department needs to look at what behaviors they need to exhibit in order to support the goal. We take a fairly disciplined approach by identifying very specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely goals and then putting an action plan underneath them.
The other thing that’s important is tracking them along the way. You don’t want to know if you’ve made it or missed it on the day the goal is due. You want to be able to set up some benchmarks along the way to determine if you’re making progress, and if not, you can adapt.
It’s all about the measurement because I think if you can’t measure it, then how do you know if you hit your goal or not?
How do you stay focused on your goals?
It’s realizing the vision, breaking that down into small, manageable action items, sheer willpower and persistence, ignoring the noise around you and staying focused on what you’re trying to accomplish.
Every day I remind myself what the goal is, where we are headed, and that’s why I like to share it. That’s a step in the right direction because the more you communicate it, reinforce it and focus on it, I believe the much more likely you will be to achieve it.
HOW TO REACH: ePrize, (248) 543-6800 or www.eprize.com