Your Company’s PRIMARY Thing is (Almost) Everything

Step #3 in the Strategy Sprint to develop a sustainable Execution Habit: Confirm Your PRIMARY Goal for This Year

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Last year my company launched an Inbound Marketing strategy for one of our channel partners.  An Inbound Marketing engine takes between 18 − 24 months to build.  I chose HubSpot as the Inbound software platform to build our channel partner’s Inbound web site.  I asked Bryan Halligan, CEO and Founder of HubSpot this question: “If I did one thing well in the next 12 months to build the best Inbound Marketing engine, what would that be?”  He said: “Create a continuous flow of quality content.”  I used Bryan’s suggestion to build an execution strategy around a PRIMARY goal to Create a Continuous Flow of Quality Content by 12.31. My  strategy included priorities, action points and metrics to accomplish that PRIMARY Goal.

EH Primary Goal


The PRIMARY Goal is the “one thing”, or next big step that your inner circle needs to accomplish by 12.31 of the current year.  It can be a traditional financial number (Revenue, EBITDA, Gross Profit), especially if the financial threshold influences the interest of capital providers.  The PRIMARY Goal can also be be a non-financial target as in the case of a recent client that identified their PRIMARY Goal as “Our New Product on the Shelf by 12.31”.  This means their new product will be available in Walmart by the end of the year.

Your company’s first PRIMARY Goal will become the foundation of your team’s Execution Habit.  As I previously stated in my last post, almost all leadership teams are out of sync on strategy.  The first PRIMARY Goal provides the “track” for your Strategy Sprint; it’s often the first opportunity for your team to be on the same page with company strategy.  Studies reveal that ripple effects occur throughout the organization when a company’s inner circle aligns around any worthy goal that impacts the company’s performance. These ripples improve operational efficiency across multiple departments in addition to increasing the bottom line.

A PRIMARY Case Study

When Paul O’Neill took the helm as CEO of Alcoa after several years of declining earnings, he made it clear that the company would focus on one thing going forward: Plant Safety.

O’Neill figured his top priority, if he took the job, would have to be something that everybody— unions and executives— could agree was important. He needed a focus that would bring people together, that would give him leverage to change how people worked and communicated.   

By attacking one habit and then watching the changes ripple through the organization. “I knew I had to transform Alcoa,” O’Neill told me. “But you can’t order people to change. That’s not how the brain works. So I decided I was going to start by focusing on one thing. If I could start disrupting the habits around one thing, it would spread throughout the entire company.”

Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

As a result of O’Neill’s strategic focus, Alcoa employees world-wide aligned around Plant Safety for the next decade while the company experienced significant growth every year.

PRIMARY Goal Examples

Here are a few PRIMARY Goal examples:

  • 500 Platinum Memberships by 12.31
  • 250 Systems Placed by 12.31
  • Break Even by 12.31
  • UberWidget on the Shelf by 12.31
  • 5 Hospital Buying Groups as Clients by 12.31
  • $12 Million in Capital Secured by 12.31


  • Ask your team “What is the one thing we can do, that by doing it everything else will be easier or uneccessary?”
  • Make the PRIMARY Goal actionable and attach the year-end completion date
  • Answer this question in the PRIMARY Goal statement: “What is the X to Y by when?”
  • Help your team word it correctly, but make sure they like it, embrace it, and own it

After your team has identified your PRIMARY Goal for this year, you are ready for the next step of the Strategy Sprint: Identify the Right Priorities, Action Points, and Metrics.  Stay tuned.

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