How Do You Make The INC 5000 List?

On August 23, 2013

How Do You Make The INC 5000 List?

I am super proud to say that The Rocket Company was named to the INC 5000 list.  Our rank is 602.  You can check out the award & stats here. 

We will be writing a lot about this over the next year but I wanted to let you in on one secret to growth.  It isn’t sexy or unique but it works.

Meeting Rhythm

Our meeting Rhythm is organized & it would be WAY too much to write about in one post.  However, there is one piece of our meeting rhythm that every company, non-profit, church, or group can do.

Quarterly Objectives

Definition: Our top 3 priorities that will move the company forward in next 90 days.

I see organizations that do 1 year strategic plans & organizations that do no strategic plans.  We do best on 90 day priorities.  Our objectives are things that will make our company BETTER or BIGGER.  They drive us to not maintain the status quo.  Quarterly priorities drive us to take massive action on the important, not just the urgent.  I honestly believe we would be HALF our size & have an average system if we didn’t do this.

Now, let me get super practical & teach you HOW to decide, design, & deploy your priorities.

1. Go away with your top leaders for 1 night 

You want to go somewhere that has meeting space, eating space & sleeping space.  We rent mountain cabins, go to downtown Atlanta & stay in hotels or use retreat centers.

2. Have a meeting BEFORE the meeting

The top people in your organization should have a meeting before you leave to determine the schedule.  Our schedule is this:

Day 1:

  • 6AM – Leave for meeting location
  • 9AM – Review Vision, Mission, Purpose
  • 10AM – Review previous 90 days (wins & losses)
  • 11AM – Review purpose of quarterly objectives & start having conversations about things that COULD be an objective
  • 12:30PM – Lunch & break
  • 2PM – Continue to develop things that COULD be objectives but eliminating things that aren’t most important
  • 4PM – Narrow down top 5-6 themes
  • 5:30PM – Break
  • 6:30PM – Dinner & hang out rest of night
  • 9PM – Usually doing hilarious stuff by this point 🙂

Day 2:

  • 8AM – Leadership lesson 
  • 9AM – Decide on top 3 priorities
  • 11AM – Design the priorities into right language
  • 12PM – Lunch
  • 12:45PM – Wordsmith priorities & create checklist to know if they have been accomplished
  • 3PM – Leave

3. Deciding on priorities should take a long time

Too many people rush into deciding on the priorities.  As you can see from the schedule, we spend the entire first day in things that COULD be a priority.  This is the time to have everyone speak into what should be most important for the next 90 days.  You should throw everything on a whiteboard & just talk openly.  Don’t wordsmith, just talk & write.

We ALWAYS sleep on 5-6 things that could be priorities.  When we wake up on day two with fresh minds, we usually make better decisions.  The key is to decide.  Narrow it down to only 3.

Key: Visionary leaders need to SHUT UP and listen during this time.  Listen to your team.

4. Design the priorities 

Let me give you an example of before and after.

Before: We should focus on customers more

After: Design customer care system

Subtle change but huge.  The first one is the right idea but not able to be checked off and finished.  The latter is better because at the end of 90 days we can say, “We designed the customer care system”.  People try to do too much to fast.  I suggest having priorities that stretch you but don’t kill you.

Key: Make sure the priority can be checked off.  You should be able to answer the question, “Did we do this priority to completion, yes or no?”

5. Somebody must own each priority 

Every priority should have a point person that will care it to completion.  They do not have to DO all the work, but they must lead that priority.  Yes, this priority is on top of their day to day job.

6. Deploy priorities through weekly communication

When you get back from the retreat, you must communicate in writing, meetings & videos your quarterly priorities.  If you do not do this, you will fail miserably.  Every week in our team meeting we hear an update from the point person on where the priority is.  We also send out weekly emails with reminders about them & we talk about them all the time.  Setting the priorities is way easier than doing them.

7. Don’t accept failure consistently 

Hitting quarterly objectives are the most important thing we do.  Do not let the ball drop & not hit them.  Demand the priorities are hit & inspire your team to WIN!

I’m sorry the post was a little bit longer but I wanted to give as much help & detail as possible.  If you have ANY specific questions about this process, comment on the post & I will personally answer your questions.  This is a PASSION of mine & would love to help anyway I can. 

Bonus Tip: If just starting out, I would have one priority on growth, one on organizational health, & one for the staff. Don’t make them ALL growth unless that’s all you care about!


  • By caseygraham  9 Comments   


    Posted by Gerhard Vierthaler on
    • Aug 23 2013
    Awesome Casey, appreciate the detailed insights. I like Verne Harnish' Rockefeller Principles approach to meeting rhythms and themed objectivesWorking with clients on strategic planning and quarterly objectives I find that successful execution of strategy is by far the biggest set back firms are struggling with. Designing priorities, milestones and assigning ownership to individuals is huge. Assigning the lead is ok, but somebody must ultimately deliver. Good point on accepting failure consistently - it's a broken record in mediocre growth companies: "We didn't have time", "We don't have the man-power", "We don't have the resources", they tend to give up easy because its "too hard". Retaining the status quo gets you one thing - irrelevance and more of mediocre performance. Massive action is hardly optional anymore...thanks for your call to action!
      Posted by Casey Graham on
      • Aug 26 2013
      I love his book too. It's changed everything for us. Thanks for the comment Gerhard.
      Posted by Casey Graham on
      • Aug 26 2013
      I love Verne! We operate off his system. Thanks for the comment and I'm going to look into what you do!
        Posted by Gerhard Vierthaler on
        • Sep 6 2013
        Thanks for the shout out. we took our team through the 2 day workshop by Verne - definitely transformed the way we did business. Love what you do with the Rocket Company.
    Posted by Scott Reyes on
    • Aug 23 2013
    Thank you for sharing this. What would you recommend for a 2 person startup team? Is going away still necessary?
    Posted by Larry Poole on
    • Aug 23 2013
    Casey, this was an incredible post for me. I struggle in many of these areas. As a sole proprietor who hopes to grow a module-based generosity program like Giving Rocket, how do you set objectives and find accountability? Wearing the hat of visionary, content creator, and project manager can be a bit overwhelming...and it's not because of lack of passion or commitment. Accountability is my biggest struggle. What's the one piece of advice you'd offer? Thanks in advance Casey.
      Posted by Casey Graham on
      • Aug 26 2013
      Larry, in your position here is what I would suggest. Hire a coach. You need accountability to do what you set out to do. Yeah, I know it's expensive... However, you will probably stay stuck until you have one. I've seen it again and again.
    Posted by Casey Graham on
    • Aug 27 2013
    I'm not sure I understand your question Larry... Email me
    Posted by sethyelorda on
    • Sep 6 2013
    Great post! Just one question: As a pastor, how do I lead my church to set quarterly goals when we operate on an annual budget? It would seem that the budget would change each quarter depending on the goals that were established. This would be the death of my treasurer and finance team. Any thoughts?

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