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April 16, 2014

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Two Thousand Eleven

It seems like I just wrote about moving into 2010. This past year has flown by and I am very ready to move into a new year. By my account, 2010 was a transition year and I truly believe that 2011 will be the year that businesses will begin to thrive once again — that is, if those businesses have made the changes they need to compete in a new economy.

Many people begin a new year with a resolution to do something better or different in the year ahead. It is estimated that only 12 percent of Americans keep their resolutions past March. Perhaps it is because we don’t make realistic resolutions or that there are no consequences for not keeping the resolution. It could also be that we start implementing changes too quickly, without planning the ways in which sudden changes can be integrated into our lives.

Here are some tips for your business to make the best of 2011:

Use January for planning. Use the month of January to plan the year ahead. I know many companies put together strategic planning sessions prior to the beginning of the new year, but I have found that the most effective month for planning is January. Once you are through the holidays, have taken a little time off and are focused on the new year, I believe you will make better plans.

Think about what plans you made or could have made that would have helped progress your company in 2010. Do any of those goals or strategies still apply? What would you have done differently? What do you want to accomplish in 2011? Do you have the capacity and capability to accomplish these goals in one year? Addressing these questions are a great way of starting your planning session.

Don’t stop with just stating goals. Make these goals actionable by developing realistic time frames, setting success metrics, setting follow up/check-in sessions, and being clear with who will be responsible for each goal. Then, make time in your schedule to actually work on the plan and make it important.

Focus on the changes you need to make to execute the plan. Many times, individuals and companies begin working on executing their strategic plans without clearly understanding the prerequisite changes that need to be addressed so that the plan can be executed. Think about it. One wouldn’t take an algebra course without knowing basic math principles.

But many times in business we turn people loose to execute a plan without having the basic knowledge to be successful. Think about what skills and knowledge are necessary to implement the plan. Think about what resources are necessary and whether the appropriate goals are assigned to the right people. I like to use a series of “why” questions to expose these prerequisites. These “why” questions help one set up a sequence of tasks that can lead to a successful implementation plan.

Years ago I was working with a community group who was trying to influence a political body on a large planning initiative. They were trying to figure out how they could be more involved and were complaining that they weren’t invited to be on the planning committee. I asked a series of “why” questions of the group and together we found that the group had never made it known or asked to be on the committee. This was an important prerequisite, as getting on the planning committee would change the way the group approached the initiative and their strategic plan. Once the group asked to be on the committee, they were immediately accepted, opening the door to enable the input the community group desired to give.

Focus on relationships. In most instances, it takes many people to accomplish something in business. Make a list of those people you need to achieve your goals. The list will most likely include your employees, your clients, your colleagues, and your banker. If you don’t have relationships with these people, you will need to develop them. If you do have relationships, you will need to nurture them.

Stay resilient. One thing I’ve learned about being in business — things can and will change. What looks like the best path today may not be the best path tomorrow. That is why it is so critical to stay resilient and open to new information that may change your path or perhaps, change the destination itself. Don’t get stuck so deeply in execution that you miss what is going on around you. Things can change very quickly in this new economy and being flexible and nimble will serve you well.

I am very optimistic about 2011. It will be a good year if we take the time and make the changes we need to make it a good year. Besides, to quote Nigel Tufnel, “this one goes to eleven!”

Until next time...

Craig

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