Guest Columnist, Peter Wendel
Once again we enter a new year. But this one is different! We have a new president elect, the economy is in shambles and every business is facing new, serious challenges. What used to work won’t work now.
It’s often normal to use this time of the year to step back, evaluate where we are and set some new goals for the New Year. In our personal lives it’s called ‘making new years resolutions.’ In business, it’s an informal kind of strategic planning.
But often, we do a kind of problem solving; focusing on trying to do what we’ve been doing, but better – a kind of ‘fix mode.’
The trouble is that because the world has changed, fixing often isn’t good enough. We need to shift from dealing with today’s problems to focusing on building a different future. Instead of being problem driven, it’s time to be vision led.
Let’s take some time to explore ideas for business owners to ponder as you prepare for the new, different 2009. Remember, you are being challenged to think differently – to let go of old ideas and old approaches.
Here are some ideas for you to consider as you look ahead:
The ultimate measure of success of any business is how well it helps you and your associates achieve your personal goals. Your sales, innovation, customer service, production, etc. results are all finally measured by the answer to key questions such as; “Were we profitable?” and “Did we move closer to our personal goals?”
This raises the key question for you, “What are my personal goals?” It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut – to keep doing the same thing you’ve been doing. You need to get out of that rut and focus on what you want to create. The change of focus energizes your brain and gets you thinking differently. The key is to have a destination to make informed decisions. Remember the old saying, “If you don’t know where you are going, no road will take you there!”
Start by thinking about your personal goals five to ten years from now. Where do you want to be in your life? What do you want your business role to be? Will you still be working? What is your exit strategy; an internal sale to your associates or an external sale to an outside party? How far along do you want be in the transfer of leadership and ownership?
Now choose what you want to achieve in the next year to reach your five to ten year goals. What do you want to happen in your business to help you achieve your personal goals? Where will you focus your energies and your resources?
What’s going on around you? What has changed in your markets? How are your customer’s expectations changing? What new technological changes will, or might, impact your business? Are new competitors with new solutions and new products entering your markets?
What about your staff? Do your potential future leaders have the needed skills and a ‘fire in their belly?’ Are key people moving toward retirement that you need to replace? Are you in tune with the interests and expectations of the Gen X people who have joined your business?
Now make some plans. You can’t do everything. Decide where you will focus your resources. What should you stop doing, continue doing and what should you start doing that you aren’t doing now to move toward where you want to be next year at this time?
Having a plan doesn’t mean that you must rigidly follow it. The process of thinking about your future pulls you up from the ‘tyranny of the present,’ and moves you from being problem driven to becoming vision led. Thinking about what you want to achieve helps you prepare for unexpected events, capitalize on opportunities and deal with setbacks.
One last observation: I recommend that you don’t do this in a vacuum. Involve others. On the personal side, have conversations with your spouse, your family and others close to you. On the business side, involve your key associates. Explore your aspirations; explain your intentions and the reasoning behind them. Build alignment and involve them in planning the execution. Then check in regularly to be sure that you are all working together. (For ideas on the kinds and frequency of meetings, go to the book Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni.)
It’s not enough to keep doing what you’ve been doing. Your challenge is to clarify the future you want to create and think differently, boldly, about your next steps to get you there.
Peter Wendel is the founder of the Peter Wendel Group, an organization dedicated to helping build high performing companies through strategic planning, team building, and leadership development.