Get the junk out of your trunk
Every year about this time my wife organizes the house in preparation for the holidays. This includes going through all the stuff we have in our closets, shelves, hampers and trunks. The ritual is fairly painful, because she pulls everything out to reassess usefulness and how each item might fit in our plan for the next year.
Now is the time to get the junk out of your trunk and reassess your direction, tools, products and people. How much baggage does your company carry into every year? Evaluate your business as objectively as possible and get rid of those things that have no place in 2011. Some areas to look at include:
Your business model
Many businesses and industries have materially changed since early 2008. We hear many people talk about the "new normal"; this may mean that products and services that you have relied on for years are no longer valid going forward. One company I work with has relied on a personal one-to-one service model and has added books and videos to their product offering. This was done to diversify their revenue and reduce the reliance on a business model that requires the principals to be involved with the generation of revenue during an 8:00 to 5:00 business day.
What opportunities have you missed in the past that might have put your company in a different place today? I meet with a number of business owners that discuss the actions they could take that would improve their business, but then go on to say "we discussed these areas 12-18 months ago and just couldn't find a way to execute." Does this sound like your company? Many business owners and leadership teams can sit down and plan how to take advantage of new opportunities, but fail to execute. Objectively evaluate your opportunities and develop a plan to get them implemented.
When was the last time you and your management team identified your company's strengths only to find a list that included things like "good customer service" or "good customer relationships"? Evaluate your company from the view point of your customers, partners, competitors and prospects. Does good customer service or good customer relationships set you apart from others in your industry? If not, then look deeper for sustainable areas of differentiation and identify how you can further exploit these strengths for a competitive advantage.
Deep down we all know what some of our weaknesses are, but in many cases don't confront them. It is difficult without outside input to develop a complete list of areas in which your business needs to be improved. Take this time to have candid discussions with your customers to learn how your company can improve. There are also some excellent tools and resources to perform a loss analysis, to develop insight into how your company can improve for the future.
Do you have the right people in the right places in your company? Many businesses have not strategically evaluated their most important asset... their people. Take a hard look at the direction of your company against the skill sets in your business and identify gaps that your management team can work on in the coming year. It may mean moving people into new roles, implementing training programs to help develop your employees, or hiring new people to supplement your team.
As senior leaders we have a tendency of overlooking our own developmental needs. Are you ready to make the changes necessary in the new year to be successful? Just because you have been successful in the past, does not necessarily mean you will be successful doing the same things going forward. Successful leaders are those that can manage in changing environments, retool their company, and operate during times of ambiguity. Take an objective look at yourself and get ready for whatever the future brings.
Look at the junk in your trunk
Take the time to pull your leadership team together and objectively look at these areas as you prepare for 2011. Get an outside facilitator to work with you and your team to help develop the objective thinking and forward look needed to develop the basis of your operating plan for next year. Be prepared to gather additional information from your customers and partners to help guide you through the process. Taking the time to evaluate your business with independent input will help you develop a strong plan.