It’s 2012: Let’s Roll Up Our Sleeves and Get to Work

Happy New Year, everyone!

I want to welcome you and your business to 2012.

Unfortunately, in business we can’t just say, “Well, it’s a New Year. All from last year is forgotten. Here’s a totally fresh start. Yeehaw.” (Presumably, the yeehaw would have an exclamation point at the end, but that’s somewhat challenging in this fantasy statement since it can’t really happen.)

Despite the inevitability of continuity, some things from 2011 can be halted and considered “past problems” in some sense. For instance, though there are exceptions, by and large, the tax year of 2011 is now over. You may have concerns about what happened and spend the next four months dealing with them, but they’ve happened. You can’t change what happened – only handle it. There’s something relieving about that.

Also, it’s a new quarter. If you took a loss last quarter – or last year – that loss is definitely going to affect you and your business. There’s no getting around that. But it’s a fresh quarter and a fresh year, and that means a chance to make some changes, some positive impressions and, hopefully, some money. That is what you’re in the business of doing, right?

With the Holidays over, December – also known as the Month of Distractions – is behind us. People will return to their regular schedules. Children will go back to school (soon). If you’re in retail and prepare all year for December, only to hold onto your hat while it barrels you over, then normalcy has returned.

That all means that the New Year can be a time for fresh starts, new ideas and inspiration. I’m not one for the New Year’s Resolution Bandwagon (it’s fraught with problems, not the least of which is a total lack of stick-to-it-iveness), but there is something to be gained by using our culture’s mental break between years in order to be an inspirational leader who motivates one’s team and company to rally around strengths and successes and have a great year. If last year was a tough one for your company – as it was for many companies – you’re going to need to be that kind of leader today, this week, this month, this quarter and this year.

Business isn’t easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it. It takes hard work, dedication and a dash of luck. Whether 2011 was the best year ever or the worst on record, take the first work day of the New Year as a time to get back to business and refocus your company and your team. As a turnaround manager, it’s my job to roll up my sleeves, get down in the trenches and get dirty. If all business leaders did that, I wouldn’t have to. My advice to you is to do just that: roll up your sleeves and get to work.

If you are stuck and aren’t sure what to do and how to handle your business, your team, your finances and your general situation, then I want you to start by reviewing my five articles that ended 2011 about Resolutions for Your Business in 2012. Each of them is just as relevant in its own way right now as it was in 2011. These are ways to think about your business and get started in the New Year – an important balance of continuity with the past and innovation for the future.

Ensure continuity and preserve a feeling of consistency for your business and personnel.

Think about a contingency plan in case of an emergency.

Sit down and review your business’ financial documents.

Analyze not just your business, but also your business environment.

Engage your team in short- and long-term planning, and don’t be afraid to innovate.

What are you going to do differently in 2012? How are you going to manage and grow your business? Please share in the comments below.

5 New Years Resolutions for Your Business in 2012, Part 2

When was the last time you looked at your business plan? You remember, that thing you made so many years ago to ensure that you knew what you were doing and that everything was thought through? Wait, you did make one didn’t you?

If so, great – pull it out. If not, I’m not going to ask you to spend your time on that now, but I am going to ask you to think about a contingency plan in case of an emergency.

That’s right, the New Year is a great time to review your contingency plan.

We’re in the middle of a horrible economy. If things are going well for you and your business, I commend you and say, Keep up the good work. But even if things couldn’t be better, you should always have a contingency plan in place that you update at least every two years. At the cusp of 2012, this is a great time to review and update yours since I’d be willing to bet that you haven’t since before 2009 (pardon my assumptions if you review yours bi-annually).

So what should one think about with a contingency plan?

The first and most obvious thing is money. Capital is, after all, the life-blood of any business. Without proper cash flow you won’t be able to buy inventory, make payroll or pay your bills. So, do you have a line of credit? If so, is it currently in use? Could you stand to ask for it to be expanded?

Do you have good relationships with multiple banks? There are hundreds of banks across the country that are failing but can’t even be taken over by the FDIC because they lack the resources to do so. That should make you nervous if you’re banking at any of them, and it should also make you ask whether or not you can find multiple banks with whom to do business.

What assets could you liquidate in case of an emergency? Is there anything non-essential that would fetch a fair value? I’m not suggesting you sell it. I’m only suggesting that you know what you would liquidate and how if you had to.

Do you own your business? Are you it’s president? Is there a board? All of this is to say, think about a succession plan. If something terrible happened to you (God forbid, but you never know), can your business survive without you for one month, three months, a year? Is there someone who will take the reins? These questions are especially important to answer if you are going to ask banks for money any time soon.

What about your other key positions? Who is indispensable to your operations? What would you do if something happened to him or her? How would you replace that person?

Think about your industry and the kinds of emergencies that usually face it. Is it a highly regulated industry? Is it a litigious industry? Are your products safety related? What could go horribly wrong in your industry and business? Think about these things and use your core team to brainstorm potential solutions in case any emergency hits.

You never want to be left wondering what you’re going to do in the event of an emergency. As a turnaround manager, I assure you that having a contingency plan in place is essential and a great way to proceed into 2012.

Resolve to create or update your contingency plan this month.

Consider answering any of the questions I asked above in the comments below and share some of your creative solutions to help others.

5 New Years Resolutions for Your Business in 2012, Part 1

In these final week’s of 2011, I want to offer you a series of 5 posts that will help you prepare for 2012. In essence these are resolutions for your business.

The first thing you want to make sure you’re doing between 2011 and 2012 is ensuring continuity.

The New Year is a time when people resolve to change. Individuals resolve to better themselves by no longer smoking or starting to exercise four times a week. Either they’ll never do something again or they’ll start doing something forever more. Whatever it is, big change is in store for them in 2012. The failure rate for these resolutions though is near 98%.

For businesses, this kind of Big Change Resolution is also often in the air. It’s the “right time” for a huge change in direction. The sales force is going to employ some new strategy. The store is going to get a redesign. Whatever it is, it’s time for Big Change.

And Big Change can be great. If things have been stale and the changes are well researched, then by all means, Big Change away. The problem with Big Change is when it’s happening “just cause.” Because it’s the New Year. Because we should do something. Because we haven’t thought of anything else, etc.

Don’t get distracted by the Big and Shiny, though. Stay focused on the little things that are manageable, in line with your business plan and structure, and whose aggregate can have a Big Change impact.

All of that is to say: Ensure Continuity.

You don’t have to eschew change in order to ensure continuity. You just have to make sure that you’ve successfully evaluated what is working about your current direction, strategy, goals and structure, emphasize its value and continue to pursue it. You can give continuity a fervor that is just as good as the excitement of Big Change.

One of my clients was already planning some big changes by moving into a new office space and warehouse. Their lease was aimed for January 1st. It was an exciting date for change, but they’re a retail business, and that change was coming right on the final days of the Holiday Season. That is to say, they’re already busy and focused. Creating this enormous change  (the new location) at this time of ubiquitous change (New Years), they were heading for a big and jarring impact – not necessarily bad, but more extreme than it needed to be.

For organic reasons, their lease date was extended a few weeks into the year, which changed the way the move was affecting their business and the perceived continuity of transitioning from 2011 to 2012. I know a lot of people in this organization feel better about the transition, and to be honest, the adjustment away from “huge change” on New Years Day is a good one.

Despite the excitement of the calendar’s change, resolve to create a feeling of continuity for you and your team as you move into the New Year. The future of your business will rely on innovation and progress as much as on solid foundations from past successes.

Start thinking about what you can do to create continuity and preserve a feeling of consistency for your business and personnel.

Look forward to four more Business Resolutions for 2012. What are yours? Please share in the comments below.