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.

Embrace the Change that Life Brings

Change can be a good thing. Indeed, it often is. Sure, change to an oppressive political regime isn’t the kind of change people want to see, but progress is built on change, however resistent we might be to it happening in the first place.

I’ve been going through some interesting changes in my life recently.

At first, I was not pleased by the idea of these changes. They challenged what I thought I wanted to be doing with myself, the way my life was structured and what I thought the right thing was. The changes were practically an affront and I felt like the alligators were snapping.

But I’m a turnaround guy, and I pride myself on my ability to assess a seemingly negative situation and changing conditions, understand them from everyone’s point of view, and seek amicable and advantageous solutions for me and my side and whomever else I can.

When I stopped being bothered by the challenge of change that I didn’t want, I started to make peace with the notion, really evaluating why it was that this change was confronting me at this point.

And the more I thought about it, the more comfortable I got – indeed, the more I wanted it. I realized that I just wanted the change to happen in a different way. Ultimately, the change would be there, but I needed to see why it was good and make it so.

In the last few days, I’ve actually come to realize that if the change doesn’t happen, I’ll be downright disappointed. And I want it to happen fast. But that’s the nature of a turnaround guy. When we want something to materialize, we roll up our sleeves and make it happen.

So, change, I await you with open arms.

What changes are going on in your life or business? Are you excited or wary? Why?

Prepare for Change: The Tale of K-Mart the Big Gorilla

Everything changes but change itself.

– John F. Kennedy

Little rings truer to me than this statement by President Kennedy.

I was speaking to a CEO group just last week and I was telling them: change is coming, change is here, change is staying. What does that mean? It means that everything changes but change itself.

Conditions will never remain the same, and as a business person you have to prepared for that. Be ready for the future and be ready for change.

Let me give you an example, that I like to call the Big Gorilla example.

A while back I was CEO of a manufacturing company that made t-shirts and sweatshirts. We did good, steady work, and one day K-Mart came to us and started placing huge regular orders. A big change!

They asked us to change our manufacturing capabilities to suit their needs. We did. Another big change that seemed worth it because they ordered so much so regularly.

Then one day, after we produced a million dollars worth of merchandise branded explicitly for K-Mart, they told us not to ship their order, that they were having some financial issues. That was $1 million of merchandise!

This was unwelcome change, and this is the power of the Big Gorilla. The Big Gorilla changes your customer mix; it changes your business; then it changes its relationship with you.

When K-Mart told me to destroy the merchandise and that I couldn’t sell it anywhere – I just had to eat it – I was pretty perturbed. I, of course, didn’t listen, and sold the merchandise overseas at enough to break even. When K-Mart eventually found out (an executive was vacationing in the area and noticed the locals wearing the merchandise), the company terminated its relationship with us, changing the nature of our business again. We had lost our Big Gorilla.

Two lessons come out of this story. The first is: Be Wary of the Big Gorilla. It’s nice to get a big buyer but when someone controls that much of your customer pie, change is always on the horizon.

And that brings us to the second lesson: Change is the Only Constant. Believe it and prepare for it by staying aware, recognizing that all projections have holes and flawed assumptions, being proactive rather than reactive and having controls in place.

What change has caught you by surprise? How do you prepare for change? Have you ever had a Big Gorilla – what happened?