5 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Business in 2012, Part 5

My final New Year’s Resolution is one that can span both 2011 and 2012, as you no doubt have a lot of planning to do.

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

The corollary to the first New Years Resolution we discussed – ensuring continuity – is engaging in short- and long-term planning. Start thinking 3, 6 and 12 months out for short term planning and 2, 3 and 5 years out for longer term planning.

Though it may seem like the final week of the year is a bad time to start doing your planning for the coming year, no time is a bad time to plan if you haven’t done any planning yet.

This is also your last week to do any quick tax planning that may help you for the coming year. Are there any big purchases you’re going to have to make in the next 30 days that you could make now to enhance your tax situation? Talk to your accountant and financial planner if you haven’t already. Make sure they know what you’re doing, where you’re headed and what your goals are. It’s the only way they can help you plan.

To make sure you know where you and your business are going as you enter the New Year, consider sitting down to a series of meetings with your key team members. If you won’t have time for that before the New Year, then take any break time you get to sit down and think through what you want and where you’re trying to take your business.

Start by figuring out what your goals are.

Is your goal this coming year increased revenue? By what percentage? Would you rather figure out how to increase profits without worrying about revenue? Perhaps there are a few KPIs in your business that could stand improvement? Maybe you’re just looking to survive. Do you want to acquire a competitor this year or make your company enticing in a buy-out?

Whatever your goals, you have to know them in order to do your planning. Map them out over the course of the year and start considering how you’re going to achieve them. Who’s involved? Sales, marketing, fulfillment, accounting? All of the above or none of them? As you consider who’s involved and how you want to achieve your goals, you should be starting to see a sketch of your plan for the coming months and year. Is what you’re developing in line with your even longer term goals?

Consider your plan and then start presenting it to your team members. Though business is not a democracy and you do not need to ask for others’ permission (pending you’re the CEO or key manager – and this exercise can work for managers as well as CEOs), it will behoove you and your business if you get buy in from key stakeholders and team members. That gets them on board, aligned and motivated. Ask for their help, input and concerns. This will help you plan even better.

Once you’ve set up your plan, consider reviewing it with your budgetary committee to make sure that you won’t hit any unfortunate pitfalls along the way. One tool I consider very helpful in short- and long-term planing is the whiteboard. Consider employing one along the way.

Don’t just enter the New Year blind. Resolve to plan with your team and make this year a calculated and successful one.

Good luck!

5 New Years Resolutions for Your Business in 2012, Part 4

So far we’ve had three New Years’ Resolutions for your business, and each of them has been tailored very specifically towards the way you think about and approach your business. Now I want you to take the time to analyze not just your business, but also your business environment.

As a turnaround professional, I know how fast things can change in business. A new competitor can enter the marketplace, seizing a large percentage of your market share in a matter of weeks or months. By undercutting prices, getting better arrangements with vendors, capturing a few large clients/customers or offering something you’re not, competitors can be ferocious.

Rather than live in fear, however, there are some steps you can take to minimize the impact of competitors on your business, at least as a surprise. First, if your business relies too heavily on a “Big Gorilla,” (that is, a single customer or client), make sure that you either diversify, determine what you can do absolutely best for this customer/client and do it, or ensure that there are legal reasons this customer/client is bound to you.

In addition, don’t compromise on routine competitive research to regularly evaluate the marketplace and business landscape. Consider having a full time employee whose job it is to research the products you offer, who else offers them, at what prices and with what conditions, what vendors they use, where they’re located, what their growth looks like and more. If you use the Internet to do a lot of business, consider the tool Spy Fu.

You must know your competition, and you must know them well. Consistently investigate your competition and what your competitors are doing. You never know when a flailing business will be ready to be bought out by a ready and poised you. But you’ll never know if you aren’t researching the competition.

As you plan for the New Year, consider what a great time it is to take a look at your competition in order to incorporate any new information into your planning and self-evaluations.

Monitoring your competition isn’t the only thing you should do to watch your business environment. If you’re in an industry subject to regulation, keep your eyes out for any new legislation as the clock tics towards 2012.

What are you doing to stay apprised of your business environment?

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.