Success in 2016; what will it take?

Dear Ken Keller:

My business has grown only slightly the past few years and the bottom line is shrinking.

I am going to be spending the next two weeks thinking long and hard about how to turn this situation around with the goal of doing some new things in January.

You’ve advised many owners through the years but I wonder if you have any specific advice for me. I am open to hearing whatever you recommend. –Kathy M.

Dear Kathy,

This is the time of year when children of all ages create a list for Santa. These lists consist of “wants” and “nice to haves” but not always “what’s really needed.”

You’ve asked for some advice that will help you become a better leader to run a better business, better being defined as growing more rapidly and making a larger profit.

Some of my recommendations you may already have so what I would say is take another look not at what you have but how you can use it better or differently to suit your specific situation.

First on my short list is a written plan for growth and success for the next 18 months. I recommend a one sheet business plan because it is short, not overly complicated and is convenient to use.

Many plans use a calendar year for planning but my experience shows that most plans take time to develop and execute to see results so I recommend an 18 month planning horizon.

If you cannot find a plan that suits your needs you can create something that works for your business.

Tied to the plan is something more tactical, which is a rolling operational plan for 90 day periods. This is how you keep everyone focused on getting things done; you keep the big picture in mind but you keep your people focused on the here and now.

The 90 day action plan is the agenda for your management meetings. At each meeting people report on progress, shortfalls, address resource constraints and everyone maps out the next 90 days.

Y0u have probably learned that if you don’t get people focused early in the year, and you fall behind the goals, you almost never catch up and before you know it, another year is lost.
The third recommendation is planned time off for rest, relaxation and renewal. If you don’t start planning your vacation now, it may never happen. Take two full weeks off, in a row, at least once a year. Block out the dates, pick a destination and make the preparations internally so the business will run in your absence. Make 2016 the year you went to see something you always wanted to see.

The fourth item is to create an incentive plan for every employee on the payroll. Jack Stack’s book, A Stake in the Outcome, outlined how he and his leadership team reinvented a failing company to great success using employee incentives. Buy the book and invest the time to do it right for your company.

The fifth recommendation is to conduct candid evaluations for every employee all year long. Every employee deserves to be told what they are responsible for and what their standards of performance are.

This becomes exponentially easier once an employee incentive plans are in place. My suggestion is to determine your key result areas, figure out how employees impact the results, set goals, explain to each employee the affiliated rewards and then launch a trial program, adjusting along the way. Monthly payouts work best to keep employee interest high.