New Year’s Resolutions for Business

Posted on Wednesday 1 January 2014

Corporate Push-Ups

Surprise. It's already 2014. And for most of you reading this that roller coaster ride we call work is already kicking off the new fiscal year with a bang.

Also — for reasons some sociologist can explain — this is the time of year many take on some major commitments to become better people in some way. It could be this happens now because we actually have some time for deeper personal reflection. It could also be just because we ate too much over the holidays and guilt — along with perhaps an additional 20 pounds — has begun to sink in.

But enough of that personal resolution stuff. You probably have it all figured out anyway, and — even if you did need help with it — there are thousands of other gurus writing some other blog you can check out.

What is something you might not have looked at — and it is a funny thing, that — is setting some solid New Year's Business Resolutions for the coming year. So as a public service, here are some to consider as the 1st of the year passes by.

Business Resolution #1: Lose some weight.

On a personal basis when you weigh too much it slows you down, keeps you from looking your best, and affects your health. In business, the metaphor of “having too much weight” can include everything from taking on too many projects at the same time, stocking too wide a variety of merchandise if you are in sales or a distributor, occupying larger facilities than required, and hiring more people than you need. It can also include cluttering your day with unnecessary meetings or doing work you could easily outsource to be carried out better and at less cost.

And even though you will free people up by aggressively going after Resolution #1, don't automatically start laying people off just because you think you can. Consider redeploying on a narrower range of projects so products or services can get out sooner (which brings in more income for your business faster), retraining, spinoffs, or other forms of restructuring. These are good people with strong skills you hired for good reason. Show them the respect they deserve.

Another way to “lose some weight” is taking a hard look at the business partners you work with and seeing if changes there are in order. Look at support services (such as shippers, for example) and suppliers (of hardware, software, and even things like cloud services). But just as with the comment about your own people, don't just jettison a business partner without considering first if there is another path to consider with them.

Business Resolution #2: Get in shape.

This one is about human resources, facilities, tools, and more.

On the “soft” people side of things, invest in formal training, executive coaching, and business process improvement. On the “hard” side of technology, consider upgrading equipment and software, facilities enhancements, and updating your IT capabilities. Also, since your organizational effectiveness is determined not just by what happens within your company, do take a look at whether there are steps you should take with your business partners to help them get in better shape as well. They are often as important to the value you deliver to your customers as what you do all on your own.

Business Resolution #3: Lose a bad habit.

If we were talking about personal bad habits it is usually easy to make a list. Popular ones people sign up to this time of year are quitting smoking, cutting down on too much television watching, or eliminating some of that junk food from your diet. Those are easy to identify as bad for you, even if you seem otherwise healthy (in weight or blood pressure, for instance).

In business it is sometimes initially hard to find equivalents of these, but one good approach is to take a look at how you spend each business day, week, or month and analyze what truly adds value to what your business is out to accomplish. Maybe you decide some of the routine meetings that clutter every week could be pushed back to biweekly or maybe monthly. Or maybe there are things your business does that could be cut back or dropped entirely; one company we know cut back on office cleaning from three times a week to twice a week and saved an amazing amount of money annually — with no loss of polish to the workplace.

And while you are at it, look at the equivalent “bad business habits” you may be imposing on others who support you, both inside your organization and outside it as well. Do you really need all the reports you ask for, for example?

There are more like this but you probably get the idea. Whatever personal resolutions you may be setting this time of year there are business equivalents that are just as worthwhile to consider.

Now comes both the hardest and most important part of setting resolutions: How to raise the odds for success in whatever you set out to accomplish.

Here the best advice is probably the simplest: Make your Business Resolutions tie directly to both the long-term Strategic Aims and short-term Tactical Objectives for your business. Along the way make sure you honor both the values your business stands for and the strategic partnerships who support you, because you could not survive long without either. But if your Business Resolutions have been crafted to support the higher-level needs your business Strategies and Tactics require, you will find it much easier to master the willpower to keep focus on those Business Resolutions even as achieving those specific goals may seem harder and harder to pull off.

And yes this last bit of advice works equally well for personal New Year's Resolutions as well. If they are just about losing 10 pounds, quitting smoking, or building a little more muscle mass, you may find achieving them is harder than you thought. But if they are in support of a bigger goal, like providing more energy for time with your family, living longer so maybe you will live to see your grandchildren's children grow older, or perhaps even connected to an external reward (like taking a hoped-for trip or finishing that book you wanted to write), you may be surprised what you might accomplish.

Good luck on both sets of resolutions as the New Year rolls in. And if you have a chance, drop us a line about some of the goals you've set for your business in 2014; we would love to hear.

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