The Winter of Our Discontent…Wanting and Getting More out of Your Business

It’s quickly approaching that time of year when we look back and reflect on our wins and losses. Like most years past, it’s a mix of both; mostly good with a few lumps thrown in just to keep us humble. Yet each year, we find ourselves wanting a little more. More revenue, more cookies left in the jar.  More satisfaction from more jobs well done. With each passing year comes, to borrow a phase from William Shakespeare, the winter of our discontent.

Sure we appreciate our good fortune. We are grateful for good and loyal customers and hardworking dedicated employees. Our business is stable; we’re healthy, happy and prosperous. Yet we still want more. When we should be thankful for our success, we are restless at the thought of wanting more.

Fear not, this discontent we feel is natural and indeed healthy. It is, in a sense, the corollary of our perennial optimism. The truth is we should want more for and from our business. We should want to get better each and every year. After all, are these not the evolutionary forces at work? Every year, every month, every day a little better, stronger, faster, wiser.

So, don’t despair. Here are some things to thing about as you look to 2018 and continue to build on what you have.

From the Beginning

Chances are, when you started your business you were inspired by something or someone. Take some time to revisit what compelled you to start your business and what you were passionate about in the beginning. Chances are, that passion has been institutionalized somewhere in the culture of the company.

Here’s an example. An industry colleague of mine for nearly 30 years, as a vendor, as a customer and as a client, once told me that he and his partner started as “two hippies and a table saw, just trying to earn a living doing good work”. To this day, his focus remains on doing good work and serving his customers honestly and earnestly. Indeed, customer service is at the core of the business, not as a contrivance, but as a matter of its DNA.

Reaffirm your founding values and customer commitment. Honor your past by reminding your employees and customers of your core values and vigorously celebrating the inspiration that was the source of your success. You may be surprised by how powerful a propellant your original inspiration really was for the business.

Clarity

What business leaders want for their businesses take as many shapes and forms as the leaders themselves. Specificity and clarity go a long way in achieving a goal and it’s the best place to start.

For instance, it is insufficient to say you want growth if you cannot say how much and from which customers, segments or products. It is impossible to over stress the importance of being clear about what you want and how you will get it.

Spend time thinking about your next big goal. It should be realistic, but a stretch. Talk to your trusted advisors, mentors and colleagues. Listen to their input and give it some fair consideration. Many times those around you have better insights about your business than you might think. Their insights will help you be clear about setting your next goal.

Just for me to be clear about one point: your next big goal is not about buying the next machine or software application. It’s much bigger than that, although your plan may include those things. Think big; think strategic (about what or how you can do something your competitors cannot).

You might think you your goal this way: The finest things in life exist in the ethereal as well as the material worlds. When Stradivarius artfully crafted his violins he had two goals: first as a material object, and secondly as the producer of heavenly music, each instrument finer than the last; each enduring more than 300 years.  Should it not be so with our striving for more and better?  One part material, one part celestial.

Build Your Plan

Your plan is simply a list of what steps you need complete to achieve your goal. It includes who is responsible for getting each of the tasks on the plan done and what dependencies, if any, might exist for each of the tasks.

Dependencies are those things that must happen in order for any task to be completed. In most instances it will be either another task that needs to be completed ahead of another, or it may simply be a resource; human or financial.

Spending time building a thorough and executable plan is best insurance that you will achieve the goal. Don’t cut corners here.

Speaking of Resources

The single biggest cause of failed plans is inadequate resources. As the leader of your business, you can prevent that cause—so prevent it! Make sure you and your team has time to work on the plan.

Inadequate resources are not just the amount of time dedicated to the plan, but the capability of the resource working on the plan. The plan manager must be detail and task oriented. They must also be able to keep the team and the project focused. They must be a driver and hold team members accountable for full and timely deliverables. If that’s not you, find someone who is and give her or him your support in getting things done.

If this is the winter of discontent for you, then embrace this season. Discover the next big goal for your business. Make a plan that will get you to the goal. Then, go get it. It’s natural to want more and with hard, disciplined work, you will get there.

If you need help setting goals and executing plans for the future, I can be reached at 608.279.8089 or dshultz@jemoran.com.