How to Make 2016 Your Company’s Break-Out Year
It’s that time of year when many of us make big, bold resolutions to transform key aspects of our personal or business lives. We make commitments like: I’m going to lose weight, I have to get out of debt, I want to work smarter not harder, I’m going to take my business to the next level, and so on.
Unfortunately many New Year’s resolutions fail. One reason is because resolutions are often too vague or idealistic to have any real chance of success. It’s important to focus on the details, which can help unlock business performance and potential. So what specific actions can you take to make 2016 your break-out year?
Examine Your Environment
The first step is to look carefully at what’s happening in the external environment and examine the positive economic prospects. Too often when we set goals for our business we are only looking inward—preoccupied with our products and services, how much sales and profits we want to generate and how much we want the business to grow.
Unless we are planning to buy our own products, the starting point should really be to step back and look outside, taking an intra-country, intra-regional and even international view. From the regional perspective the outlook for the Caribbean is positive with projections of economic recovery for most countries for 2016 and 2017.
Multilateral agencies the World Bank and The International Monetary Fund have both predicted steady growth of between 2 percent to 4 percent for the region for the next two years. The main factors driving their optimism is the recovery of the US economy, from which the Caribbean is set to benefit through increased demand for our goods, services and buoyant tourist travel, and also that oil prices will remain low. Local statistical institutes can also provide country-specific data that can provide a better understanding of the impending environment and likely changes, trends, opportunities and threats or challenges.
Set Goals, Not Resolutions
Once you’ve completed the external review, you must take the next step to improve your performance in 2016: goal-setting based on the opportunities you identified. Goals, unlike resolutions, need to follow the SMART criteria: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant to your business mission and vision, and Time-bound.
“We will increase sales by launching new products and entering new markets” is not SMART. It’s growth-oriented and ambitious, but it’s not detailed and specific enough to allow for proper direction, execution or measurement.
“We will increase sales by 15 percent by December 2016 by introducing one new product and expanding to one new market.” Now we have a specific target increase, by a particular date, and we are clear on how we can accomplish the increase. The maximum number of SMART business goals you should set for any year should be three, although one can sometimes be enough. If you set too many, as with resolutions, it’s a recipe for failure.
Prepare Your Plan
Next is where the work really begins: developing a business plan for the year. Some entrepreneurs make the mistake of writing a business plan only when they start their business—if at all—or not updating and using it as a tool to ensure focus.
But this documented plan can help keep your business and your priorities on track. In my experience, that’s the biggest missing piece of the puzzle for many businesses struggling to get to the next level. They know where they want to go, but haven’t set out a clear roadmap of how to do it.
The plan should outline department, by department, step by step, how the business will accomplish the goals it has set out. Some of the areas covered in a basic plan would be: company overview, vision, mission, core values, goals, external review, customer analysis, competitive analysis, marketing plan, financial projections and plan, assumptions and risk management. If you’re thinking this will take a lot of time, it will. It takes considerable effort and resources too, but as the saying goes: Success happens when preparation meets opportunity.