Focus on what counts

Setting 2018 Business New Year’s Resolutions

December 20, 2017
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By Steve Ronan and Smija Simon and 

It is often easy to get caught up in the details of day-to-day operations, perhaps being pulled in to help fire-fight a customer issue or solving an operational challenge. Before we know it, years come and go as daily business activities tick along. Thankfully, the end of the year brings a natural change of pace, a few moments to catch one’s breath, a time for reflection and resolutions before the new year kicks in.

How often do you stop and think about the longevity of your business? What value will the business have in 5 or 10 years? As important as it is to do routine health checks for ourselves, it is important to take the time to do some management checks to sustain business value.

To make it simple, look at your business through three lenses: operations, people, and financial. Here are a few ways to set goals for each of these lenses going into the new year.

1. The Operations Lens

The operations world has traditionally been tasked with balancing output, speed, quality, and efficiency. What are some practical things that can be done to make the balancing act a bit simpler?

1: Set production goals, communicate them and create visible measurement

When the vision is clear to the whole team, the likelihood of meeting your business targets is greater. One simple thing that you can do by yourself is document your production goals for next year, review and refine them with your management team (which should take one meeting), and communicate them to the staff. Tracking against these goals can be done by your managers on an ongoing basis with limited additional effort. It could be as simple as a whiteboard up in the coffee room that shows what the weekly performance of a department or, if you have access to the right technology, electronic displays of critical KPIs.

2: Take a walk facilities and address three pain points

At least once a quarter, take some time to walk around and observe how your people are working. Speak to a few staff members – not just managers – about any pain points they experience in their day-to-day tasks. Identify three improvement opportunities that can be addressed without significant capital investment – maybe it’s improving an expense reporting process or shifting around where inventory is stored – assign an owner, and follow up with them weekly as they address them.

3: Identify and leverage one technology trend

Set aside four hours every quarter to research technology trends in your industry and identify at least one trend relevant to your business. Whether it is an office productivity improvement or finding a new laser cutting machine that quadruples production, it is important to take some time out every so often to scan the market for improved ways of doing things. You will not end up implementing all of them, but the exercise will begin generating a lot of new ideas as to how you can use technology to drive the business forward.

2. The People Lens

Whether the focus is on transactional HR processes (recruitment, onboarding, benefits, leave, and payroll) or strategic talent development initiatives (operating model design, capability building, and organizational effectiveness), these are some ideas of what can be done from a people perspective in 2018:

1: Book at least one team-building event

Don’t wait for organizational energy levels to dip; pick a date in the calendar and send a “Save the Date” for a team-building event with your team. There doesn’t need to be a specific reason, it’s simply about building personal relationships and trust amongst your staff.

2: Refresh your employee handbook

Locate a copy of the employee handbook – when was it updated last? Have any company policies or labor regulations changed since the handbook was written? Have your personal leave, maternity, expense tracking, or technology policies been updated recently? Find out about the trends in these areas and determine how to modernize your HR policies.

3: Evaluate the organizational chart against future company strategy

Has the company had a natural evolution in the past 18 months? Are there any business model changes on the horizon? If there are any changes in direction that could necessitate a different organizational structure or new workforce competencies, it may be a good time to compare the current operating model with future requirements and determine the HR action plan to enable the organizational change. Ensure the chart has clear accountability for specific areas of the business.

3. The Financial Lens

With the adoption of accounting and bookkeeping systems, finance executives have found their roles evolving from an operational and control role to more strategic role.

1: Conduct a profitability study on the product/service portfolio

Every company knows what the overall Profit and Loss (P&L) statement looks like, but how many executives know what the profitability at the product/service level looks like? Do you know which products/services are the cash cows, and which ones are loss-making ones? Through analyzing volumes, revenue contribution and profitability at the product/service level, one can determine if there are any obvious contenders to retire from the product/service portfolio. By culling non-performing products/ services, the company can avoid margin erosion and free up resources for more profitable lines.

2: Identify opportunities for revenue uplift and financial modeling

Identify those product lines with good margins and work with sales and marketing teams to find ways to maximize sales of these lines. For example, if a new channel strategy (e.g., direct sales) is one way to realize revenue uplift, the finance team could support the exercise by drafting a business case. Digital marketing may be a nascent area for your company as well that has some relatively easy-to-execute ways to create lift.

3: Challenge the company to contain costs

Challenge every team in the company to generate cost-saving suggestions. Even if ideas range from setting printers to print double-sided by default or standardizing label on products to benefit from volume discounts, sometimes those cents and dollars all add up. Perhaps even offer an incentive for people to bring forward suggestions or run a contest that awards a price to the ideas that get implemented. The minimum return will be that everyone in the company becomes more financially minded, and you’re likely to end up with at least a few material cost savings ideas as well.

We hope you have found some inspiration for setting Business New Year’s Resolutions. Wishing you a prosperous 2018!