Conducting Your Yearly Business Physical

calendar-planning-imageDecember 1st. Wow! My has the year flown. How has your year gone?

As you close out 2015 and head into 2016, December 1st is a great time to pause and think about your business in an “in-depth” kind of way. This is true for everyone: Owner, Executive, Manager – or simply “leading you.” The process and value of reflection is critical to chart your path forward. It is near impossible to develop visibility and metrics for next year without understanding your current position. Amazingly, there are so many people who conduct the following year-end review: do nothing. Talk about leaving potential on the table!

Real success is created by executing an intentional plan that aligns your actions with your values to efficiently deliver a product or service that is superior to the marketplace. This “on purpose”, execution-driven and accountable approach unlocks your ability to outperform the marketplace and be rewarded for your success.

“Real success is created by executing an intentional plan that aligns your actions with your values to efficiently deliver a product or service that is superior to the marketplace.”

I call this process the “Business Physical.” It is beyond the day-to-day Vital Signs of your business health. It’s a full reflective work-up of what you’ve done previously (or didn’t do): blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol, etc. and is akin to sales, profits, margins, market share, etc. And, it also charts the intention of doing better: exercise, nutrition, attitude, sleep – like culture, strategy, hiring process, future products, transparency, planning. The goal is always to outperform the marketplace, which cannot be done by simply working long, hard hours. In fact, I’d argue from lots of points of view that working long hours is detrimental to your long-term success. Insightful questions, reflection, and planning is what will drive you forward.

Think Globally

Thinking about the “big picture” of your industry allows your mind to wander a bit and get out of the day-to-day delivery of your business. As “Shooter” warns in the movie Hoosiers, “Don’t get caught watchin’ the paint dry.” You don’t want to be in a position where you haven’t prepared for the future and the world has passed you by. Without this exercise of questions and reflection, it is impossible to build budgets and projections that will make any sense. Here are some global questions to get you and your team thinking:

  • How has your industry changed this year?
  • What are the biggest challenges and problems for your Customers, Vendors, Suppliers? How can you solve them?
  • What are three specific things you can do to ensure you are serving your Customers better than anyone else, so you are the “go to” source in the industry?
  • What were your 3 biggest successes this year? How do you replicate and extend?
  • What are the 3 biggest failures this year? How do you make sure you execute this year?
  • Ask your people, “What 3 tools and resources do you need today to outperform the marketplace?” (Tip: This will help you drive budgets.)

Audit Systems, People & Process

This review focuses on the day-to-day of how you deliver your product or service. Breaking this down along the normal divisions within a business: sales, marketing, operations, technology, finance and HR. It should examine not only how these departments work internally, but how you can create more clarity, transparency and efficiency across the organization.

  • Leadership
    • Do you have the right people in the right places to outperform the marketplace? Why not? (Hint: Change now.)
    • How financially healthy is the business?
    • Did you execute on the key metrics driving your business? How do you improve? (Do you have Key Performance Indicators?)
    • Challenge each department, “What are 3 ways in which your department can serve the other departments to be more effective?”
  • People / HR
    • How is the hiring process helping you to identify and hire the very best talent?
    • Are you the very best at on-boarding employees, so they understand your business and culture?
    • What training investments are you making in your people, so they can outperform the marketplace?
    • Is everyone clear about their roles, responsibilities and functions within the company? Do they keenly understand their value in the supply chain and how they help us make money?
    • Is your day intentionally structured to focus on the highest value priorities? What can you do to empower those around you, so you can better focus?
  • Sales & Marketing
    • Is your value proposition and competitive advantage clear?
    • Can your sales and marketing team clearly explain it?
    • Can everyone in your business clearly explain what you do and why you are better?
    • What products and services are you building for the future?
    • How well do you know your competition and what they’re up to this year? (Hint: Vendors, Suppliers and Customers are great sources of information.)
    • Pricing evaluation
  • Technology
    • Is technology a leverage for operational superiority – or a hindrance from outperforming?
    • Can your people operate anywhere at anytime?
    • [Huge Hint: If you are not using data to drive the best decisions, you are going out of business. You just don’t know it. The age of anecdotal decision making is dead.]
  • Operations
    • Are you tracking the right performance metrics to drive the business forward?
    • Is there anything you are doing simply because that’s the way it has always been done?
    • Raw material/operational costings review (Much, much bigger than a one line item)
    • Meet with key Vendors and Suppliers
      • What changes and opportunities do they see in the marketplace?
      • Review raw material costs – price increases/decreases?
      • Opportunity to buy at volume with discounts?
    • Are there capital investments that need to be made for us to outperform?
  • Financial
    • Is your financial department delivering information in a timely manner that helps you make great decisions?
    • Are you still receiving reports you no longer need? Make someone’s day and discontinue those time sucking reports if you aren’t using them anymore. (Tip: Information without action is the biggest business sin.)
    • Are there new reports based around the updated metrics of the business that you need the finance department to now deliver?
    • Is your finance department getting the proper information across the organization to deliver quality financial reports?

Evaluate Values & Vibe

Culture is the only sustainable advantage, so it is critical to think about. Happiness and fun happens when you align your actions with your values. This makes work and life fun! Think about the times when you feel disappointed: your actions didn’t match up to your values. You know you could have done better.

There is study after study that speaks to the importance of happy people driving success. Mix that with a vibrant culture and a higher purpose and some magic can happen. Quite simply, happy people see problems as opportunities in work clothes. Purpose-driven work allows people to persevere when the uninspired fall short. You want those people in your business who will rise up to challenges. Take a minute to evaluate the values and vibe inside your business.

  • Are you enjoying pumped up about your work?
  • Do you have your vision and values written down?
  • Does everyone know your values and vision for the future? Is it greater than simply turning out widgets – even if widgets are your business?
  • Do you feel connected to a greater purpose at  your work?
  • Are you acting in alignment of your company’s values at every interaction?
  • Have there been changes to your business that dictates changes in your culture?

Working on You

The idea of a “work-life” balance is a complete myth. These things co-exist and to think about it in terms of work-life paints these items as diametrically opposed: you are either working or living. I like what Bert Jacobs said at the Iconic:DC event, “Work-life balance is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

Can’t you thoughtfully engineer your life to do both? With planning and good discipline, you certainly can do so. And, in an ideal world, your work and life merge – or at least overlap. I like Michael Hyatt’s post about creating more margin in your life by setting out your ideal week. With that being said, to be effective at work, you need to be effective in the five dimensions of life: social, spiritual, emotional, physical and intellectual. To achieve your best you, how are you taking care of yourself?

  • What does your workout plan look like?
  • Are you thinking about eating as “food as fuel” to setup your most energetic you?
  • How often are you getting out of the house with friends and family?
  • Do your skills match your ambitions? What are you doing about that? What books are you reading? Podcasts? Ted Talks?
  • How are you getting inspired and reducing stress?
  • What are you doing to feed your higher purpose and love?

 Taking Action with Information

So, start the dialogue today. Obviously, these ideas are simply primers in getting the conversation going. Go ahead. Ask the big questions. It will be uncomfortable. You will be surprised by the answers. But, the goal is worthy: your business success – and personal success – is dependent on getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Take particular note: If you don’t have structural pieces in place: job descriptions, written, shared values, hiring process, key metrics (the big things), then it is hard to hold people accountable. Take the time to put these pieces in place first to drive clarity – and then – and only then – can you drive the expectation of execution and accountability.

Once you’ve done some personal reflecting – internally, externally and across the organization, you are in a much better position to plan for the future. Where to start? Start with you. Figure out the driving questions that make sense to you and your teams. Then start asking the big questions of your group, team, department or organization. Respectfully engage. Learn. Reflect. Build the shared plan.

Then comes the fun part: execution! Execution is very clearly the difference between good companies and great ones.

Great luck on unlocking your success for next year!

Calendar image (C) DafneCholet under Creative Commons

Random Quote

“There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.”

— Goethe

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