Getting Traction in the New Year: Actionable advice to move your business forward

Getting Traction in the New Year

It’s the perfect time to provide some actionable advice on getting traction in the New Year! Many business leaders are focused on driving hard toward a strong year-end, while also looking ahead and setting objectives for the year ahead. What will growth look like in the next 12 months? And what commitments does the business need to make to get there? Even for organizations whose fiscal year doesn’t kick off in January, the end of the calendar year lends itself toward reflection and goal-setting, both personally and professionally.

Welcome to this edition of Authentic Brand’s “virtual panel” series: a Q&A exchange with five leaders in the Twin Cities EOS / Traction community.

These consultants represent decades of applied leadership experience, now leveraged into helping other organizations grow, and helping entrepreneurs get what they want from their business. Each of our panelists are Minnesota-based professional or certified EOS® Implementers – working with growth-focused small- to mid-sized businesses of all models, across a variety of industries. I have personally learned so much from each of these leaders, and appreciate both the diversity and the consistency that they’ve shared in their answers below. It’s clear that this isn’t their first annual planning rodeo! They’ve seen what works and what doesn’t, across a wide swath of clients. I trust that you’ll find at least one actionable take-away from their shared insights.

Meet our esteemed panelists (subsequently referred to by first name in the conversation that follows):

Q1: What is the most important question a CEO / Owner should be asking him/herself as they look ahead at the New Year?

(JAIME)  “How is the internal health of our organization?” Many companies have experienced growth in revenue in the current year, but are dealing with things internal to their company that are impeding the growth they could be achieving. I would recommend they evaluate their company on a number of levels going into the New Year:

      1. Do my people have the skills/training they need to grow our business in 2018? Sales training, leadership development, emotional intelligence. There are many training topics that people are not thinking about that can really impact the growth of their people and their sales.
      2. Are my leadership team and/or myself modeling and driving the right behaviors in the organization as we grow?
      3. Does my staff really know where we are going and how they can help get us there (client acquisition targets, revenue targets, markets, etc)?

(GREGG)What do I want from my business?” Most people don’t sit down, have a clarity break, and really seek to understand what it is that they are working so hard for. How do you get what you want, if you aren’t sure what you want?

(KEN) “What is the single biggest obstacle to our growth this year?” The beginning of a new year is a great time for focus, which is a hallmark of the EOS System. Even if you can’t determine THE most important, the process of getting close will help your focus for the year.

(SARA) ​”Where do I want this business to be in 10 years?” Without that longer view, it is hard to make plans that keep you moving in one direction. The new year is a great time to step back, get clear on the big goal and move in that direction with focus and discipline.

(JUSTIN) I think a great place to start is with people: “Do I have the right people in the right seats?”  

Q2: What is the biggest mistake you’ve seen leaders make when it comes to annual planning? And what advice would you offer to remedy that mistake?

(GREGG) Having too many priorities. We made that mistake in my previous businesses when we first started with EOS: We set goals to accomplish 20 things in the coming year. What I learned through that experience was that “when everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.” The reality is, if you can achieve 100% completion on 3-7 of the goals that you absolutely need to get done, it will move your company so much further along than getting to 20% complete on 20 priorities.

(SARA) Leaders often try to take on too much. They create annual plans that include 7 or more goals. With that many goals it is easy to get spread too thin. The best way to remedy this is to sit down with their leadership team and discuss and debate the top 1-7 goals they want to accomplish in the next year. It is worth looking closely at this and making sure it is no more than 7 goals. Less is more.​

(JUSTIN) A mistake many leaders make is trying to squeeze in annual planning while also keeping up with the day to day demands of their business, which is moving at 100 mph. I encourage teams to take two full days to do this work offsite so they are distraction free and can focus on the future.

(JAIME) Spending money and time on a large strategic plan, only to put it on a shelf and not take action. The hard work is NOT in the strategy, it’s in the execution and staying accountable and focused.

(KEN) Not having a systematic way of following up on goals. It’s easy to start the year with a lot of enthusiasm about your goals. It’s a great feeling when we congratulate ourselves on having a plan for the year. However, that is just the beginning. The real challenge is having a systematic way of actually executing on the goals you set. In EOS, we’ve discovered that our attention span is about 90 days, so our approach is to take annual goals and chunk them down into quarterly increments, which we call “rocks.” That process dramatically increases the likelihood of hitting your goals.

Q3: What is one thing every leader should resolve to START doing in the New Year?

(JUSTIN) Start taking regular clarity breaks. It’s a great way to pause, reflect, clear your head, and protect your confidence as a leader.

(KEN) Make one important “people” decision each month.  Don’t settle for putting up with toxic people or those who can’t perform. We call this Right People, Right Seats. Tackle one each month. You’ll be amazed at the impact.

(SARA) ​Leaders should start delegating. Eighty percent of their time should be spent on activities they like or love doing and are either good or great at. Leaders become bottlenecks when they try to take on too much and they get in the way of the business growing.​ ​Start changing this by identifying 1-3 things that they are aren’t good at and don’t like doing. Find someone in the business who would enjoy doing that task or project and delegate it to them.​

(JAIME) Investing in their people. The labor market is only going to get worse and qualified people are going to go where the culture is the best and where they can have an impact. You have to focus every day on retaining the right people. You have to focus on training, staff development, as well as defining clear accountabilities and measurables that you can reward and recognize. Motivate the behavior and performance you want to see.

(GREGG) Commit to one GREAT people move per quarter. I know very few companies that are at 100% strong in Right People, Right Seats. By continuing to improve your team, you will gain more trust in your direct reports, which allows leaders to “Delegate and Elevate” more, freeing them to work more on the business.

Q4: What is one thing every leader should resolve to STOP doing in the New Year?

(SARA) ​Leaders should stop spending all of their time “in” the business. When they do this, they lose track of the big picture, lose confidence and have a harder time predicting what will come next. By taking a few hours away from the business once a week or once a month, leaders will gain more clarity. This doesn’t have to be fancy. They can simply sit in a coffee shop with a legal pad and a pen and let their thoughts flow for a few hours.​

(JUSTIN) I think this is a great question that every leader should ask their team: “What should I stop doing?”. Not only is it is a great chance to get constructive feedback, but it can also help them become more open, honest, and vulnerable as a leader, which will build trust and team health.

(GREGG) Leaders need to stop accepting the status quo. Stop accepting that you are stuck and go do something about it.  

(KEN) Stop putting off hard decisions. Make the decision. If it turns out to be wrong, then adjust. But don’t just sit there.

(JAIME) Stop making excuses and take a chance to change things – whether that’s investment in your people, your business, or yourself. Start investing and making plans to improve.

Q5: What is your personal or professional resolution for the coming year?

(KEN) My resolution each year is to be a better husband and father. When I focus on this, it also makes me a better business leader. Values are universal.

(GREGG) 2018 is ground zero for my new “10 Year Target” of “Helping 100 companies implement EOS.” I have experienced first-hand how rewarding implementing EOS is. It changed my life. Now, it’s my turn to help other entrepreneurs.

(JUSTIN) I’m focusing on the small gestures that can have a big impact on the personal and professional relationships in my life.

(JAIME) Creating a diversified business model and multiple income streams. I believe that businesses who are creative and drive deliberate diversification in their service offerings and products are the ones that can withstand the test of time and truly drive growth.

(SARA) ​2018 is all about delegating so I can double my business. ​

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Jennifer Zick

Founder and Lead Consultant at Authentic Brand
Jennifer Zick is the Founder and CEO of Authentic Brand, a Minneapolis-based marketing consultancy that helps growing businesses gain marketing traction through fractional marketing leadership and messaging strategy.
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