For the last week or so, the regular denizens of my local gym have been “preparing” for the onslaught of Resolutioners, as we call them. Those are the folks that show up every year right after the holidays, determined to make the coming twelve months healthier than the last twelve.
Small business owners frequently do the same with their business plans at this time of year. They look at their previous year’s results, and determine that the coming year will be better. Every small business survey will show a high percentage of entrepreneurs who predict that the next year will be more successful. Like the Resolutioners, the real question is what will they do to make that happen?
Those who limit their objectives to good intentions are the first to disappear from the gym. They merely made a “resolution” to lose weight and exercise more (by far the most popular resolutions). Like owners who vow to sell more and spend less, their resolve has faded by the end of January. The Resolutioners decide they could just eat less to lose weight and not have to exercise. The business owners might start making excuses about spending decisions. Having determined to reduce expenses, they then decide that not cutting is the new magical formula to added sales. It seems easier, but it doesn’t accomplish the objective.
A New Year’s resolution with a measurable target, say to lose 20 pounds, is a bit stickier than just “lose weight,” but not by much.”Increase profits by 10%” sounds more businesslike than “make more money,” but by itself is just as insubstantial. Those folks are gone by Valentine’s Day, give or take a week depending on the harshness of the winter weather.
Some of the new gym arrivals come with a friend, a workout buddy to help keep them on track. For these, the odds of success are multiplied greatly. For a business owner, accountability needs to be more than just to yourself. A business coach, peer group, or even announcing the goals to employees and reviewing them regularly can be a big help. Even so, many will drift away as the year wears on.
I originally tried to get my workout in the morning at the cost of sleep. Unfortunately, I’m one of those folks who needs seven hours each night or face more than my usual cognitive dissonance. I finally learned that going to bed at 10:00 was a prerequisite to getting up at 5:00 and functioning well. Trying to achieve your business goals by merely working harder (or its fallacious cousin, working “smarter”) is pointless. That is, unless you can point to how you’ve been slacking or working stupid in the past. If you can’t, then you will have to allocate real resources to the results you seek.
A year is too long a time period for practical goal setting. How many times have you said “I can’t believe 2012 went so fast?” How many times did you say that about 2011, 2010, 2009 and on and on? You need to have more frequent milestones. I recommend monthly targets for operational goals, and quarterly metrics for tactical objectives.
By March, most of the Resolutioners will be gone, and we can get back to our normal workout routines. Every year, however, a few of them stick it out and transition from being the “new guys” to one of the “old guys.” Eventually we will learn their names, and accept them into the brotherhood of those who have proven to be tenacious and disciplined enough to change their lifestyles permanently.
The same thing happens in business. There is a brotherhood or sisterhood of business owners who plan carefully, and who make the effort to stick to the plan’s execution. Outsiders call them the wealthy.