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New Year's Resolutions vs. New Year's Goals

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So what is it going to be this year? Same old resolutions to:

    Lose Weight
    Pay off Debts
    Save More Money
    Provide Better Income for Family
    Spend More Quality Time with Family

    Or maybe some business-related resolutions for the new year:

      Cut Expenses
      Increase Sales
      Improve Product Quality
      Build Partnerships with Suppliers
      Reduce Short-term and Long-term Debt

Well, they really aren't all that different, are they? We all vow each year to try harder to do the things we know we should do - get in better shape, physically, financially, emotionally.

Those of us who also are responsible for business units make similar promises to ourselves to do what we already know has to be done to improve the business.

I will leave the personal improvement resolutions to you to handle, but I want to give you some ideas on how to make this year's new year's resolutions for your business come true.

First, the easy part - Decide what you want to achieve; what you want to make happen; what most needs to be done. Then, the hard part - Set your GOALS.

Set Specific Goals

Setting goals is important. That is how you convert good, but ephemeral, IDEAS (cut expenses, increase sales) into specific, measurable TARGETS (reduce G&A expenses by 5% before the stockholder meeting in May; increase sales of the retail brands by at least $60,000 per quarter).

This is not the time to worry about whether or not you can reach these goals. You will have plenty of time for that later. This is the time to "draw the line in the sand" and publicly announce "this is what we are going to do, and this is when we will do it."

If you set easy goals - keep expenses at this year's levels; increase sales of our flagship product by 2% this year - you will fail. Oh, you won't fail to meet those goals, but you will fail to satisfy yourself. And you will fail to keep the business alive, because your competitors will set, and reach, more aggressive goals.

If you set difficult, yet reasonable, goals it won't really matter if you reach them. The effort to reach them will force you to push yourself. It will make you use the resources you have to the best of your ability. It will teach you what you really can do when you focus on specific goals.

However, I suspect you will get pretty close to those goals. Who knows? You may even reach and surpass them. And your reward for doing that? Self-satisfaction in knowing that you really are 'the best' and the privilege of competing again next year in the cut-throat world of business.

Set Measurable Goals

In setting your goals, it is important to be as specific as you can. Nobody knows your business like you do. Nobody knows what your people are capable of as well as you do. And only you know what is really important to you. So you have to be the one to set the goals and communicate them to everyone else.

The more specific and more measurable your goals, the easier it will be to tell when you reach them.

For instance, if you set a goal "to increase sales" how do you know if you have succeeded? If your month on month sales figures for January exceed last year's January sales figures have you met your goal? What about the fact that you have four more stores this January than last January? Were sales really hot last January, because of that freak storm? If you've met your goal by the end of January, what will you use to test yourself for the rest of the year.

If, on the other hand, your goal is "to increase net sales for each region by at least 5% per quarter and 7% by year end", you have something you can measure, track progress against, and use to push yourself to new successes.

If you decide to "reduce turnover of full-time staff to under two percent for the entire year, and cut the drop out rate of help-desk staff by half" you are better off than simply deciding "to increase employee morale".

Rewards

Don't wait for this time next year to sit back and look at this list and see how you did. Post your goals where you, and everyone else, can see them. Measure how you are doing against your goals, and adjust as necessary. Do this at all the measurement points you built into the plan (monthly, quarterly, whatever intervals you selected).

That way, when this time next year does get here you can sit back and reflect again. Rejoice in your successes. Learn from your misses. And then set tougher goals for the following year.

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