Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Raise the bar high, but make sure you can jump it, says Steve Hutin, the managing director of Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd., in his first blog of 2018.
New Year’s resolutions get a bad name. People think they’re a waste of time as by this stage in January most of them have been broken, indeed, smashed into a thousand pieces at the first sign of temptation. The wine bottles have been opened, chocolates consumed, gym classes missed and good practices abandoned. It might have been getting to school early or even keeping on top of the washing and ironing; whatever the resolution, they’re hard to keep. Fact.
It’s the same in business. CEOs, managers, supervisors, and others use the turn of a year to wipe the slate clean and promise themselves they’ll do better and be more efficient or profitable in 2018, as is the year in question this time around. Much like the personal resolutions outlined above, professional ones go out of the window just as quickly. A lot of great things happen in Week 1, less in Week 2, and by Week 50 they’re a distant memory and new resolutions—probably the same ones—are being planned again.
It’s important, however, to remind us that this doesn’t mean resolutions are the problem. The real reason so many fail—at home, in sport, at work, elsewhere—is that we set the bar too high and / or fail to commit to the cause. It’s not too late to make New Year’s resolutions but make them achievable and sustainable, and stick at them. They’ve got to be demanding enough that they’re worth it but not so unrealistic that they’re unachievable. With the proper application, December should be a time to look back and reflect on a job well done.
I’d advise against a businessperson setting isolated, short-term goals as resolutions. Successful companies typically work to a clearly defined, long-term plan that gives the brand and its employees a sense of purpose. Bite-sized resolutions are fine in principle as long as they are contributory to that grander plan. Take Rope and Sling, for example; we are aiming to have 10 UK-based facilities—we’ve got six at the moment—but it’s often been a New Year’s resolution to open the next one during the coming 12 months.
As already suggested, outrageous resolutions are folly. If we’d have chinked glasses on New Year’s Eve 2015 and said let’s open all 10 depots next year, we’d have failed miserably. Either we’d have fallen well short of our target, or we’d have opened more than was manageable. Imagine trying to get a number of sites staffed, stocked and profitable at the same time. Perception is important and industry talks; it’s unwise to get a reputation for outlandish ideas or, worse, failure. Think of the message it sends to prospective and existing customers.
The most obvious way a company can lead itself astray is where numbers are at stake, whether it be employees, revenue, margins, market share, or something else. And I reckon such measurables are the focal point of many conversations that start, “Next year we’ll do this…” I don’t have an issue with a company targeting a certain number of employees (recruiting in line with growth might be better, however), nor would I contest a CEO’s intent to reach a revenue target, but goals have got to be achievable and the milestones ticked off one by one.
The beauty of shorter-term targets is that they’re not daunting; people can see them on the horizon and target them. Certification and accreditations are great resolutions if they’re applicable to one’s business. Depending on the qualification, course, or audit, they can be achieved in a few weeks or months. Modules can be passed and certificates can be proudly displayed on the wall. Again, they’ve got to be achievable but worth something at the same time.
It’s an oft-overlooked factor of New Year’s resolutions that they don’t have to span the whole of a calendar year. It’s perfectly acceptable to set a goal that can be achieved in Q1. A company’s financial year might not even run from January to December so perhaps goals are realigned accordingly. Maybe an individual’s appraisal is due by a set date and a number of objectives should be met in advance.
As I said at the outset, resolutions can be misperceived; we don’t have to be a slave to them and we should more readily harness the opportunities they present.
We can tell a lot about a business by the content and tone of boardroom conversations as a year-end approaches. If the same three targets have been set every December for three years, there’s a good chance they’re not going to be reached at the fourth time of asking. Similarly, if the target is to take a company out of the red into the black, or to avoid administration, there’s a deeper problem that needs to be addressed. New years are like sunrises; they’re about positivity and hope. I’m not keen on any negative or desperate undercurrents associated with them.
Not everyone will be reading this blog in January—our content marketing machine will repackage it later in the year, I’m sure—which is no big deal because a resolution (defined as a firm decision to do or not to do something) can be made at any time. I’d urge all business leaders to adopt a ‘New Year’s Eve’ mentality all year round. They should constantly challenge themselves to improve facets of the company and set targets for staff. One of my favourite questions to ask myself is, “How can I improve that?” I pose it in January, February, March, April, and so on.
There doesn’t have to be a clear line between business and personal goals. I’ve blogged before about emotional intelligence and the importance of respecting people’s interests and families outside the workplace. New Year’s resolutions can help one’s state of mind or health and have a positive impact all round. Here at our Pyle, Wales headquarters, for example, we’ve introduced a four-week diet plan that all staff are welcome to adopt should they wish to lose some weight after the festive period. It’s not something to force on people, but I’d recommend other businesses adopt such an initiative.
New Year or not, achieving goals is about dedication and discipline. Success, growth, expansion, development, or weight loss, are not achieved easily or by accident. Motivation isn’t available in bottles and the old adage that hard work pays off is duly applied at this time of year. Set goals that require high standards; make sure good practice is ubiquitous throughout a company’s operations; and, most importantly, enjoy the challenges and opportunities that life presents.
Happy New Year!
Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd