It’s that time—scrambling to wrap all your 2019 projects in anticipation of a few days' break with your family. Are you like me at all when you are doing this? Honestly, it seems I have more big ideas about what I’m going to do next year while I’m pushing hard to complete those I conceived of last year. It is also very easy to carve off parts of current projects and park them into next year so you can call them “done” now as well. Not that I’ve done that. Much. Yesterday.

Most of us want to make an impact with our work beyond just “getting it done” and going home. Growing means challenging yourself, and challenging yourself means setting goals you can measure. Saying “I’ll make things better” isn’t the same as setting a goal. The turn of a calendar page is a great time to get real about changing what you want different in your career, company, or life.

But it can be hard to sit down and figure out what you want to accomplish in 2020. That’s why I’m sharing how I’m writing up my goals for the new year. If this resonates with you, drop me a line on your approach?

1. Get a scratch pad (or notes app). Write down ideas as they come to you over a week or two. Put down anything from “getting my desk organized” to “completely overhaul the compensation programs for my department.”
2. Find a spare hour that you can devote to revising your list. Award each idea a ranking based on the financial impact it would have (1 low to 4 high), and then another ranking for the amount of time and work it would take to implement (1 “not much” to 4 “a lot.”)
3. Subtract Money from Time and Work and use those to guide the most impactful elements. Start with your Threes. These have the highest payback on your time.
4. Put all of this away, then re-rank everything once you’ve had some time to really mull things over.
5. Use this exercise to rank the top 3-5 items and discard the rest. You should really never set more than a few big goals per year.

This is the process I use to write down my 2020 goals, and I hope you’ll find it as effective as I have. I’m wishing all of you Happy Holidays, and a happy and productive New Year!

Business processes are usually born of necessity, and we value them highly. We pay top dollar for consultants to help optimize these processes, we integrate them into our structure, make them routine, and then we just...stop doing them.

Take, for example, a conversation I had with a colleague. His organization had taken the time to drill into the exact right price for their product. It was an average within a range determined by volume, and it was the “right” price for them to grow sales, cover overhead, and still yield a reasonable profit.

They taught their whole team to know these parameters and why there were important and then gave everyone the ability to manage their territory pricing as needed. It worked.

Sales looked good, costs were fine, and they were hitting the profit number. Considering this problem “fixed,” the management team turned their attention elsewhere, and time passed. About a year later, they noticed margins were taking a sudden turn the bad way. Glancing at sales activity, it all looked fine—the top line was growing. But after a second bad quarter, they got deep into cost structures.

As it turned out, two new salespeople, who didn’t have the culture or discipline of the old guard, had been really throwing them off. They inherited the “use your judgement” on pricing philosophy with none of the background to understand the parameters. Had someone been watching the old “average unit sales price” they had tracked so firmly a year earlier, this would have popped up right away.

While they fixed it quickly, it also cost them significant profit for two quarters. So what do we learn here, other than to be more careful when hiring salespeople?

Don’t obsess over your numbers, but have a way to monitor “things you know have to happen.” Get a calendar and toggle a reminder every month, quarter, or year to check elements like this.

As we talked about in an earlier post—if you are watching too many metrics every day, they can start to blur. Just find a way to check back in to make sure problems you’ve already solved don’t become problems again.

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