Halloween officially reminds us that only two months remain in the year. Yet those in Entrepreneurial America know that now is the time to get things done for a great year end. Focus returns to achieving goals set at the beginning of the year.
Two months is plenty of time to turn things around and make your numbers before the end of the year. Here is the recipe for doing just that.
First, get employees back on the regular schedule. Summer and the start of the school year require more flexibility; people arrive late and leave early, and take days off and vacations.
Reinforce what time work starts, how long breaks are, what the lunch schedule is, and when leaving time is. This includes management and sales; chances are they took advantage of the confusion of summer and school starting.
Second, in the next week, make sure to provide each employee with a short, to the point performance evaluation. This means a quick but serious conversation about what the employee is doing well, what needs improvement, and what the employee needs to be doing to improve.
Third, get crystal clear about expectations for the rest of the year. Sit with each manager (and have each manager sit with each of their employees) to communicate and agree on specific objectives to be achieved by December 31.
As owner, you must be clear about what they want before any meetings can take place; otherwise every meeting will be a waste of time.
Fourth, put on your calendar regular meetings with managers and ask that that your managers hold regular meetings with their direct reports. Verify these meetings are being held by asking for a schedule. Tell each manager that you will be sitting in on at least one meeting they have with their direct reports each month to make certain they are being held. Then do it.
Fifth, review the list of customers you lost over the first ten months of the year. Assign someone to verify why the customer is no longer buying. It could be that the company went out of business or that their buying cycle has increased in length but until it is confirmed that they can no longer buy, proceed with the idea that they can buy but haven’t. Find out why.
Sixth, review the prospect pipeline. This is where many companies fall down during the change of seasons; they make the guess that no one is buying because people are on vacation or busy doing something when in fact they just have not been contacted by your company.
Seventh, start sales training on prospecting. Every company needs more prospects for new business. One of the best ways to learn something is to have to teach it, so have the entire sales team take one aspect of the sales prospecting cycle and create a lesson to teach the others in the department.
Eighth, take time to review profitability by customer. Each customer should be categorized; most companies have a ranking system of A, B or C depending on various criteria. Each month take time to review those customers in each category and see what can be done to improve profitability. One way to improve profits is to find additional products or services to sell to existing customers. This requires broadening the base of advocates within a customer organization, which is not always easy but is essential.
Ninth, every business leaks money. Your company is no different, despite what you think. Reducing unneeded outlays pays dividends for years. Saving $100 a month on a seldom-used service, as an example, saves $1,200 a year for every year going forward. Set up an incentive program for employees to share in the savings. Every dollar saved goes right to the bottom line.
Tenth, focus on alignment. The job of a leader is to get everyone focused and moving in the same direction. People need to know what the company’s goals are. Tell them. Be specific. Make it measurable. Ask how they can help achieve those goals. Listen. Appreciate the answers. Communicate the goals. Hand goals to people in writing so that they know what the goals are. Remind them every day until they are tired of hearing it.
Let these words be your driving force for the rest of the year: “What we have is based upon moment-to-moment choices of what we do. In each of those moments, we choose. We either take a risk or move toward what we want, or we play it safe and choose comfort. Most of the people, most of the time, choose comfort. In the end, people either have excuses or experiences; reasons or results; a lot of ‘buts’ or dazzling brilliance. They either have what they wanted or they have a detailed list of all the rational reasons why things didn’t happen. In this company, we chose to go after and get what we want.”
Ken Keller is an executive coach who works with small and midsize B2B company owners, CEOs and entrepreneurs. He facilitates formal top executive peer groups for business expansion, including revenue growth, improved internal efficiencies, and greater profitability. Please contact him at Ken.Keller@StrategicAdvisoryBoards.com. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.