If you are like many individuals, you are already thinking ahead to 2018. You are likely thinking that you want to have a better year than this year, because you have taken time to carefully consider what you want to accomplish. Your goals might be considered “SMART,” which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. If your goals have not included these criteria you might want to consider some editing and fine-tuning to make to be more clear. Business goals are great to have. There is one, and only one, obstacle that stands in the way of having a better 2018. It isn’t the competition. It is not the President. It isn’t the economy. It is not the Congress. It isn’t your clients. It isn’t your business partners, including vendors and allies. It isn’t your employees. It’s you. You are the obstacle standing in the way of achieving your goals in 2018. In my experience, business owners and leaders are great at pointing at some distant shimmering image and getting everyone excited about moving in a general direction, somewhere “over there.” I suspect in most companies it happens every January but it could take place in any month of the year. No matter how good the leader is at bellowing out to all who can hear that “We are going this way!” in no time flat, the followers fall back into doing the same old things the same old ways and nothing of significance changes. Reality sets in. The company has not moved forward. The employees are still sitting right where they started. The leader becomes furious, angry, disappointed, frustrated and perhaps bitter and then proceeds to become isolated, and scowls, and growls, keeps track of all those people who failed to follow his or her call to action, those who failed to follow through, those who failed to believe in a better company and a better future. According to research conducted by Larry Haughton, author of “It’s Not What You Say, It’s What You Do,” 83 percent of all people will sit on their hands at the start of any initiative. Those who will get off their hands will do so only after they see that the change is likely to succeed. Following the Bay of Pigs fiasco, John F. Kennedy said that “Victory has a thousand fathers but defeat is an orphan.” In the months between April 1961 and October 1962, Kennedy grew as a leader. The Cuban Missile Crisis had a far different and better outcome as a result of his personal and professional growth. 2018 can only become better for your company if you become crystal clear about the goals you have for your company. But you must also become more engaged, more energetic, more decisive, move faster, listen more intently, give people corresponding responsibility and authority, hold people accountable for getting things done, and stay focused on deadlines. Don’t be afraid to give praise, or discipline when needed, and willingly celebrate successes and conduct “no blame” autopsies when something doesn’t go right. There are many reasons not to start acting this way, and only one real good reason to do all of them: because you want a better company than you have today. John Naber, a five-time Olympic medalist speaks on his “Gold Medal Process.” He talks of the four words he found on the cap of a bottle of Mug Root Beer. The words are “No Deposit, No Return.” At the end of 2018, just like this year, you will know how much of a deposit you made into your own company to make it better because you will be able to count the “return.” It’s a simple choice for you to make on any day of any year. Merry Christmas. 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 [email protected] Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.