The year end brings a perfect time to take a clear look back to see what worked and what didn’t in your business. Too many times, senior leaders look at “did we hit our number?” as the all consuming barometer. That is absolutely critical. It’s also dangerous if that’s the only thing that’s reviewed with a magnifying glass.
Start at the basics to ground you in the brutal economic truth.
Are your sales & profits up or down? How close to your budget?
Are you getting better at what you do? Usually your margin %’s are an indicator here, all things being equal (input costs, pricing), margins moving north indicate productivity improvements and/or favorable mix. Sometimes businesses plan them up or down based on op ex investments, so margins relative to expectations are the critical view.
In almost all cases, up beats down…….but in my experience, businesses that can not grow margin rates over time are forced to grow the topline at accelerated rates, and that can be expensive for shareholders if it’s not done organically (ie via acquisition). Growing margin rates and top-line revenue are obviously not mutually exclusive, doing both is where it’s at.
Investment & Focus areas
People/Team? (new hires, promotions, existing employees), how have you done?
Are key individuals getting significantly better, or are they treading water?
How much did you spend on training? Did you see an impact? If not, why?
Overall workforce engagement (morale) and ownership of outcomes and common definition of a great future. What have you spent against this? What was your ROI, or if too difficult to measure, would you repeat it?
What’s your turnover rate and is it better or worse?
What’s your safety record?
What are your quality defects?
Are you happy with the results orientation of the business among your people? Or do they have just a cursory view of business performance and their respective role in improving it?
Is recruiting becoming easier because your existing workforce is turning into the company’s best advocates?
What does your business pipeline look like going into the new year? (Customers)
How strong are you with your existing customers? Are they growing as a group, flat or declining? What are their intentions going forward?
Strong enough to recover from key customer losses and still grow?
How does your innovation stack up? Are the new products/services in development likely to pull margins up or down, or are you doing more of the same?
Are you telling your story (marketing) effectively and attracting people to YOU? Have you embraced the world of digital or still part of the masses that think it doesn’t apply to you?
Process Improvements? All areas of business have a process, whether well defined or not.
Have you analyzed your key business processes to look for improvement?
What’s your key business process where the management team comes together? How strong?
Equipment? Better, more efficient, safe equipment, or more total capacity….
Still stuck in a world of cocktail napkins or contemplating a real company system? Or are you stuck in a world of spreadsheets where power users get it, others struggle?
Last, is your company stronger financially at the end of 2016 vs. the start of it? Multiple metrics for this, but your balance sheet ratios of liquidity, debt coverage, shareholder equity and cash are all good indicators. NOTE: All of these metrics are the outcomes of everything above
Last, I would also challenge leaders, and all employees of an organization to score their overall “quality of work life” however it is that they define it. Everyone has a different definition, but the fact is that your career/work takes up a massive portion of your life. Too many view work as a 4 letter word. Too many view it as a means to their needed pay check. Such a shame, and it’s also a factor for leaders to be aware of.
For me, there is no better year than one that resembles a great team victory in sports. Every effort was left on the field (or the year). There’s exhaustion. There’s a celebration, and pride in great execution. Than there’s quick new energy to do it even better.
That’s where your 2017 plan comes in.