7 Questions to Drive You Forward in 2020
As I think about the coming year, it looms large. It is so hard to believe that 2020 is upon us. Why does it seem so significant? In taking a quick look back at predictions from 50 years or so ago, it seems others thought 2020 would be big too. Popular Mechanics in 1950 predicted we would all drive personal helicopters. One prominent futurist predicted our houses would no longer be anchored to the ground, but moveable to any location. In a Time Magazine article from 1966, it was predicted that machines would be so productive, that most people would not have to do significant work, and yet we would earn what would be considered a six figure income today.
As I think about the coming year, I’m reminded of well-known habit number two from Steven Covey, “Begin with the End in Mind”. Sometimes in the day to day, we lose track of the “End” that we started to pursue at the beginning of the year, and even with the “End” clearly in our target, we sometimes fall short. But where would we be without a clear plan and goal? Probably much further from our desired destination!
Here are 7 Questions to Drive You Forward in 2020:
1. Is our focus right? If we aren’t committed to our goal, it is hard to keep pressing for it. I’m often envious of those people who seem to know their purpose and have a laser focus on it. To have committed focus, it takes real digging. Someone said your purpose is at the intersection of your passion and your talents, which I think is a good starting point. However, God can use even our weaknesses and overcoming them sometimes brings even greater passion. Much like a hunter who must site his scope in to accurately claim its target, we must do the work to establish our vision, set our goals to achieve it, and remain fully committed.
2. What should we change? We do this business exercise almost every year, and I’m sure it isn’t unique, but it often brings clarity in planning. We simply identify the things we should START, STOP, and KEEP. Our whole team joins in the process, and we get some really good ideas and feedback. Occasionally, we find that there is a wasted process that should be changed. Sometimes we find that there is something we didn’t realize was important to our team, that they want to be sure we keep doing. Interestingly the hardest blank to fill in is what should we START. Most people are good critics and will defend something they like, but it is harder to find that new thing that will make a difference going forward.
3. How can we improve our process or habit? Creating formal processes is key to business growth. We usually start looking for a place where process could be improved by looking at what is breaking down. Where is that inconsistency? Are our projects working? How could we create a process around customer satisfaction? What else could we do to streamline quoting? Personally, our processes are really our habits. What habits should I change to make me better? What are my time wasters? Where am I unhealthy and what habit should I change as a result? Neither process improvement nor habit change are easy, but they are worth the work. Consistent process in an organization is the oil that makes things run smoothly.
4. How will we stay on track? Sometimes we lay great plans for the new year and fall off track (pun intended for those of you who are starting a gym regimen on January 2). There are three key ways I work to keep myself on track. First, set a checkpoint. This could be a weekly or monthly meeting, or a specific time to measure and see how you are doing. Another way to stay on track is to be sure to include someone in your goal. This person can act as an accountability partner to ensure you are doing what you said, or they could be helping you attain the goal, or it could be someone you compete with who drives you forward. Finally, creating positive and negative consequences is helpful. If we reach this sales goal, we will celebrate with a trip. Or personally, if I don’t finish this goal by March 1, I will give up coffee until I meet it! For some reason, the negative goals can be a bigger driver for me. No Coffee… wow that’s harsh!
5. Where will growth come from? Many of our goals center around being better at something. Better sales, better weight management, creating better processes; All these things require growth and change. The problem is, sometimes we set the goal without a realistic plan for change that allows us to get there. “I’ll just do better” doesn’t usually work. Think about someone trying to lose weight. Does just deciding to lose weight make it so? Does trying to do better at eating get you there? It usually requires a plan to change how you eat and maybe even how you exercise in a very specific way. I’m going to eat 1500 calories per day or less and exercise for 30 minutes every morning on the treadmill. Similarly, we must know how we are going to meet a growth goal. We will increase our revenue by 30% next year, and here is the sales and marketing plan that will produce that increase. We will review this plan every 2-weeks to hold ourselves accountable.
6. How can I challenge our team to grow? I’ve learned in the past few years that growth requires help from everyone. The more people that are striving for a common goal the faster momentum builds. I don’t want anyone on the CTaccess team to think they are stuck or there is no place to go. I want everyone to recognize that there is huge opportunity to make a difference here. We need people who will drive new initiatives forward. We need people who have ideas and are willing to take appropriate risks to make things happen. We need leaders who drive things forward to a conclusion rather than manage to the status quo. Creating an environment where this type of thinking and growth is nurtured and encouraged is key to continuing to build!
7. Do we have the right stuff? Our growth can be hampered simply by not having the right tools. This could be new technology, software, hardware, space, or really any resource. I’ve seen some of the technology we have implemented here at CTaccess create huge and needed change. Tracking and reporting on key metrics can drive forward significant improvements in everything from customer service to sales. Do we have the right software in place? Do we have the right office space? Do we have the right training? Is our investment in technology allowing us to respond to the needs and demands of our customers as they change? Are we innovating at a pace that puts us in the driver’s seat, or are we in the backseat reacting to the curves and bumps, but never charting our course?
As you look at 2020, may your planning be filled with clarity, wisdom, and direction. Here is to a 2020 blessed beyond measure in serving well, giving to others, and succeeding on your path.
Scott Hirschfeld is the President of CTaccess, an Elm Grove IT support company that has been helping small businesses stop focusing on IT and getting back to doing business since 1990. Under his leadership CTaccess provides the business minded approach of larger IT companies with the personalized touch of the smaller ones. Connect with Scott on LinkedIn.