Your business priorities for 2016

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Financial Year (FY) 2015 is jogging to a close. Managers and executives ponder over priorities for the new calendar year. This involves umpteen meetings with decision makers to lobby for buy-in and consensus.

But as one visionary once remarked, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
Growth and success mean different things to different businesses. Your plans could be as grand as multi-million-dollar turnover in the next three years, or looking to expand across different market segments.

Most business goals are backed by incomplete or intrinsic cues, rather than linking to company strategy – inclusive of vision, governance and financial forecasts.

A case in point is a $15 million business in the ICT sector, who I have been advising to craft a business strategy for FY 2016. At first, senior managers remarked about compensation and incentive structure. The CEO remarked about marketing and product strategy. Finally, the Board had to chip in for emphasis on financial targets.

I am not saying these are skewed priorities. However, having many goals without linking them to strategy and taking into account company performance, will result in a cocktail approach. It’s important that you choose the right goals for your business, built on solid research with a clear plan of the tactics you will use to achieve them.

As the Guru of Management (Peter Drucker) remarks, “Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.”

So, what’s the panacea? Here’s an area-wide checklist to refer to whilst building your “365-Day Action Plan”:

1. Succession Planning
The transition from one CEO to another is monumental in a company’s lifespan. A smooth transition is critical to maintain confidence of investors, partners, customer and employees. In turn, this enables an incoming CEO with a sound platform from which to move the company forward. Specifically, I notice owner-managers having an aura of “feeling irreplaceable.” This phenomenon threatens the company’s vision and long-term ambition. By the time a succession plan is required, it is far too late to start building one.

For businesses that have a clear-cut succession plan, it must be linked to the strategic plan to ensure consistency and longevity. The Board in conjunction with senior HR executives / advisors, should review the plan twice a year – taking into consideration relevant parameters of the envisaged leader. Collectively, the Board should review company direction and strategy over a 5-7-year period, factoring in various scenarios with the use of foresight and analysis.

2. Product Portfolio
Self-help expert Kiyosaki states, “Most businesses think that product is the most important thing, but without great leadership, mission and a team that deliver results at a high level, even the best product won’t make a company successful.” Several times when advising clients, less emphasis is given on product strategy – optimizing this to market needs, listening to customers for viewpoints and improvements and evaluating product performance in comparison to competitors. You can say the right thing about a product and nobody will listen. You’ve got to say it in such a way that people will feel it in their gut. Because if they don’t feel it, nothing will happen.

3. Talent
Research indicates that employees have three prime needs: interesting work, recognition for doing a good job, and being let in on things that are going on in the company. In today’s integrated workplace, no leader can afford to neglect the challenge of engaging employees in creating the future.

Engagement was obscure in the past, but it’s pretty much the whole game today. For any business, regardless of its size or industry, it should focus into building a resilient organizational structure that recognizes and rewards performance, identifies talent – short and medium term, involves in decision making and pinpoints potential high performers who can build winning teams to strengthen organizational performance.

More often than not, a business favors a reactive approach to attract and hire talent – for long that has been modus operandi. Today, I work with businesses to build a robust future talent pipeline (6-9 months) by projecting business growth and its manpower needs in the short-medium term. As Warren Buffet states, “Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.”

4. Robust Processes
When was the last time you considered accountability, reporting and governance as key drivers to organizational permanence? Having processes is half-way to the summit, but developing tangible metrics is the course to victory. Today’s organizations are faced with changing market dynamics where quick decision making and innovation are a prerequisite. Hence, if your goals are not backed by clear and measureable metrics to track performance, decision making and governance, it won’t be long before you end up on the drawing board reviewing your ambitions for the new year!

5. Adoption of Social Media
One of the biggest challenges facing CEOs and business owners in 2016 is how to effectively reach audiences online, specifically, social media. More than one million Kenyans use Twitter. Twitter growth in the country has doubled on a year on year basis. Gone are the days when information traveled through traditional forms such as brochures and flyers – as increased usage of social media is employed to effectively communicate press releases, offers, product advice amongst others. However, as much as the adoption of social media has increased on an individual level, businesses have fallen prey to the failure of devising and adopting a social media strategy. I have several clients who once saw social media as a secondary go-to-market strategy. Today, they find customers are demanding solutions to resolve their issues mostly through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Hence, reaching customers online will be one of the biggest challenges facing businesses in the new year.

6. Auditing Financial Year 2015
It is equally imperative to consider the following as you “audit” FY 2015 in tandem with executives and business heads:

DO’s
What do you wish you had achieved in 2015? What do you want to do more this year?
Reflect on realistic goals i.e. You want them to be attainable, but you have to work just a little to get there with available resources.

Create a 365-Day Action Plan that details the steps you and your team need to take to achieve a goal. E.g. To increase Sales by 18%, the business needs to hire two sales executives, open one new location and increase prices by 2%.

Arrange for a monthly or quarterly meeting to see how your plan is unfolding. If there are obstacles from completing the item, work to mitigate it.

DON’T’s
Avoid generic resolutions like “grow my business.” Be specific.
DON’T set too many targets or go into greater detail than required. Too many details lead to confusion, conflicting goals, micromanagement and failure to execute.

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