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Strategies for a Prosperous 2017

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I recently spoke to a business-owner friend who reminded me that as leaders—managers and shop owners—it’s easy to live in the future. And rightly so. Our job is to be prepared for what’s next and lead our people into that preferred future. That is job No. 1 of leaders. However, the mentality that drives that has a shadow side—call it an Achilles heel if you want—where we forget to look back at events and ask an important interpretive question: “So what?” 

So as we step into this new year it’s important to ask three questions:

  1. What happened? It’s important to take time to reflect on what was accomplished and progress made, areas where progress was not made, where we hoped it had been, and relationships that started or ended. This type of reflection sets us up for the second question.
  2. So what? This question gets us focused on the meaning behind all the events of the past year. What can we learn from what happened? Why did certain things happen or not happen? What is the importance or relevance of what happened to life and our future? That leads us to the third question.
  3. Now what? We now look at the year ahead with the awareness of the past year and the learnings we will carry forward from it, and we plan, set goals and gear up for what is ahead. 

Now, with those questions addressed, here are some ways you can prepare yourself and your shop for a prosperous 2017.

First, make your goals big enough that they will keep you interested and even help you think outside the box. I have adopted a “10 times” rule to my goal setting. I routinely ask, “What would it take to grow 10 times on this measure?” 

When I first bought my business we were only repairing about 10 cars per month. Within 10 years we had that up to about 100 monthly. Then we decided to purchase another location, which instantly gave us another 50 cars per month. Now that second location is trending toward doing 100 cars as well. Now I’m starting to ask what it would look like to do over 1,000 cars per month. We may never hit that mark. Or we may wildly exceed it. 

The point for goal setting is that “10 times” causes me to think very differently about how I run my business. It also makes me look for opportunities in the year ahead that I might not even consider. Incremental growth just does not have the same magic powers to ignite my thinking and action.

Second, build rituals, routines and habits into your day and week that reinforce your larger goals. Experts say that it takes about 21 days to develop a new habit. Think about how many new, good habits you could established over the next year and the power of pointing them all toward one of your breakthrough goals. For instance, I have a goal to improve my closing ratio by 10 percent in the first quarter of 2017. One of the new habits I am infusing into my team is to do follow-up calls for every estimate we write and either get the customer to commit to our shop doing the work or finding out why they are not choosing us. This habit drives us to either get the job or learn something important we can use to capture more jobs in the future. 

Next is visual cues. One of my favorite writers, Robert Cialdini, just came out with a new book called Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade. One of the key learnings of his recent research presented in this book is the power of visual cues. He even applied this learning to the writing of his own book, dedicated to his grandkids. And while he was writing the book, he had a picture of his grandkids always in view. Any time he was tempted to cut a corner or not do his best work, that visual cue­—the picture—reminded him that his grandkids deserved better. What visual cues can you put in front of yourself and your team to reinforce the high standards you have and the goals you want to accomplish? 

Fourth, it’s always important to measure backward to focus on progress. If we always measure against the large goal that is before us, we will constantly feel like we’re falling short. Whereas if we look back and see what progress we made—big or small—we are focusing our minds on positive momentum and forward movement. This preserves our confidence of what we can accomplish and sets us up to accomplish more. This is where a simple, daily practice of gratitude comes in handy. If you end every day writing down a few things you are thankful for, that provides momentum and energy to keep going.  

Finally we end where we began. Ongoing reflection on the three key questions mentioned at the start of this column allows us to make adjustments mid-course in the months ahead. I encourage you to invest time each month asking, “What happened? So what? And now what?” and adjusting your goals to meet the fresh opportunities and challenges that will surely present themselves in the year ahead. 

Armed with these tactics, I am confident that the year ahead can be the best one ever for you and your shop. With that, I wish you a prosperous, healthy and joy-filled 2017.

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