Community causes and social offering: Is this hokum to you? If so, you can’t rate a passing grade. In the near future, every relevant company will have to demonstrate how they “out-behaved” the competition. Get straight now because it takes years to add “contributing citizen” to your brand.
Eduction/growth offering: As annual growth in compensation flattens and key benefits vanish, thriving companies will offer continuous learning geared to a more rewarding career path as a method of employee retention. Are you supporting training and education or making plans to do so?
Safety and liability: How did you reduce danger and liability in your business and in doing business together? The odds say it’s probably not enough.
Competition: Can you name your competitors and their strengths? How are you widening the gap between yourself and those you quietly battle?
Compensation: If you couldn’t give much in raises/bonuses to your best workers (or yourself), what did you offer your brightest stars to get them to consistently do more with less? It’s harder every year — how will you manage retention yet again?
Marketing efforts: Most seem to now know that cutting your marketing activities now is not so brilliant. Go full speed if you can. Use every shoestring, guerilla and viral tactic available — they work!
Sales and promotion: No, this isn’t the same as marketing. Your tactical efforts are crucial to survival. Innovation lives here. When you see something creative, see if you can adapt it.
Networking efforts and local liaison work: Few enjoy it but it works too well to ditch. Did you make your presence felt this year? Do the community/business leaders know you and what your company does? Join your chamber, volunteer for a committee and build trust.
Internet forums and events: Want a no-cost higher profile? Get involved with other industry supporters and use the forums frequently. Want to attract local workers and retail buzz? Sponsor or advertise with local businesses and nonprofit groups — give away some countertops.
Interpersonal communication: This is the most important skill in business and in life and it doesn’t come easily to everyone. Are you running a terrific talk show?
Critical relationships: Make and maintain connections with bankers, accountants, vendors, customers, business peers, elected officials, etc., can help your company in unpredictable ways. Meeting all of these important “mice” is a job for the “big cheese.”
Performance tracking/sales history/financial reporting: Nearly every process can be converted into a measurable, trend-producing number. In those numbers you will find the truth and a good amount of answers. Do you routinely run — and personally study — those numbers?
Aggressiveness: Drive is a rarely addressed but vital element of your performance. Perhaps we assume that the smaller business owner has an entrepreneurial spirit that thrives on “the chase.” For some, it may be a maturing industry experiencing dramatic shifts in ownership and the marketplace quieted that intense original hunger. You will never find a better time to become ravenous.
INTENSIFY YOUR DEVOTION TO IMPROVEMENT
Make sure your staff knows what’s up — you’ll get them comfortable with honesty — especially when it comes to reporting problems “up the chain.” When the dust settles you will have an informal — but real and relevant — master template demonstrating your 2009 performance along 26 lines of operational function. Now what?
• Take these findings and develop a prioritized list of problem areas that require management attention.
• Format the document, assign dates to achieve specific goals and indicate who within your company will be chiefly responsible to attain those same goals.
• Calculate new budget dollars needed to give life to the special programs you’ll develop to support additional attention to niches, as well as broad growth initiatives and/or system improvements.
• Lastly, estimate the savings you will enjoy due to the positive changes you’ll enact — as well as any new business or new customers you will gain because of any new marketing or promotional concentrations you will jump-start in 2010.
Now you just need a Management Summary and a nice-looking Cover Page and you’ve got yourself one damn fine Tactical Action Plan for 2010. Add to this a new surging level of great expectations — generated by you and your fully-engaged staff — and you will, once again, have hold over your marketplace and your success within it.
Chris Traynor, Surface Fabrication magazine’s senior business columnist, is the director and knowledge scout for Whip-Smart Management Consulting LLC., Wayne, N.J. (www.whip-smart.com), as well as a board-certified senior professional in human resources (SPHR). Traynor has 30 years of experience in the solid surface industry as a consultant to fabricators, distributors, manufacturers and associated firms. He can be reached at email@example.com.