January is the start of a new business year for most businesses.

I always found this to be an exciting time. The team had worked hard to develop an exciting business plan and now we had the go ahead to make it happen. Early in my career, I was lucky enough to work for a small company that wanted to grow. On the wall of their conference room was a modification of a quote from Daniel Burnham. It read: “Make no little plans for they have not the power to stir men's souls. Plan, Work Hard, and Pray.”

I joined the company right after they hired a president to stabilize and grow the company. The new leader had the team develop a five-year strategic plan to grow the company 15% a year in both sales and profits. He told us that when we made that plan happen, the company would go public. He was relentless in keeping the team on track. It worked, but the path was not always fun and games.

There were major bumps in the road. The team made it happen and the owners became wealthy. It was fun to be part of that growth and to grow professionally myself. What were the takeaways from that experience?

  • The leader must be totally committed to growing the company and unwavering in holding the team to reaching the target.

  • There needs to be a written business plan every year that requires improved performance from every department as well as others in the supply chain. It helps to have three key result areas (goals) accepted and committed to by each manager and supervisor. The team will want their key result areas to be meaningful, measurable, and documented. It has been shown that companies with written business plans tend to be more successful.

  • The financial statements must be current and reliable. They must be understood, trusted and used by the management team. Non-disclosure and confidential agreements are important. Rules of thumbs will be developed; for example, “$130,000 sales to support each employee.”

  • There will be risks and bumps in the road. We learned to focus on the problem and not place blame. To my surprise, there were hidden talents in the company that were major problem-solvers. This turned out to be the case in every company where I worked and every major project faced. This included employees at all levels.

  • The team will change. Growth will require new hires. Also, some staff will not grow and will leave, be reassigned, or terminated. In the company referred to above, the five owners gave the new president undated resignations with the power to exercise those resignations as he saw fit.

  • The business must be a key player in the market served. To dominate was the goal but no less than No. 2. To dominate, you must be the best in the eyes of your customers and potential customers. Brian Tracy is a wonderful motivational speaker and taught us: “Good Enough is the enemy of the Best.”

  • Change will be the way of life. Change will take many forms and will not always be welcomed.

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Starting a new year is exciting. Also exciting is implementing and managing the plan to make your company stronger. To grow your company and your team is the best of three options, become a bigger player and more dominant, try to hold on to what you have or lose ground to your competitors.

My vote goes to Daniel Burnham. Make no little plans. Dream big. You are the leader of the company. Use your position and personal power to make it happen.

Happy New Year.

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