On 2016 and the year that was
And so it all begins again.
The past year has been an “interesting” one on a number of fronts and we have seen some of our customers make significant progress in a range of areas. Their progress has been due to some detailed planning, decision-making and accountability across their organisations and it is exceedingly pleasing to see the results that reward the consistent effort they and their teams have put in.
The major notables can be summarised as follows (and this is not an exhaustive list):
- clarity around the “why” of the business;
- effective communication with and engagement of their teams;
- focus being driven in the areas of their business that offer the greatest opportunities (niche);
- planning, implementation of the plan and review of results against expectations; and
- being prepared to try new things and approaches.
Funny isn’t it – the things that have delivered terrific outcomes for business are the things that everyone knows that they need to do? So, why don’t they do it? I call it being uncomfortably comfortable – you’re OK, you know things can be better, but you’re pretty comfortable and don’t want to stop being comfortable.
This issue is one we constantly battle with in discussions with customers who we know can be better – they are so busy being operational, they forget/avoid to be strategic. And they are comfortable.
In many respects, they have traded off their vision and focus on purpose to being servants of something that doesn’t really matter to them – because it’s easier. It is also far less fulfilling.
In one of my discussions with a customer prior to Christmas, he came in, sat down and said “I’m just really happy”. This same customer has undertaken some massive changes in his business – all as a result of effective questions, looking at the broader economic environment and considering what he really, deeply values and where his skills lie. He has brought his team along with him. He and his business are now far better, more agile and responsive than they have ever been. And they are ideally placed to take advantage of the changes that are going on in their industry.
In the current environment where there is so much disruption going on – across nearly every industry, the need to adopt a more strategic approach is essential. The commitment to do this can be hard and challenging, but it is necessary to enable the business to thrive and continue to deliver on what it is there to do. Avoidance of the work required will see you wonder why you can’t seem to keep getting the results and outcomes that you desire.
On Saturday morning, I was invited to do an interview with some guys in the USA about what advisory work should look like – it will be up on a podcast in a couple of weeks. The guts of the discussion really turned on the fact that, as a business owner, you need to ask better questions. The types of questions that really dig into the opportunities and challenges that confront your organisation. By thinking about and answering these “better” questions, you then create a planning template which can be implemented in your operation to make sure the changes that are required actually get done.
The New Year promises to be a challenging and exciting time for all of us. There is a lot of stuff going on the world at the moment which, whilst remote from Australia, will have an impact on us. Things like the slow-down in the Chinese economy, the migration issues within Europe and the coming Presidential election in the USA. Each of these things can have an impact on your organisation (believe me, they do) and you need to consider how you’re placed to take advantage of the opportunities that do present themselves.
By way of example, think about the issues going on in China at the moment. The well-reported slow-down of their economy is unlikely to directly impact on you unless you are exporting into that market. However, the impact of that slowing economy will be felt in Australia through lower export demand, greater uncertainty and a loss of the confidence that “China is there” that has supported the growth of our economy over the past decade or so. We have seen the impact of the downturn in the mining industry over here. What was once “boom time” is now not so. The flow-on effect of this has had a marked impact on a number of regions around Australia. It is impacting on home prices (did you know that the banks have a number of postcodes where they won’t undertake any mortgage lending?), employment levels and subsequent demand for goods, products and services. This challenge then flows out beyond those regions into the organisations that support the businesses that were operating at “full tilt” in those regions.
Consider the impact on the airline industry – fewer jobs and increased closures of mines means fewer fly-in-fly-out employees. The airlines have specifically geared up to deliver the services required to meet the FIFO demand from the mines – now, much of that equipment is sitting idle and/or being used far less. This means that the airlines therefore have less cashflow to support their commitments for the planes, staff and support crews. They can either try and get rid of the excess capacity, or pass the increased costs through to the other customers through less discounting/higher pricing. Have you noticed how there are fewer discounts being offered of late? I’m not blaming everything here on the Chinese economy, but I am trying to demonstrate how a global event that seems far-removed from your operations, can actually have a trickle-down impact on your business.
Over 2015, those organisations that have thought further and harder, who have asked themselves the challenging questions and have gained greater clarity about not only their operations but the industry they work in and the broader economic environment have flourished. Because they have done the work.
How are you placed for 2016? Are you prepared to ask yourself the right questions (or, better still, do you know what questions to ask?) to create the outcomes you desire? If you’re not, then you might well be bound to repeat the success or otherwise of the past year.
One of my favourite quotes come from Albert Einstein:
To make the coming year as effective as possible in delivering things that really matter to you, please don’t go insane! The change in approach is challenging and requires work, but it actually isn’t that hard. You just need to make up your mind to do it.