Reflections and resolutions for a successful new fiscal year

Whether it’s January, April, July or October, the first month of your organization’s new fiscal year is a great time to step back from the day-to-day fray and take stock. Looking at the bigger picture can energize and renew focus while identifying critical issues that may go unnoticed while you are immersed in the day-to-day routine. Of course many owners and managers will recognize this as reviewing annual results, but approaching this review with the attitude of hope and challenge that is embodied in the celebration of the New Year has much to offer. In that spirit, I urge all entrepreneurs to resolve to make their coming fiscal year the best one yet.

The first step is to go beyond the routine review of financial results and reflect on all aspects of your business. Here are four questions designed to structure this deeper look and to give you a foundation to spot challenges, points of pride, and opportunities.

What did we accomplish last year that made us proud? Take time to celebrate the organization’s achievements with your employees and acknowledge their exceptional contributions. Doing so reinforces bright spots and demonstrates appreciation for effective efforts. This need not be lavish, but should be heartfelt.

What did not work as well as we had hoped? Every organization has disappointments and setbacks. Companies that can identify and discuss these constructively are able to learn from their mistakes and become stronger.

What positive surprises did we experience in the past year? Unexpectedly strong sales of a new product or a surge of new customers from outside your target market can be the first signs of significant new opportunity. Too often companies miss positive developments because they are focused on overcoming problems.

What trends in our environment may pose threats to us? Identify emerging issues while there is still time to investigate and act in an orderly, proactive fashion.

What trends hold the promise of new opportunities for growth? Look beyond your own organization for developments in the environment that present new prospects. There may be untapped markets to pursue, complementary businesses with which to collaborate, or emerging needs to exploit.

Building on these first four questions, use the next two to generate resolutions that will make the business stronger and more successful.

How can we make the business work better in the coming year? Identify new ideas and initiatives that you want to try. Make simple, no-cost changes that everyone agrees on immediately to capture the spirit and satisfaction of making things better little by little. Every member of your team has a different perspective and runs into particular frustrations, so get everyone involved.

How can we become a better place to work? When all is said and done, an organization is as strong as the people in it. Organizations that value, respect and listen to employees tend to be robust and resilient. Find ways to demonstrate that your organization holds these values. Appreciate efforts that exceed expectations. Respond constructively to every constructive suggestion whether implementable or not. Give and receive constructive criticism in the spirit of improving the whole organization.

Of course, these are the broad questions I have found useful. I like them because they offer a lot of flexibility and tie together the major business functions – human resources, marketing, operations, finance, strategy – but they aren’t the only ones. Have others worked well for you? It would be great hear about them.

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