"We are either progressing or retrograding all the while; there is no such thing as remaining stationary in this life"
- James Freeman Clarke
Every year about this time we see published one list after another of predictions about the coming year. People will predict technological advances, weather, sports- anything you can imagine. It's been going on for a few weeks already. Sometimes I read some of these lists and wonder what the people who make them do during the rest of the year. One thing they rarely do is go back and take a look at whether their previous year's lists were accurate. It's just on the next year.
Sometimes we might get a good laugh out of some of those lists, but underneath even the most ridiculous predictions, lies the reality that as leaders we have to think about what the future may bring and what that means for us and for our businesses. As difficult as it is, we can't just put our heads in the sand and pretend it doesn't matter, or that it doesn't apply to us.
So if you haven't already, ask yourself this: What do you think will be the most significant change that your business will have to deal with in 2019? Does it have to do with people? Technology? Customers? Products? Part of what makes thinking about the future difficult is that it seems so unlimited. It's hard to narrow it down, so we're tempted to just quit and deal with things as they happen.
Bad idea. Yes, there are things that you won't be able to predict and surprises that will arise seemingly from nowhere. You'll have to deal with those as they happen. However, if you understand your business, your customers, your industry, etc., then there are some of those changes and some of those future challenges that you should be able to see coming.
It's important to take time to think about those changes and challenges and discuss them with your team. But you don't stop there. What are you actually going to do about those things? If you expect some major change in what your customers are demanding, then what will your response be? Do you have to change your process? Do you have to re-engineer your product? Do you need to re-set your cost structure? What specific steps will you take?
It's easy to say that a new year means new opportunities, or that we are expecting big things in the coming year, or whatever cliche we want to roll out. The truth is that if you really want better things in the coming year, then you need to do different things. So figure out what those things are and get to work. It's never too early to start.
Article reproduced with the kind permission of Matt Heemstra.
Matt is a director of Cain Ellsworth & Co. LLP, USA.
For over fifteen years he has worked with small and mid-sized businesses, helping them to envision their future and then make it happen.
Matt heads up Growth & Profit Solutions (GPS), a division of Cain Ellsworth.