It’s that time of year. When this year’s results are almost complete and it is time to start looking at how our strategy will be different (or produce different) results next year. Most business owners I know are already looking at 2020. What will this new year bring? What strategic moves are you going to employ? In short, do you have 2020 vision?
Blurred Vision – Nearsightedness
Nearsightedness is the most common of eyesight problems that limits your 2020 vision. And it’s probably the most common problem experienced by business owners. A person who is nearsighted can see things up close, but objects at a distance are blurry.
Similarly, many business owners can see what is immediately ahead of them but have little insight into what is further down the road. For some business owners, it means that they don’t have a clear vision or strategy for the future. For others, it’s not that they don’t necessarily have a strategy, it’s just that they don’t have any clear way of knowing what is coming.
The key answer for companies with this problem is to develop Key Performance Indicators that allow business decision-makers to keep track of how business is developing and to know what is ahead of them. Examples of KPIs include sales pipeline figures (number of quotes, number of POs, weighted value of pipeline, etc.). But other future-related KPIs include inventory figures, labor estimates and tracking against budget.
When you combine a lack of a clear strategy and an inability to identify what is coming, you will be experiencing business-miopia. The two-step solution of establishing a vision and strategy for the future and identify KPIs to predict your future are critical for overcoming it.
Farsightedness is a less common problem in people, and also less common among business people. Farsightedness (or “hyperopia” as it is officially known), is the ability to see clearly at a distance, but to have difficulty with blurred vision up close.
I have run across a number of farsighted business owners. These are visionaries who have big ideas about the future. They are constantly thinking about what will be coming 2-3 years (or more) in the future. These visionaries have the ability to stay several steps ahead of the industry.
The problem comes when a business owner ONLY looks at the future and doesn’t keep an eye on what is happening today. I have worked with some business owners who were absolutely brilliant when it comes to predicting where their industry is going. But they have no ability to execute and take the steps they need to be successful today.
I offer a few suggestions to business owners who suffer from business-hyperopia. The KPI suggestion from before certainly applies as it gives a structure for business owners to monitor the business of today.
Another suggestion for a business visionary is to strategically partner with at least one person who is good at execution. I find that many visionaries like to surround themselves with other visionaries. The problem with this is that you get a lot of people sitting around thinking about the future, and no one focusing on the needs of today. Every successful visionary has found a practical executioner to help deliver his or her strategy.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
One of the realities of being into your 40s or 50s is that you start losing the ability to see fine details clearly. Most notably comes the lack of ability to read fine print. This problem is exasperated in poor lighting, or when you are tired. The only real solution is to use reading glasses (or get someone younger to help you).
In business, sometimes issues or circumstances cloud our judgment. We have a good month, and we begin to make decisions as if every month will be equally good. Or we have a bad month, and we begin making budget-tightening decisions that limit our ability to grow. Similarly, we have a good or bad experience with a product, an employee, or a business partner, and we make assumptions based on limited vision and a lack of data.
My advice for decision-makers who suffer from this business-version of macular degeneration is two-fold. First, make sure you are making your decision with as much clarity as possible. When I need to read the fine print, I often need to get under the best lighting possible. Similarly, make sure you are exposing your situation to as much “light” as possible. Make sure that you are seeing the situation clearly. If you need assistance in seeing the details, get your business version of reading glasses and make sure you are capturing all of the detail.
Secondly, if you cannot see clearly on your own, get some help. Find a coach, a mentor, a business partner, or other trusted advisor to help you. A “second set of eyes” can do wonder for seeing a problem clearly.
Another age-related vision issue that impacts 2020 vision is cataracts. As someone now in my 50s, I’ve learned a little bit about cataracts. Why is that? Because almost everyone in their 50s has them. They aren’t bad yet, but they are there. Cataracts create a cloudy film over your eyes that eventually make it hard to see. It starts as a minor issue, but over years and decades, they become worse and have to be dealt with.
What is the parallel to business? Quite simply, we all have issues that cloud our judgment. Maybe it is an employee that continues to cause issues for the team. Perhaps it is a bad customer that everyone wants to get rid of, but everyone is afraid to. Or maybe it’s just that “elephant in the room”. The problem with your product or service that no one wants to fess up to, or address.
We all have issues that cloud our judgment. It’s human nature. So how do we address these?
I have three suggestions. Listen, listen and listen some more. First, listen to your employees. Have you performed any sort of internal assessment of your organization? Perhaps a 360-degree assessment or an organizational health assessment? If not, you should! Second, listen to your customers. Go out and meet with your customers. Ask their honest opinion. Incentivize them to be brutally honest with you. Only then will you find out what really is going on. And finally, listen to your gut. Your gut should be telling you where there are problems. But be careful, just as cataracts build up over time, so does our tolerance for problems. And more often than not, we are overly tolerant of these nagging issues that have been around for a while.
Get some help to develop 2020 vision
As a coach, one of the biggest values I bring is the ability to look at a problem from a fresh perspective. I help my clients develop 2020 vision by giving them insight from another viewpoint. As their strategic advisor, I help them see the situation from multiple angles. And collectively we make the best decision possible.