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Mark Richardson, CR, is an author, columnist, and business growth strategist. He authored the best-selling book, How Fit Is Your Business? as well as his latest book, Fit to Grow. He can be reached at sends e-mail) or 301.275.0208.

The Final Leg

Year’s end is a sprint to the finish, a time to meet or exceed annual goals

November 30, 2016
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Building and running a business is a journey that can span decades, but it’s helpful to think in yearly cycles. I think of the business year as a race. While 2016 may have felt like a sprint, for most well-run businesses, it’s more of a marathon. 

A marathon has a beginning, a middle, and an end. In the beginning, you’re establishing your cadence and sizing up the competition; in the middle, you’re executing your plan and maintaining hydration and an efficient rhythm; and at the end, you are in the final leg, where you dig deep and go to the well for the extra 10 or 20 percent that can often make the difference between winning and losing. 

As with a marathon, the normal cycle of the business year also has a beginning, middle, and end. For most remodeling businesses that recognize profits based on produced work, the final leg is when you often have an opportunity to bolster profits that are in danger of falling short or to push to exceed profit expectations. I encourage businesses to consider the following steps to make the most out of the final leg of this year.

Prioritize. Determine your top three priorities for the final leg. You may decide you need to finish a few projects with all hands on deck, or you may want to find ways to save or defer overhead expenses, or you may choose to focus on making a key hire or promotion to position yourself for a good start into the new year. You may find more that needs to be done, but by articulating and focusing on only three objectives, you have a real opportunity to generate a great final kick.

Get buy in. Remodeling is a team sport. Today it’s difficult to achieve strong results without everyone pulling together. Most owners carry too much on their own back and often fall short with the results. Getting buy-in can help, but it’s a process. It means communicating the reasons behind the priorities, listening to feedback from team members, and structuring the goals so they are achievable.

Be aggressive but realistic. You need to know your numbers so you can dig deep and aggressively attack the final leg, but you also need to be realistic about what can be accomplished within a specific time period so that you and the team leaders don’t burn out.

Create a plan. As obvious as this may sound, lack of planning is the downfall of most business owners. As with a remodeling job, which requires a specific plan to close out the project, you need a separate plan just for the final leg of the business year. This includes regular team huddles, attention to milestones, and the right levels of accountability. Without a plan, most companies fail to take advantage of available opportunities to improve year-end performance.

Celebrate. It’s very important that you give yourself and your team the gift of celebration if you want to achieve a great final leg. Whether it’s a bonus, a special event, or some other memorable activity, an appropriate celebration sets expectations for next year’s final leg and helps build the necessary buy-in.

I know that this advice may sound elementary, but I’ve seen many owners who are disappointed with annual profits and others who are going into the new year with pie-in-the-sky plans that exceed any performance in previous years. I’ve also seen many leadership teams that really don’t believe in the company owner’s plan or who even doubt their own ability to achieve greatness. By making the final leg an event in itself, you can break through this pattern and position your business well for the future.

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