By Diane M. Calabrese / Published December 2020
Purpose reaffirmed. That’s one way to look at a resolution.
Just how the custom of making a New Year’s resolution emerged is more conjecture than fact. But across cultures and time, irrespective of whether the new year began in November, January, or some other time, the transition signaled the opportunity to start anew.
In the context of renewal, resolutions make sense. The past informs. The future offers opportunities.
If 2020 has provided anything, it is an abundance of context. Will it prompt more resolution making? And will the resolutions include those for your business?
Consider the structure that resolutions provide. “A resolution is a predecessor to accountability,” says Bill Sommers, president of Pressure Systems Industries in Phoenix, AZ. The resolution clearly defines an objective. “Without commitment you will not hold yourself accountable,” says Sommers.
For a resolution to be useful, its maker must think it through and follow through. Other-
wise, things are no more likely to happen with a resolution in place than without one. Resolutions evaporate for the same reason daily goals do. There’s not enough engagement.
“Choose your daily activities and conquer them to obtain fulfillment that your daily soul requires,” says Sommers. “Strategic planning can bring about the feelings desired.”
Use a structure to formulate a resolution. “Ask yourself, ‘What do I want? What will I do to obtain it?’”
Even when a resolution guides activity at a business, the owner remains very much in the picture. “This is a behavioral personal contract,” says Sommers. “The consequence for non-performance is groundhog timing and the misery you seek.”
Again, Sommers stresses being fully in. “You must make a commitment to your resolution,” he says. “The mantra is ‘I do what I say I will do.’ Attitude is the basis for your accountability and gives a great performance agenda to your initial resolution.”
For Sommers, the resolution for 2021 is all encompassing. “My personal resolution is to continue to remove negativity from my surroundings, which should provide a larger smile.”
Equanimity and equilibrium are certainly essential to getting things done. Consequently, shunning the negative is a good place to begin.
Of course, if we know anything, it is that a resolution made on January 1 can be rendered obsolete by events beyond our control. For that reason, some find it more useful to think in terms of goals.
“As a small business, we set goals but not necessarily resolutions,” explains Brenda Purswell, president of Alklean Industries Inc. in Pasadena, TX. “We have for many, many years just adjusted our business plans according to the business climate—sometimes it changes several times during the course of the year.”
With the vagaries of 2020, many business owners are making adjust-ments literally day to day. And it seems more natural than ever to wait until the year’s end is very close to make resolutions or set goals.
“We have not made a formal resolution for 2021; the business climate is so unsettled right now and is not looking like it will change before year end,” says Purswell. “We normally set goals for our salespeople specifically, but this year we just do not know where to begin.”
One unspoken resolution of business owners will be to continue to do whatever it takes. That’s what they are doing now. Factors buffeting members of our industry come from more than one direction.
And Purswell sums up the biggest factors. “The oil industry is unsettled, and COVID-19 added another level of difficulty, not to mention it being an election year,” she says. “Most of the businesses I speak to are fearful of potential higher taxes and regulations and the oil industry being crushed.”
(Purswell’s summation ties us to many points considered in an article about the state of the industry, on page 6.)
Perhaps the most significant element of making a resolution for a business is the tacit acknowledgement it embodies: What has already passed is something over which there is no control.
A resolution signifies looking forward. It carries the weight of the work that adhering to it will entail. It forces reality on us, as opposed to wearing rose-colored glasses or adopting Pollyanna-like perspective.
Product/service, marketing, sales, inventory, management, and finances (including taxes, payroll, insurance, etc.) are the six big components of any business. Let’s consider (with help from tips culled from sources at the U.S. Small Business Administration, SBA.gov some resolutions that might be made with respect to each.
Few businesses resolved to radically change their product line in 2020. Yet many did just that so they could capture market share and meet the insatiable needs of the public for many products, such as sanitizers and disinfectants.
Resolve to take a critical look at the product/service roster. In some areas, residential building owners may have pulled back on services. But the more extensive cleaning required by businesses that are open presents opportunities for contractors. Explore them. Similarly, distributors might add products—sanitizing, disinfecting—contractors require in greater amounts.
Marketing philosophies vary. Narrating a negative to make a sale, however, seems to have limits. Resolution makers ought to consider how to market cleaning products and services without mentioning the cloud over public health. It’s tricky, but the effect of ‘warnings’ and ‘advisories’ on every website a prospective customer visits can dampen the spirit of the customers.
A good marketing resolution would be to find a way to attach a product or service to all that’s positive. Contractors can remind potential customers that clean windows and a clean exterior will make a home so much more beautiful—no cobwebs, insect remains, or algae. The beauty beheld brings comfort to residents and passersby. Distributors may promote the way a machine or ancillary will simplify or speed the work of a contractor.
Instead of warnings on websites (some of which, of course, are required by law), how about resolving to introduce some happy images as a method of balancing perception? Try an image of contractors working, cleaning a building adjacent to a flourishing garden. Arrange product images to maximize aesthetics and arrange products to do the same in stores.
It is probably best to forget flowers and ultra-soft embellishments like fragrances and music in industry-focused establishments. Still, try to find a way to subdue the warnings there (while complying with the law). Resolve to make settings less austere and warnings less numbing.
Resolutions about increasing sales may be difficult to articulate. But consider something like returning or getting close to January 2020 monthly sales volume by the end of January 2021. “Getting close” sets a reasonable, rational goal.
With sales diminished, the idea of cutting inventory may seem semi-logical for distributors and manufacturers. If cutting must be done, it should be in the form of pruning. Resolve to evaluate inventory and bolster fastest moving items. Firm up timelines with suppliers—how much lead time do they require to resupply?
Management bundles together structure and function of a business. A resolution for 2021 might be to consider how closely they are aligned. A contractor could rethink the storage of items carried in a vehicle. A distributor can do the same in a service center.
Finances have become more complicated with programs like PPP (Payroll Protection Program Act). Rules regarding repayment, amount to be repaid when, and interest keep changing. Thus, in addition to keeping pace with tax payments, insurance, debt service, etc., there’s a new layer of accounting. A resolution to take advantage of all the free help available from SBA through webinars, for instance, might be a good one.
Women-owned businesses, Native American-owned businesses, veteran-owned businesses, LGBT-owned businesses, and rural business designations are classified by the U.S. Small Business Administration as meriting some special treatment in federal lending and grant programs. Any contractor, distributor, or manufacturer that falls into one of the categories should resolve to explore opportunities by visiting the SBA.gov website.
Contracting for the federal government is one way to increase revenue. Small businesses alone take in more than $100 billion a year from such opportunities. Resolve to explore contracting opportunities not only with the federal government but also with state and local governments.
Ever thought of buying another business—a complementary one, for example? Resolve to explore the possibility in 2021. Many small businesses with a sturdy client roster may be receptive to an offer.
Mergers are happening, too. They are not for every business, and they quite often take a final structure that looks like an acquisition, but a business owner might resolve to explore them. Mergers afford a way to increase services, product lines, and geographic coverage—as time-tested methods of increasing the diversity and strength of a business.
Whatever course is taken as the new year approaches, a business owner will be making a decision.
To make a decision is to resolve. That is true whether a decision is made to just let things flow as they will and respond as ripples—and waves—occur, or to set an objective and work to achieve it.
With business planning—and resolutions—we say “no” to drifting by reaffirming purpose.