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Thinking Fresh for 2010

Thinking Fresh for 2010

It’s the end of 2009 as I write this, approaching 2010—the perfect time to think fresh when it comes to your business. To that end, in this month’s column I’m supplying you with 10 recommendations that you can use to create a corporate “to do” list for your business to help you better compete in 2010. Looking for even more suggestions? 

Check out  the “Inside Output” column, "Wagging the Dog,"  where Craig Miller has proffered up his own list for 2010.

Making a difference
One, market something new: During this year, figure out a new product to sell to your customers. It doesn’t have to be an investment in new equipment. It could be just simply adding another product to your existing capabilities. Developing a new product to sell will create excitement with your customers, with your sales and marketing team, and even your production team. Just make sure it also means adding profits to your business.

Two, formalize training: Most of us have some form of leadership training for our organizations, but all too often it’s done on an ad-hoc basis. Make 2010 the year you institute a structured training program that will continually develop your leadership team. Begin by scheduling the training once per month if possible, or at least once per quarter. I have found that when you schedule training as a recurring and structured event your employees will realize you’ve made a commitment to training and will become much more involved. Occasionally, invite guest speakers from outside the business to share some fresh approaches with your team, and invite your own managers to participate in the instruction. Committing to a formalized training program and sticking to it will make a difference in your management team.

Three, create a budget and use it: As you enter a new decade, what better time to commit to a budget and then use it? This will be a challenging item on your list but it can reap great rewards. By creating and sticking to a budget, you’ll find that you have greater visibility of where your business stands than ever before. It just takes a strong commitment to make it work.

Four, change your approach to safety: Some of you may already have an excellent safety program in place. If you do, and it’s functioning effectively to reduce safety issues on a regular basis, feel free to replace this one on the “to do” list with a company party. If not, make a concerted effort to organize a safety committee and begin to improve the safety programs in your business. This can be done without great cost to your company, but will undoubtedly reap significant rewards. We are all only one serious accident away from changing our lives forever, or even losing our business. A functioning safety program can be a huge step in avoiding that.

Five, provide service: Find an opportunity during the course of the year to volunteer you and your employees for some community service. All too often we become immersed in our own problems, particularly in light of the tough couple of years we’ve endured. What better way to bring your entire company closer together than to participate in some sort of community service? By the way, I’m not talking here about donating a billboard or a banner to a good cause—anyone can do that. Instead, find something that will allow all of your employees the opportunity to get out and participate in a local community where you can all feel like you are making a difference. 

Trust your team
Six, get green: Despite all the controversy surrounding global warming, green-washing, and so on, we can all agree that we do, in fact, operate in an industry that isn’t all that Earth-friendly. So figure out a way to improve >36 your company’s carbon footprint. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing or telling you to do. Just decide what you can do to end 2010 in a more environmentally friendly place than you started, and then do it.

Seven, cut costs somewhere: Set an overall goal to cut your costs by 1 to 2 percent of sales during this year. Get into the detail of your expenses and figure out a plan to make it happen—don’t just wish that it happens. This will be a hard one, but will be best accomplished by combining this step with the aforementioned budget step. Once you put together a plan, share it with everyone and commit to sticking to it. It might be in material costs, labor, sales and marketing—no one knows better than you.  

Eight, save something this year: Once you’ve implemented your budgeting and cost-cutting measures, you have the opportunity to accomplish another beneficial step on your list—saving some money. Open a separate savings account and begin to put some money away. I realize that times are difficult right now, so this amount may be a very small number. But establishing the precedent is the important part here. Get into the habit now of putting a little bit away, then when times get better, the amount can get larger. If the past year or two has taught us anything, it’s that we need to be much more prepared for tough times. There is no better way than to have cash saved away. 

Nine, host a sales conference: Let’s face it, sales people need to be loved. Plan at least one, if not two, major sales events that bring all your sales reps and perhaps even your company managers together. Invite a motivational speaker. Have open discussion about production issues that frustrate the sales team and vice versa. An open dialogue between production and sales can be incredibly useful in solving problems that otherwise go unaddressed. Treat everyone, sales reps and managers alike, to a nice dinner somewhere. The point is to create motivation and generate cooperation within your team. Whatever it costs in time lost or money spent will be well worth it. 

Ten, get out of town: Last, but certainly not least, take an extended break away from your business. Make it a week or perhaps even two. And when you get away, get completely away. Life is too short to be married to the business, and frankly, you probably aren’t as indispensible to the business as you think you are. Trust your team—they might make a few mistakes while you are gone, but so what? Trust me, they aren’t going to put you out of business. Go have some fun (you can thank me later). 

Out of the box
While you may not be inclined to adopt my entire list here, do as many as you can, or make up your own unique list of “out of the box” actions you want to take this year. Best wishes for all of us to have a prosperous 2010.

Marty McGhie is VP finance/operations of Ferrari Color, a digital-imaging center with Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Sacramento locations. The company offers high-quality large- and grand-format photo, inkjet, fabric, and UV printing. marty@ferraricolor.com


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