Taking Stock of 2017: Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail, Part I

Submitted on: Wed, 10.11.2017 02:12am - Annie Eissler |
Taking Stock of 2017: Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail, Part I

Three steps every distributor should take now to prepare for 2018 and close out 2017 on a positive note
When the great time management guru Benjamin Franklin uttered the words, “Failing to plan is planning to fail,” what this founding father probably didn’t realize was how germane his phrase would be in the modern-day business world—or, how many companies would completely ignore it.
According to Gartner, while 71% of business and IT leaders understand which key performance indicators (KPIs) are critical to supporting business strategy, less than half can actually access metrics that help them understand how their work contributes to strategic KPIs.
The good news is that with the fourth quarter upon us, there’s no time like the present for distributors to review their progress so far in 2017 and develop a success plan for the year ahead. So if you’re wondering where the year went, how well your company is doing, and what you need to do to finish out the year on a positive note, now is the time to take action.
Unfortunately, this is easier said than done for most firms. “Companies should be doing this on an annual basis; we know they should be and they know they should be,” says Brian Friedle, MITS’ VP of Sales. “Unfortunately, by the time the end of the year rolls around a lot of distributors have done their best to forget what their early-year goals even were.”
Distributors that want to buck this trend and do a better job of year-round performance measurement should take these three steps:

  1. Don’t let business and sales fluctuations stand in the way of good metrics, analytics, and tracking. Companies should be doing this every day, regardless of whether sales are brisk, slow, or middle of the road. Performance measurement, for example, is the gathering and analysis of data that is then used to continuously improve the work of an organization—not when business ebbs and flows. 
  1. Make “taking stock” a part of your company’s routine. “Too many distributors wind up doing this under pressure, when in reality they should be doing it all the time,” says Friedle. That means continually measuring and benchmarking against goals, objectives, KPIs, accomplishments, and other metrics that are important to your specific company and/or industry. 
  1. Don’t just pull a number out of the air and set that as your goal. Want $5 million in sales? Two hundred customers? One million in profits? “Without any context, those may be too high, too low, or right on the money,” Marcia Layton Turner writes in Forbes’ Want To Achieve Your Goals This Year? Start By Doing This. “You really can’t tell without knowing how you’ve done in the past. However, if you know that sales last year were $4 million and your annual growth rate has been 25%, a sales target of $5 million is well within reason.” The key to successfully charting your course for next year is being able to look back on your accomplishments, Turner continues, to first revel in what you achieved and then set the bar higher for the coming 12 months.

Friedle says distributors can also use analytics to dig down deeper into their performance goals and to eke the most out of their valued human resources. In some cases, this alone can help move the sales and/or revenue needle in a positive direction. Very few companies actually do this, he adds, and instead just come up with an annual “wish list” that’s quickly forgotten once the year kicks off and everyone gets busy.
“Tie your goals to reality by looking at specific sales reps and/or product lines, and then determine exactly how they’re performing and what the future expectations are,” says Friedle. “Then, align those numbers into what you really want to see happen in the coming year and stick to your plan.”