Here’s why you shouldn’t set New Year’s resolutions for your business

For most businesses, financial year ends dictate the management of business goals, and not necessarily the calendar year. It is very tempting to use the new year as a perfect opportunity to set new goals but it’s not the wisest course of action argues Samantha Hogg-Brandjes, owner and MD of GinjaNinja – South Africa’s leading boutique tech PR agency.

For quite some time I stopped setting personal goals too. After many years of very challenging personal circumstances, I refused point blank to participate in setting resolutions. I felt that no matter what I wished for, life would turn out as it wanted anyway, so what was the point? Thankfully, this dark approach has altered over the years, and I stick to my personal goals.

It is no surprise then that I don’t think a business needs New Year’s resolutions! Before you go off thinking I am a nut job (and to be fair, some people do anyway) my advice is to rather use the new year as a refresher opportunity, further cementing what your business aims are for the financial period. Any decent business will have a strategy linked to its financial year, and if not, at the very least a budget.

Many organisations don’t have stated goals other than simply making it through year after year, staying afloat and making enough money to afford a lifestyle. I was one of those until 2020 when I decided that I needed structure and a cohesive approach to the business with stated and easily understood goals. It was then that I learnt that strategy or in this case, resolutions are only half the challenge, and that it was the ‘doing’ that unseats people.

If you have an exciting goal, how will you ensure it is achieved? We can blame procrastination, fear, perfectionism, or that it was simply too challenging, but the truth is that usually, we are not focused enough on execution and how we ensure our teams connect with our strategy, share the company vision and work to help the business achieve it.

Don’t get me wrong, execution is not about spreadsheets and a to-do list. Nor is it about investments, processes, strategic acquisitions, or product changes. What is needed and becoming the go-to for successful businesses is behavioural change. It is here that we look at customer centricity, achieving higher quality, faster responses, operational consistency, a consultative sales approach, and reduced cost overruns.

What does this mean? Well, the devil is in the detail as the adage goes. It is also not about people, which I know sounds crazy, but if you look at your goals and think you have a square peg in a round whole, it’s not always the peg’s fault. Consider how well your strategy is communicated and if you have an adequate plan in place to help your team understand the strategy and enough support for them to execute it.

In my experience, it is often so much harder to stick to a strategy than it is to divert when something new comes along or a stumbling block is encountered. Stick to your plan and adjust execution as and when your team needs you to.

In The 4 Disciplines of Execution, authors McChesney, Covey and Huling, cite lack of clarity, commitment, collaboration, and accountability as the biggest stumbling blocks to successful execution. Interestingly, the book lists ‘the day job’ as the biggest factor that robs teams of the necessary focus for strategic execution.

I have spent years watching my clients push forward with and against market forces, making sticking to a strategy a very hard thing to do. It seems that without the right approach, a strategy can die a slow and quiet death over the financial period. This is hastened by the dominant day job. It is easy to imagine this happening and it is also possible that as the new calendar year crawls closer that management suddenly realises they have veered totally off the path with zero strategic intent.

If it’s New Year’s resolutions you want, then tie them to your current financial year plan and use the timeframe to remind, reinvigorate and refocus the team. The latter is the first discipline needed when executing. This year my business is 20 years old, and I can honestly say that focus has only featured in the past three years, the other 17 years were survival mode with no clear idea of what I wanted to achieve for the business. In this period, I have grown more than 41 percent, moved into a bigger office and opened a Western Cape branch. It is no coincidence, this is the product of focus, strategy, and execution.

I’m not being judgmental though, because being a small business and succeeding for twenty years is quite something today. In a way, I think it prepared me well for the next chapter of the business where there is significantly more intention and strategy, aiming higher than I think we ever have in a way.

I work with a Grow Impact business coach and have defined and redefined my approach for the future of GinjaNinja. As I enter 2023, I don’t need new year’s resolutions, but rather a recap of what I need to achieve in the last two months of my financial year and what will change as I start finalising my 2023/24 budget and strategy.

If we are to follow The 4 Disciplines of Execution approach, there are four suggested steps to consider:

  • Focus on the wildly important
  • Act on the lead measures
  • Keep a compelling scoreboard
  • Create a cadence of accountability

The steps are far simpler than you might imagine. Decide where your focus lies in the business, measure how you change and progress to keep this focus, develop a decent carrot or incentive to motivate your team, and finally, ensure that everybody knows, understands and takes responsibility for their role.

As for a new year’s resolution, last year, encouraged by my daughter, I wrote a letter to myself and she kept it for a year, returning it to me at the beginning of 2023. It was incredible to read what I wrote in 2022 and even better to acknowledge that I had indeed done what I had hoped, giving me a lovely boost for the new year. The letter was a wonderful way to plot a way forward and it was personal and kind, there was no plan to lose 10 kilos or stop eating carbs, just a few life-changing wishes from someone who has always remained eternally hopeful.

May 2023 be your year; may it deliver to you all you need to be a better version of yourself. May it also bless your business and feed your soul.