The New Year always gives us a sense of renewal and focus. It provides us with a time, albeit frenzied, to reflect on what happened last year and what we can do to improve upon our performance, our systems, and our “working on our businesses” as opposed to “working in them.”

Many times, when we reflect, we think about what we should have done or could have done better. That type of reflection can often lead to asking ourselves a very important question, “when was the last time …(you fill in the phrase).”  Asking the question is a direct response to trying to get things up to snuff. Let’s walk down the “when was the last time…?” path and ask some tough questions about ourselves and our businesses.

When was the last time you spent more than 5 hours working on a strategic plan that would drive your business forward and make everyone in the company accountable? Many times we do a plan and it sits on the shelf gathering dust. Do you know what needs to be measured to prove that you’re doing better than before? Are you having monthly management team meetings that are driven by those metrics and include discussions of how your actions are positively impacting what you’re trying to build and that you’re keeping your promises to your customers?

When was the last time you had your financial advisor take you down “retirement lane” to give you an honest evaluation of what you have versus what you need? If you’re not doing that once a year you probably don’t have an accurate picture of your needs, goals, resources, and how they meet your needs.  I consistently talk to business owners trying to project their exit from their business who have no idea how what they have accumulated will allow them to live beyond the business. If you’re worried about being sold a product simply ask the advisor to meet with you for a couple hours and charge you by the hour.

When was the last time your CPA, attorney, financial advisor, and other trusted advisors sat in the same room with you at the same time and you talked together about your business? I think I know the answer to that because it’s one that I hear virtually 100% of the time. Yet how will you know if you can exit or have a succession plan or are getting the very best thinking without your entire team working together in the same room, at the same time?

If you’re a family business, when was the last time you had a family roundtable, perhaps facilitated, to get all the issues on the table? The next step is to deal in a businesslike manner with those issues. In the past couple years our firm has facilitated hundreds of meetings with family business owners. It’s not easy, but the positive results are dramatic.

When was the last time, if you’re within 10 years of potential retirement, that you analyzed how you would make that happen and still keep your business? Or how you would transfer your business to key managers or family? Or what you need to realize from the sale of your business to fill any liquidity shortfall derived from you and your financial advisor’s retirement needs analysis?

When was the last time you listed the most important value drivers for your business success and worked to improve upon them? Do you have the right people in the right seats on the bus? How do you know that?

When was the last time you thought about what it would look like if a Private Equity Group was to make an offer?

Wow! Are there a lot of questions or what? When you begin with the question – “when was the last time…?” you can be sure that it will really help you focus on what’s important to do RIGHT NOW! Make this the year that results in the next year result in: “Why, I did that just this past year!”  Have a great year.