The New Year brings with it a flurry of activity and a fresh start when you can apply the lessons learned during the previous year. But too often last year’s learning experiences are quickly forgotten. So this year, my gift to readers is the following calendar of quotes I’ve read and advice I’ve heard from boards over the years about how to run a company.
January (or Month One if you are on a fiscal calendar)
“100% of your revenue comes from your customers.” – Anonymous
It’s a new year and all clocks and numbers reset to zero. But one thing remains the same, 100% of your revenue still comes from one place; your customers. The New Year provides a perfect excuse to reach out to customers and supercharge your networking activities. Successful CEOs find ways to stay in front of their customers to form partnerships, raise visibility, win new business and establish important alliances.
February (Month Two)
“Never mistake activity for achievement.” – John Wooden
Early in each year you have to stay close to your people. They’ve just received their bonuses and some will be happy, but some won’t. Making sure you focus on them and are clear about their goals and objectives for the upcoming year is critical to the success of the business. Everybody needs to be rowing in the right direction, productively. This is the perfect time to coach people about what impact looks like, as opposed to just hard work.
March (Month Three)
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority it’s time to pause and reflect.” – Mark Twain
The first quarter close is around the corner. It’s time for your first board meeting. This is your chance as a CEO to start telling the year’s story about why you are differentiated, why you are not on the side of the majority, and why everyone should be excited about this year. Make sure you know your story and can communicate it clearly and concisely.
April (Month Four)
“Don’t put off until tomorrow something you can do today.” – Anonymous
Audits and tax filings make this a traditional time to uncover news that isn’t always pleasant. Many CEOs don’t like to hear bad news. Some want to ignore it and hope it goes away. The key is to develop a plan, address it head on, and get it behind you as quickly as possible. Bottom line: have a short memory and never look back. Never blame, never create excuses. Be accountable and move forward.
May (Month Five)
“Don’t make something easy, hard.” – Anonymous
You are now well into delivering your plan, implementing your strategy, and telling your story for the year. You’ve seen customers, you’ve got your team on board, and now the vision you had for the year is starting to come into focus. Inevitably, some people will struggle with the new programs and concepts you are putting in place. They will over engineer and make it harder than it needs to be. Your job as CEO is to simplify things, get rid of the road blocks and make it as easy as possible for people to get things done.
June (Month Six)
“Don’t forget the 24 hours Rule.” – Anonymous
The second quarter close is around the corner, but so is warm weather, and people are shifting into a summer mindset. You need to keep people engaged and motivated without getting frustrated by a widespread case of spring fever and an inclination to sit on one’s laurels (especially if it’s been a strong few quarters). Remember: never respond to someone positively or negatively until you have slept on it. Emotional responses will just create churn and more work for you as the CEO.
July (Month Seven)
“Better to do a little well then a great deal badly.” – Socrates
You are at the halfway point now and you need to figure out what is working and what isn’t. This is the time for mid-course corrections. Like any good coach, your halftime adjustments are key to winning the game. The CEO must take this opportunity to determine strengths and weaknesses so that they can implement any adjustments and focus on what’s necessary to hit their goals and deliver the year.
August (Month Eight)
“The first step toward getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.” – J.P. Morgan
In month eight, the CEO should start thinking about the next year. A good leader is always curious and focused on innovation. It is important to stick to your strategy, but also to keep an eye on the future. While you are on the beach in August, take a notepad and be creative about what’s next, what your company should do differently, and how to change what might not appear to need changing.
September (Month Nine)
“If you aren’t good personally you won’t be good at work.” – Anonymous
As you head into the fourth quarter, check with your people and make sure they’ve recharged their batteries over the summer. Labor Day marks the transition from summer schedules into the breakneck work pace of the final quarter. One of the most important roles of a CEO is to pay attention to their people know and to master the art of pushing them hard while encouraging, supporting and praising them well. Through this human engagement, great CEOs can take ordinary people and get them to do extraordinary things.
October (Month Ten)
“If everything is under control, you were going too slow.”- Mario Andretti
In October, as you start the budgeting process, you should be thinking about what went right and what you want the next year to look like. Your team will probably be more conservative than you want and you will have to keep pushing them to be more aggressive. This is a critical part of your role, but make sure you balance reality with optimistic future projections.
November (Month Eleven)
“When you are going through Hell, just keep going.” – Winston Churchill
You are fully immersed in the year-end grind. Your people are tired and looking forward to the holidays. At this point, you have to be as inspirational as possible. All of the great ideas you had in month one need to be honed into the 2-3 things you and your team must accomplish. Stay positive and focus on the exact details to end this year and position yourself for success in the following year.
December (Month Twelve)
“Dealing with the highs and lows of life…make sure the highs are never too high and the lows are never too low.” – Anonymous
As the year comes to an end, you need to reward the people who have delivered and make sure they know that more will be expected of them. For people who haven’t delivered, you need to make sure they don’t get into a lull. Motivate them to take time off and get after it in the new year. You always want to send people into the holidays on a high note so they are excited to come back and hit the ground running.
In my travels I’ve found that most CEOs appreciate quotes and the inspirational reminders behind them. So feel free to share any that have been meaningful to you. Have a great year!