The end of the year is the best time for IT consultants to review past performance — weigh what's gone well and study failures — and then make adjustments for working more effectively, productively, and profitably. If you can leverage a few well-chosen resolutions for your business, the results can deliver handsome rewards. Here's how to start the process.
Assess the past year
You should start with an honest assessment. I recommend reserving a morning on your calendar, hitting a comfortable coffee shop with your laptop, and reviewing how you spent the last year. What topics did meetings cover? Which technical issues caused the most stress? Which processes consumed the most time? Consider resolutions that will address the areas you're weakest in or your firm requires the most improvement.
How do you know the areas that need improving?
A good friend concludes most meetings by asking two questions:
- Where are you winning?
- Where are you losing?
He quickly celebrates the wins, and then turns the focus to what he is doing to correct the negative elements. It's an effective strategy. I'm thankful he demonstrated such a simple method for continuous improvement.
Consider select resolutions
Consultants and entrepreneurs are often too ambitious and set too many goals and objectives — that's the purpose of a business plan. Your New Year's resolutions should focus on habits to change, systems to improve, and processes to refine. I believe resolutions can only be effective if there are two or three of them; otherwise, you run the risk of losing focus.
Make resolutions measurable
Metrics and predefined intervals make monitoring your progress easier. It sounds complicated, but it doesn't have to be confusing. For example, instead of making "reduce operating costs" a resolution, define the new resolution as lowering expenses by 2% in Q1, 3% in Q2, 5% in Q3, and 6% in Q4 (or whatever the numbers might be). Then you have real numbers and deadlines that can be used for tracking improvement.
Develop better internal systems (a suggested resolution)
I like to choose a tightly targeted set of commitments that provide a snowball effect or force multiplier, if you will. I continue to believe developing better internal systems is critical for technical consultancies. Every technical consultancy should consider an investment in a business automation solution, such as AutoMate, ConnectWise, Spiceworks, or SysAid, just to name a few. Without an integrated platform for centralizing estimation, customer relationship management, monitoring, ticketing, dispatch and invoicing, a consultancy is stuck managing multiple manual processes, which wastes waste time, money, and effort.
Even if your firm has made such an investment, it's probably not fully utilizing the platform's full capacity. You should send an engineer to an offsite bootcamp or classroom training session for a refresher. By paring goal setting (improving operations) with actionable steps (ensuring three engineers are certified on the business automation portal by Q2), it's another way well-targeted resolutions pick up momentum.
Since resolutions are commonly broken before the end of January, I encourage you to go ahead and schedule three more coffee shop review sessions: one for late March, another for June, and the last in September. These built-in reviews help ensure resolution efforts receive regularly scheduled assessments and updates throughout the year.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.