12 Questions to make this your BEST year ever!


Thank you to our friend and Business Coach, Donald Cooper, for sharing this valuable information!


Business success is not an accident.  It’s the result of being realistic about where we are now, clear about what we commit to become in the next 3 to 5 years…and then committing to visualize, plan, decide, implement and diligently follow up to create that more extraordinary future.

Now is the time to work ‘ON’ your business…not just ‘IN’ it. What will your sales and profit commitments be?  How will you improve the customer experience, operational efficiency and staff engagement?  How will you differentiate yourself in a crowded and cynical marketplace?  Specifically what needs fixing, changing or doing to make all of that happen?

To get started, sit down with a few of the best minds and hearts in your business and invest a few hours to answer the 12 simple questions listed below. Don’t talk about ‘goals, targets, aims and objectives’.  These are weak and wishy-washy words that leave way too much ‘wiggle room’ to not perform. Talk about ‘commitments’. Change the language in your business.  When you change your language, you change your culture…and your results.

The power of getting specific about your commitments.  The more clear and specific you get about your commitments, the better your results will be.  Here are 3 examples of what clear and specific commitments look like:

  1. We will increase sales by $800,000 in the next 12 months, while not increasing sales and marketing expenses by more than 4%.
  2. We will reduce operating expense by $50,000, in the next 6 months, without diminishing our customer service or employment experience.
  3. We will improve delivery on ‘rush orders’ by 4 hours, within 3 months, without increasing our shipping expense by more than $12,000 a year.

For each commitment you make, determine what specific activities, actions, changes or initiatives you’ll implement to get you where you commit to be.  Then, determine specifically what will be done, by whom, by when, at what cost, measured how and rewarded how, to make that happen.  This may sound like a lot of work…but it’s what management is all about.  Stop retreating to the familiar, doing the ‘easy day-to-day stuff’ and hoping for better results.  Remember, we get what we work for…not what we hope for.

Note: These 12 questions, below, are simple…but some of the answers will not be.  Where necessary, allocate homework and research assignments to members of your Team to gather more info and new innovative thoughts.  Here are your 12 questions:

  1. What bottom line profit do we commit to generate this year that will keep us financially healthy and allow us to fairly reward everyone on our Team for their time, effort and investment in the business?  What sales and gross margin must we achieve to generate that bottom line?
  2. What are the 6 to 10 most important things we need to do to improve or grow our business this year, so that we achieve our sales, gross margin and profit commitment? How will we implement these changes…and by when?  Who will be responsible for each of the activities or changes that we agree to implement?
  3. What are 3 to 6 things that we do that tick off our target customers or destroy customer trust…and what will we do to eliminate them? How could we not just ‘fix’ these things but turn them around so wonderfully that they actually become a powerful competitive advantage?  By when do we commit to do this?  Who will be responsible for each of them?
  4. What additional products, services or experiences would make us more helpful and / or more valuable to our target customers? How can we profitably develop, add and implement these?  By when do we commit to do this and who will be responsible for each of them?
  5. What are 3 to 6 important things that any of our competitors do better than we do, and what will we do to fix that so that we’re clearly better than them?  By when do we commit to determine what those things are and what we’ll do to either be better than our competitors at those things, or to counter with other more relevant value propositions?   By when do we commit to do this and who will be responsible for each of them?
  6. What 3 to 6 extraordinary things could we do to make doing business with us not all about price?  What functional or emotional value can we create, or what extraordinary service or amenities can we add that will ‘grab’ our target customers and fundamentally change the game?  What has never been done before in our industry that would blow our customers away?  By when do we commit to have some bold, innovative ideas about this possibility?  Who will be responsible for analyzing each idea put forward?
  7. We are what we communicate. So, what 3 to 6 gutsy things will we do this year to communicate our total value offering in a way that  ‘grabs’ our target customers and more effectively promotes our business?  By when do we commit to have developed this bold and more effective way of communicating our compelling value story?  Who will be responsible for analyzing each idea put forward?
  8. What our 6 biggest expense items on which we can save money this year…and, specifically, how and by when will we achieve those savings?  Who will be responsible for this project?
  9. What 3 to 6 things can we can do to become ‘greener’ in the next year…and beyond? Who will be responsible for collecting and analyzing the ideas generated and supervising implementation of each idea that is approved?   By when will we implement the approved ideas?
  10. What 3 to 6 things can we do to improve internal written and verbal communications so as to operate more effectively, improve employee engagement and improve clarity about our commitments to customers, to each other and to the bottom line? Who will be responsible for collecting and analyzing the ideas generated and supervising implementation of each idea that’s approved?   By when will we implement the approved ideas?
  11. We can’t grow our business without growing our people. What training, development or mentoring does each person on our Team need to help them grow themselves and help us grow the business, serve customers more wonderfully and operate more effectively?  By when will we have determined what that training, development or mentoring will be for each Team member, and how we will implement that?    Who will be responsible for this important project?
  12. What are the most important new technologies and systems that we need to bring into our business in the next 12 months? As we look to technology to give us the operating efficiency and competitive advantage we need, it will be useful not to lump ‘technology’ into one big confusing mess, but rather to examine how  technology can help us in each specific area and function of our business.
    • Use the 9-point checklist below to explore the possibilities. We’ll also seek expert help. Every business should have two or more trusted technology ‘heroes’ to keep them ahead of the pack.
    • Below is a checklist of where technology can help us.  We’ll put an X in the box beside each one that has possibilities for us.  Then we’ll investigate, make commitments and take action. Some of these ‘possibilities’ listed below may not apply to our particular business…but many will.
      1. Technologies and systems that will help us design and create new and better products, services and experiences.
      2. Technologies and systems that will help us create world-class operating efficiency and higher and more consistent quality.
      3. The technologies and systems of logistics that will help us more quickly, efficiently and accurately deliver our products or services to existing customers…and perhaps to a wider customer base.
      4. Technologies and systems that will help us improve the speed, quality, depth, breadth, individuality and consistency of the customer service and experiences that we deliver.
      5. Technologies and systems that allow us to listen to, understand, engage with and respond to our customers as a group, and as individuals.
      6. Technologies and systems that help us more efficiently communicate our compelling value message to and build strong relationships with our customers and prospects as a group, and as individuals.
      7. The equipment, systems and process technologies that allow us to operate, control and manage every aspect of our business more effectively.
      8. Technologies that help us operate in a more environmentally responsible, less wasteful and more sustainable way.
      9. The technologies and processes to research industry ‘best practices’ and emerging new business models.  One of the easiest ways to do this is Google searches through which we can study competitive websites and articles, discover who in our industry, worldwide, is doing innovative new things…and what disruptive new business models could become our new worst enemy.
    • So, there are nine ways that technology and systems can help us create a competitive advantage in every part of our business.  What will we do with this information…and when?   Do we have a technology ‘hero’ or two, or three, who constantly coach and challenge us to get ahead…and stay ahead in both operational technology and systems and marketing and socoal media technology?


So, there you have it…12 important questions to get you thinking about how to make this year your best year ever.  Remember, for each idea you come up with and commit to, be clear about what will be done, by whom, by when, at what expense, measured how and rewarded how, to make it happen.  Failure to implement effectively is one of the biggest challenges in most businesses today.  Remember, businesses do not die from a single shot to the head.  They die, slowly but surely, from a thousand uncompleted tasks.


For more information or to learn about Donald Cooper and the services he offers, please visit his website at www.donaldcooper.com.

Your Costen Insurance Team