They have never known a world that did not have the Internet. They grew up enchanted by J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. At age 9 they witnessed the launch of a cyber-phenomenon called Facebook.
Who are they? They are my brother’s son, my cousin’s daughter and millions of other young people beginning their undergraduate careers in the amazing realm of higher learning. What’s the endgame for these students? A boatload of dreams, which for most dials down to graduating, getting a great job and pursuing personal passions and goals.
What about those jobs and goals? Although these college rookies are emailing iPhone selfie photos to their BFFs, the majority aren’t concerned about where their job will be in four years.
Knock, knock. Who’s there? Successful business. Successful business who? Successful business run by responsible leaders who are setting SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) goals today so they’ll be around to hire future college grads tomorrow.
Are you that manager or leader? Are you practicing accountable management by cultivating goals to grow your business or team over the next five to 10 years or more? Let’s find out by bringing into your planning equation three important components.
If you own a cellphone, raise your hand. Let me look. Yes, yes, I see nearly every hand raised in our virtual audience (it’s OK to put your hands down now). Is your cellphone a Blackberry? Hope not. With a market share plunge from 47 percent in 2009 to a scant 2.1 percent in 2013 (CNN Money, September), it looks as if Blackberry is on its way out.
Previously the darling of professionals, Blackberry’s slow decline was caused by a multitude of missteps, one of which was a failure to set realistic goals and react properly to changing technology and customer demands. CNN Money says a big factor for Blackberry in this scenario was terrible applications. Blackberry exercised no control over its own app store, resulting in poor app-quality standards. This produced a downward spiral that had big and small app makers not interested in devoting resources to a fading and diluted platform.
Technology can be confusing and scary, especially if it affects your business, which is true for nearly every manager. Ratchet up the intensity if technology is your business or it could mean bye-bye, Blackberry. The company failed to recognize shifting technology and quality needs and the required business strategies that go with it, including ongoing updates and self-cannibalization.
This means that products, services and customer-facing technologies that are beginning to decline must be discontinued or augmented with the introduction of new and improved alternatives, including mobile apps, engaging websites and social media. Especially with technology, if you don’t do this, your competition will. With its poor app approach, Blackberry’s aspirations for long-term success flew out the window.
Are your plans and spending objectives taking technology into account? New technology may be disruptive, but it’s an essential element on your goal-setting scorecard for accelerating your time to market for fresh merchandise, competitively serving consumers and keeping your business ahead of the game.
Demographics are moving. We’re seeing greater numbers of baby boomers in their 50s and 60s preparing for retirement and fewer young buyers coming up behind them. What does your largest market segment look like in today’s boating and marine environment? How will buying habits change in the next one to five or 10 years?
Your business goals must take this evolution into account and include proactive adjustments to your product mix, service options, sales and marketing efforts and revenue projections. What? Did you say you are already doing this, and it’s not helping?
Excuse me, but a clear view of reality has to be part of your market mix changes (product, price, place, promotion) and goal-setting efforts. Reality likewise must be revealed in your revenue goals. Avoid over-promising and under-delivering as you look at your forecast with a perspective that includes reasonable and motivating stretch goals.
When you generated your realistic set of objectives, did you encourage, engage and incorporate honest input from your team of trusted managers, as well as consumers? Did you also tap into research resources such as trade associations, manufacturers and suppliers, local business networking groups, the chamber of commerce and the like and cross-validate what you learned?
Here’s the deal. Successful businesses must set forward-looking goals that reflect where the market is headed and how it will continue to evolve as changes in customer age, ethnicity and multigenerational trends gravitate toward alternative buying preferences. Your competition is doing this; you must do it, too.
If you’re keeping a keen eye on the market and changing customer demographics and making related adjustments to products and services, you’re off to a good goal-setting start. Layer on a ladle of technology gravy that enhances the product entrée and experience you are bringing to buyers, and you’re looking even better, but there’s the wild card, the unpredictable: the economy.
Economic conditions can wallop customer spending. Interest rates, easy access to lending, the job market and many other variables impact the best of intentions related to forecasting and establishing goals. Again, reality is the key. Avoid outrageous sales projections or gloom and doom planning.
With the economy in mind, staying in touch with reality is important, as is another R word — relationships. Even though your goal setting has been researched and carefully conceived, unexpected economic snafus can cause your business ship to pitch and yaw. Relationships bridge the gap between realistic planning and what actually occurs.
As economic conditions challenge your ability to achieve company objectives, you continue to be dependent on others to run your business. Relationships with suppliers, manufacturers, customers, peers, bosses and employees can help smooth out an intermittently rough economic squall.
We all know relationships make all the difference when you’re in a bind or simply want a last minute reservation at your favorite overbooked restaurant whose owner happens to be a good friend. Building relationships outside (suppliers, customers) and inside your organization (supervisors, other departments, employees) is a significant part of how you manage your economic investment in your goals and your business.
Although four years ahead may seem far away for the average college freshman, for managers, contemplating your business outlook is vital for annual goal development. Knock, knock. Who’s there? Opportunity. Opportunity who? Opportunity for managers to take action and generate objectives that grow your organization and produce future job prospects for eager university graduates.
How’s that? By considering technology, markets and the economy when setting goals. This will help your company continue to thrive and be prepared for young adults with fresh degrees who are ready to take on the world. Take on the world in much the same way you do as a manager every day. High-five.
Mary Elston has spent more than 20 years in management in the transportation, consulting and technology industries. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and author of the book, “Master Your Middle Management Universe, How to Succeed with Moga Moga Management Using 3 Easy Steps.” Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue.