WHY THIS IS THE YEAR TO BECOME YOUR OWN ACTIVIST

In this series, professionals predict the ideas and trends that will shape 2016. Read the posts here, then write your own (use #BigIdeas2016 in your piece).

As we look toward 2016, we are confronted with some of the biggest challenges ever faced in the business world. That’s because the amount of uncertainty, and the change that will go along with it, is astronomical.

I realize every year seems more complicated than the one before it, and we have lived through massive business disruption quite recently with the financial crisis that started in 2008. But, while we absolutely should study the past and learn from it, we shouldn’t live in it. What got you to the place you are in now probably will not get you where you want to be going forward.

And in 2016, our challenges will be very different from anything we’ve faced in the past. Here are just some of the areas that could impact your business in the coming year:

  • Currency: How will exchange/translation affect your business?
  • Commodities: What impact will availability and price have on your product or service?
  • Global growth: Will the global economy impact your demand from a sales or supply side, causing margin compression while impacting enterprise value?
  • Innovation: Will overall financials, or customer/client demand, cause you to slow down from an investment standpoint?
  • Global unrest: How will conflict and instability around the world affect your business?
  • Global monetary policy: What will the impact be on sales, debt, borrowing, buyback, etc.?

Realistically, the list could go on and on. But just sitting back and waiting for something to happen won’t get you ready for it. Instead, you may have to make some big changes as you identify those things that can impact your company, and determine how to deal with them.

Look ahead and imagine what could go wrong. Determine how to prevent that from happening, or how to react if it does. If you don’t control your future, it will control you.

The bottom line here is that you must be your own activist. Understand the authority you have within your company, take responsibility for your actions, and be accountable for them. It’s far better to challenge yourself than to have someone else come in from the outside and dictate your company’s future.

Here are some ways to work through the challenges of 2016 and position your business for growth:

  • Once you and your team have identified the questions and challenges you face, set about defining an action plan. Here, you should involve the best and most productive individuals in your organization; don’t get hung up on reporting levels. Assign this plan either by functional lead or individual talent.
  • Set up a war room and activate it with visible measurements and accountability.
  • Have everyones’ antenna up to look for signs of change. Always be ready to pivot. Speed of execution and responsiveness will be critical themes in 2016.
  • Communicate your plan to your organization, and then continue to reiterate your vision to the point of redundancy. Everyone needs to be aligned with the plan or working toward one of its objectives.
  • Create a culture of passion for excellence and execution. Reward outstanding performance.

My team and I have used this procedure — customized for each business — many times, and we have had tremendous success. I encourage you, too, to look toward 2016 with a realistic view, neither pessimistically nor optimistically. The important thing here is that you actively prepare for change.

I’ll be interested to see how you become an activist in 2016. Challenge yourself — or someone will be challenging you! Best of luck for a successful and prosperous 2016.

During his 40-plus years in the business world, Bob Nardelli has grown the sales and profits of a number of multi-national corporations including the General Electric Co. and The Home Depot, and he helped save Chrysler and its iconic brands when the American auto industry began to collapse. In addition to his board and volunteer service, he is the founder of XLR-8, LLC, Investment & Advisory Co., which helps companies identify weaknesses and improve performance. Read more about Bob at www.bobnardelli.com.