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How can Santa’s list help you grow your business next year?

For twenty-plus years we’ve conducted a simple exercise at the end of each year. We review all of our products, services, marketing and internal efforts – and even a list of our closed business for the year – for one thing: Effectiveness. Not efficiency, because it’s quite possible to do something well that should not be done at all. Rather, we’re looking for effectiveness, which we define as something that delights both our customers and our selves.

Effectively, we’re looking for activities that produced great results. These might be measured in income, time well spent, positive customer experience, buzz-generation amongst consumers or even things that were simply fun to do. Conversely, we look for all the things we did that resulted in the exact opposite of those results.

And we simply cross them out.

Cutting the least effective items from your business plan each year is a great way to free up time, mental energy and resources to pursue the most effective items next year. We often find many things we cross out wouldn’t even be missed by customers, or our bottom line, such as marginally effective marketing activities or extended service hours that customers never used. It might be a product or service that we really liked internally but that customers didn’t really engage.

Sometimes, it’s even a customer themselves, that gets crossed off the list!

Or a type of customer: Not all customers are equal matches to our business plan. Some may require a degree of service we’re not capable of offering (or simply choose not to). Others require a pricing level we choose not to offer (or can’t for budgeting reasons). Not every inquiry is a customer; and not every customer from last year should be the kind of customer you seek next year. 

Purging ineffective business practices, services, and yes, even customers, isn’t mean. What’s mean is trying to work them again next year, at what will probably be a frustrating level of performance that generates dissatisfaction internally and externally. Purging the bottom of your list demonstrates the highest commitment to pursuing greatness – for your company and your customers.

Best of all, eliminating ineffective practices or people from your business cycle frees up the opportunity to pursue new lines of thinking, new products and new experiences. Every line crossed out from the bottom opens up a blank space at the top of the list for something new to be added: something potentially delightful and profitable that couldn’t fit on the crowded list until then.

Peter Drucker once said: There’s nothing more useless than doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.  Think of the many companies this year that went out of business because they tried to sell products that had remained the same for 50 years, or conduct operations with outdated labor or technology practices. Had they pruned their business plan just a little each year, they might still be around today.

So make your list; check it twice. Then cross out all the naughty things to make room for the nice!