November 15, 2013
By Jacki Hart CLP
Prosperity Partners Program Manager

Jacki HartThis is the time of year when I pull out my November File. I’ve talked about this annual event in past columns. It’s always been well received advice, so I’m reminding you to again consider this valuable evaluation process.

Throughout the season, I make lots of quick observations about the systems in my business, jot them down and toss them in my November File. For example, things that are related to operations — noticing how a crew sets up on a job, or how a truck is loaded, unloaded, how our broken equipment is dealt with, etc. I pay attention to communication breakdowns and make note of them. I notice training deficiencies, jot them down and file them. I note gaps in our customers’ experience of working with us — follow up, keeping them in the loop, etc. And, I note what’s working well, paying attention to the processes which were followed well to earn accolades from customers. I also pay attention to who is stretched too thin, and where the balls are dropping.

Keep observations in the November file

All these thoughts and observations are chucked into the November File in my briefcase or Blackberry.

If you didn’t do this throughout the season, simply start a notebook or digital file for jotting down notes about what didn’t go so well in the past season, and what worked like a charm. Try to tab or organize your comments in some logical fashion, so that like comments and thoughts are together. If you didn’t remember to follow my annual advice from years past, by creating a physical file into which you hurriedly chuck various notes to yourself for next year during the thick of the season, then make sure you carry your November File notebook. You should have it with you all the time over the next few weeks, so that when ideas and memories (both good and bad) pop into your head, you can collect them while fresh.

Later this month, set aside a series of half-day sessions in your calendar with time by yourself. You decide how many. I usually take at least three. I suggest on the days you’ve scheduled your sessions, you take yourself out for a nice breakfast alone, and start the wheels turning. Go straight back home (or someplace without distractions), sit somewhere comfortable and quiet, and start working on your business. All phones and computers are shut off.

Map change of strategy

The idea here is that you discipline yourself to do an evaluation of your different systems (or lack thereof) and start to map a change of strategy for next year. Try to identify the things that need to change and those that you need to lever in order to build on their success. Put them into the five Prosperity Partners Pillars: Sales Success, Professional Operations, Financial Health, Leadership, or Customers for Life. This will give you a list of Need to Fix and Need to Do More of in each heading.

This list may be reviewed with foremen, supervisors, managers, if your business has them. Mull it over for a while. Take stock of which items are most critical (to either expand on or eliminate). This will give you a starting point for what to change, what to learn or what to teach others before the lid blows off of spring next year.

I realize that if you are a snow and ice contractor, November is the beginning of your season start-up. Your challenge is to make the time between seasons, or in the midst of each, to pause, assess, plan and change.

Effective management workshop

If you’re tired of making changes that don’t stick, consider the Effective Management Workshop being held on Warm-Up Monday on Jan. 6. Great ideas, networking and tools will help to assess and manage change.

The resources available to you in the coming months to implement change are many. The website is a good place to start. Click on any of the blue or green buttons and they will take you to the resources available. Operations systems templates, Winter Workshops, the Effective Management Workshop, Congress Conference Seminars and many more can be found there.

Remember: If you’re aiming at nothing, you will hit it with huge accuracy! What are you aiming to improve next year?
Jacki Hart may be contacted at