Your Multiple Anniversaries

The easy anniversary to celebrate is the founding of your firm. Mine was sometime in March, 1994. It’s easy to remember and there’s nothing private about it. All it says is that I have some staying power and nothing else. I might be really good…or just stubborn. I might be making money…or it could be a constant struggle. I might own a terrific positioning…or I just work harder to close the sales I need. I doesn’t really say all that much.

Like this illustration, though, I think we should have multiple anniversaries that demonstrate how our firm has matured. Some of them are obviously going to be private and only celebrated internally, but that’s fine.

The thing about an anniversary, though, is that you set a specific goal and then once you’ve reached that target you try to maintain it. Some of you have been profitable since day one, but 2008 might have been an exhausting test of your ability to sustain that. It’s okay to fall off the wagon at times as long as you’re really just stepping off it and intend to get on it again as soon as you are able.

As you think about your planning for 2018, I think it would be an interesting exercise to make a list of the big goals you’ve achieved (and largely retained), and then a separate list of the achievements where you’d really like your first anniversary.

There are probably hundreds of these that we could list, but let me suggest a few key ones to get you started. Where possible, I’ll link to an article where you can explore the goal in greater detail:

  • Profitability: Achieved 15% profitability (without underpaying yourself to get there).
  • Positioning: Nailed a positioning where there were at least 10 competitors but no more than 200.
  • Management: Work with a coach on your management style to quit driving your employees bat-shit crazy.
  • Your Role: Better yet, figure out what you should be doing and not doing.
  • Time Off: Schedule 8–12 weeks off next year, in advance, including one entire month at once.
  • Service Offerings: Bring more shape to your service offerings and slim them down.
  • Client Base: Get over the nostalgia of hanging on to those small legacy clients so that you end up with 8–15 really good ones. Build your capacity by freeing up good people rather than hiring more. The profitability of individual projects doesn’t matter–just think about the entire client relationship.
  • Website: Get your website to a point where it does the hard work for you. Mine desperately needs redone and a new one will be released early next year.
  • Financial Performance: Start tracking the eight key financial metrics at your firm and manage toward them, with greater employee transparency.
  • Bad Hires: Fix any lingering employee issues, if you have them: that one employee who’s been with you a long time, is proud that they’ve done every role, but hasn’t really kept up with the sort of expertise that your firm needs. Or the gifted practitioner who isn’t a strong cultural fit and everyone knows it.
  • Strategy: Standardize one strategy package, with a fixed price (or range), publish it on your website, and explain that most relationships begin there.
  • Succession: Explore the next acquisition opportunity that comes along, not because you’ll take it, necessarily, but because you’ll learn about the process before it becomes real for you.
  • Insight: Write down four areas that keep coming up with clients, where you are consistently mumbling, without a clear point of view. Commit to working through these four, one by one, until you’ve done enough research and thinking that you can confidently pen a perspective on these issues that keep impacting your clients. Keep testing and adjusting.

And if you’re still doing end of year bonuses, make this your last year and be smarter about it.

I want to see you reinvent the place next year! More money, more impact, more fun, more legitimate points of distinction.

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