At your business, enjoy the good but plan for even better 2024

By JJ Rosen January 7, 2024
At your business, enjoy the good but plan for even better 2024

This article originally appeared in The Tennessean.

Hopefully 2023 was a good year for you.

Whenever I’ve had a good year, I’m tempted to give myself a gentle pat on the back and celebrate.  Business, health, personal—nothing is easy.  A good year is something to be proud of.

But then I see it and my inner Debbie Downer clicks in.

Like clockwork as the year winds down, I run across the line that throws everything off: “Past performance does not guarantee future results.”

Always in small print in the footnote of my retirement plan statement, it can turn a moment of celebration into a moment of trepidation.  “You did great last year, but that doesn’t mean you will do great this year.”

What a bummer!

But it’s true. New technologies, macro-economic cycles, life-events, aging, everything is in a constant state of flux. As the world changes year over year if you want to maintain or improve your lot in life you may have to change along with it.  Sears, Kodak, Blockbuster—the business world is full of examples of companies who had great past results only to miss the boat on future earnings.

But wait a minute.

Failing to change with the times isn’t the only factor behind the “Past performance does not guarantee future results” warning.

Although I’ve never seen it in any financial disclosures, there’s another statement that I always hear that seems to say the exact opposite: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

This is true as well.  If something’s working well, why mess with it?

Whether it’s Tiger Woods’ golf swing or the original formula for Coca-Cola, fixing something that’s not broken can be equally dangerous to future results.

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So, if you want to build on a good year, the trick is to decide what to tweak and what to double-down on.

I think about this challenge for our technology consulting firm every January.  What levers do we need to pull and what levers should be left alone to keep our momentum going?  How do we decide?

To keep things simple, we make two lists.  The “ain’t broke don’t fix it” list and the “needs to change” list.

Here are just a few of the “ain’t broke don’t fix it” items we came up with for our company:

  • Our culture.  Our core values of empathy, responsiveness, and flexibility have worked for us, and we feel like we need to build on them long-term.
  • Our “end to end” technology focus.  We have always provided both IT (information technology) support and custom software development to our customers.  There’s been debate over the years on whether we should focus on one or the other. But in the end, with all the interdependencies of technologies, we have decided to stick with our vetted approach.
  • The “office optional” stance for our team members. We were office optional even before the pandemic, allowing each employee to decide for themselves where they are most productive.  This works for us.

And here are a few examples of our “needs to change” list:

  • AI focus.  We’ve already started our AI implementation push for ourselves and our clients.  We need to push harder on this in 2024.
  • Growth by acquisition strategy.  We want to formalize a proactive plan (in the past we have been more reactive.)
  • Our internal communications. We’re going to redo our company SharePoint intranet site to make it easier for employees to find information.
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After 30 years, you would think filling out each list would be easy. But it’s not.  It’s half art and half science, requiring a combination of intuition and data analysis every year.

Of course, your company’s lists will be different, but the process can apply to everyone.

So, it’s an important warning for all of us—past performance does not guarantee future results.  If you’ve had good 2023, pat yourself on the back and then start pulling the levers to make 2024 even better.

JJ Rosen is the founder of Atiba, a custom software development firm and Nashville IT support company. Visit Atiba.com for more info.

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