What thoughts and practices can help you constantly address challenges head on?
Each January, I write about personal accountability. This year’s article highlights what it's like to be the owner of a small business. Reflecting on 2022, "Another year, another set of challenges handled" comes to mind.
Fortunately, this year, and unlike 2020 and 2021, I navigated some very welcome challenges – ones providing more than enough work to keep us busy!
Personal Accountability in 2022
Here are a few of the personal accountability challenges I faced this year.
Finding Unexpected Issues – And Addressing Them
When we were retained to help with a system implementation, the work seemed to be something I could handle by myself, so that’s how I started. Initially, I had good assistance from the client – however, the person providing the most assistance was pulled off to help with a critical operations project. Another client staff member was wrapped up in her own time crunch and wasn’t able to help. Initially, this wasn't a problem...until we imported transactions from the old system into the new system, and were able to see how just how bad the accounting was in the old system.
As we investigated odd items and found multiple unexpected issues, the client looked to me to find a way to fix them, which I did. This pattern repeated several times, with me playing a game of "Accounting Whack-a-Mole." Although I considered pulling in another consultant to help, I realized it would take more of my time explaining things than just doing the work myself. Fortunately, when the one staff member got through her seasonal crunch work, she and I quickly worked through the remaining issues. Now, the client is thrilled with how easy and organized everything is in their new system. While this is partially due to the new system’s features, a major factor was cleaning up the unexpected issues and the process failures allowing the issues to occur without detection.
Stop Doing What Doesn't Work
When pandemic-related lockdowns began in March 2020, I needed to cut costs quickly, so I eliminated our Accounting Associate position. Because handling payables and receivables, preparing financials, and doing similar accounting and administrative tasks still had to be done, I set out to radically simplify the way we were handling these. By reducing the tasks’ complexity and streamlining the overall processes, the time requirements shrank, allowing my Business Development Associate (BDA) and me to handle them without being overwhelmed.
Following the departure of the BDA in 2021, I had two short-tenured persons in that position, who – in hindsight – just did not have the natural talent of the BDA. Thus, I decided to return to two part-time positions – BDA and Accounting Associate, the way it had been pre-2020. Once I did, I quickly found two competent people who are both approaching their one-year anniversary with the firm. Only recently did my Coach say something that took me aback – "The only reason you were able to successfully combine the two positions into one is because of the incredibly unique skills of your BDA." Her words made me glad that, after two attempts, I stopped looking for a single, highly versatile person and instead sought out two people with more specific skills.
Not Taking Things Personally
A client we had worked with several times in the past engaged us to help with a data conversion project for a new system implementation, and said they wanted to get started quickly. Yet shortly after they signed with us, they went silent. With some probing, we learned their silence was not related to us, but was due to the system developer needing to reach a certain point in their work before we could begin our work. Fortunately, we did not take their silence personally.
ALWAYS Do the Essentials, Regardless of Circumstances
No matter how busy I get, I will ALWAYS make time for several key business development activities EVERY month:
- Writing original content for our monthly e-newsletter (including this e-newsletter, 212 months and counting).
- Staying in touch with key referral sources (190 months and counting).
- Creating and posting a monthly explainer video on LinkedIn and on our website (we began this in June 2020, and currently have a streak of 32 straight months).
Leadership author and speaker John Maxwell, in one of his teaching talks, said "Every day, I read, mark, file, think, and write. People always ask me, 'Do you do all that, EVEN on Christmas Day?' Yes, I do, because every day means EVERY DAY, no matter the day!"
Even when I'm in the foxhole with a client and working insane hours to help get a project across the finish fine, I will ALWAYS do these three things. In a project-based business like mine, practicing personal accountability requires always sowing seeds or risk not having anything to harvest.
Living Out "Strive for 85!"
I've written about Linda Galindo's wonderful book, The 85% Solution, several times in these e-newsletters. Her premise – people who believe 85% or more of their success depends on themselves, regardless of circumstances, will work hard to navigate around obstacles in the other 15%. As the four preceding examples show, I had to handle a variety of challenges this year. Yet no matter how difficult the situation, I always believed I would succeed because of my commitment to model high personal accountability to myself, my associates, and our clients.
Outlook for 2023 – Continued High Personal Accountability
As we enter this new year, we are fortunate to have a strong balance sheet, a solid backlog of work, and several large opportunities in the pipeline. For over 33 years, I feel I've lived out being "insanely persistent yet insanely flexible," personal accountability qualities wonderfully captured by Hugh MacLeod in a December 2022 blog post. So, in 2023, I plan to continue being insanely persistent yet insanely flexible, and to always, in all ways, practice high personal accountability, the mindset I use to eat challenges for breakfast.
Todd L. Herman