As the end of the year draws closer, determine where you are in relation to the sales, financial, and customer satisfaction goals you set for 2013. If you are behind where you projected yourself to be, then assess and analyze to determine what you have to do to get back on track.Bob Schultz, Contributing Editor
December 20, 2013

What did you accomplish in 2013?

A good way to plan for the new year is to ask yourself that question. Why? Because past performance is always a good indication of potential future success. So, look back before you move forward. Review your goals, activities, and performance benchmarks for 2013. Here are some items to consider as you make your assessment.

Carefully assemble the data needed for this review. As the end of the year draws closer, determine where you are in relation to the sales, financial, and customer satisfaction goals you set for 2013. If you are on track, great, and congratulations.

On the other hand, if you are behind where you projected yourself to be, then assess and analyze to determine what you have to do to get back on track. Next, think through all the actions, activities, and tactics you executed exceptionally well throughout this year. Determine why you performed those tasks so well and identify what you need to do to assure that you keep doing those tasks throughout 2013 and into 2014.

Likewise, review what you didn’t do as well and determine what you must immediately do to become more proficient in each and every one of those areas as you go forward.

Consider using 69 benchmarking segments—52 weekly, 12 monthly, four quarterly, and one annual—if you really want to drill down in the historic data. This rear-view mirror assessment will give you a sense of what you may need to do more systematically as you move forward. By keeping the focus and attention on shorter weekly segments, you’ll be able to achieve much more consistency and urgency in gathering information. Reviewing and assessing each of 12 months will allow more time to make quick adjustments as needed, and major reviews and corrections over four quarters will provide a much stronger possibility of achieving, or exceeding, annual goals and objectives in the future.

After you have assessed and determined what you did well and what needs to be improved, meet with the appropriate members of your team to create an action plan with time lines for implementation to achieve measurable improvement in the year ahead. Here’s an additional tool to help you assess what you accomplished in 2013: I presented a list of “25 Proven Ways to Increase Sales” in last month’s Professional Builder (see PB November 2013 or Take that list, create a simple spreadsheet, and score each of the 25 items as you see it today on a scale of A to F.

A—Got it covered, do it all well and consistently. Identify why and how this has been accomplished. Action Plan: Maintain.

B—Somewhat covered and fairly consistent. Identify why and how this was accomplished. Action Plan: Improve where needed.

C—Varies as to levels of excellence and consistency. Identify why. Action Plan: Immediate improvement.

D—Not even close to a process or system to achieve success. Identify why not. Action Plan: Critical action needed immediately or concede defeat.

F—No clue where we are. Action Plan: Your call as to if you intend to try to stay in business.

A few more thoughts to consider:

• “When something becomes personal, it becomes important.” Builders want sales revenue and salespeople want financial compensation for their sales. For the most part, builders are responsible for nearly all (if not all) of the costs and expenses related to generating the leads and prospects to produce the sales. Pretty simple, straight forward, and personal.

• “You cannot manage and therefore improve that which you do not measure.” To increase the ROI on all sales-related costs and activities, builders, sales and marketing managers, and salespeople should have a passion for knowing and understanding the important metrics of their business.

• “In new home sales, if we only look at a sale as an objective rather than as the end result of a series of activities, actions, and expenses measured against acceptable levels of performance, then we really do not know where we are or what we accomplished.” Develop a vision for those possibilities.

Be sure that you have a system and process in place that consistently provides the costs, numbers, and ratios. Then you can more easily and accurately answer these questions: What did you accomplish in 2013? How did you do it? How many sales and how much revenue and profit did you achieve? How much time, money, and human resources were invested in the process? What was the ROI on the financial and human resources invested?

Using all this information as a frame of reference and creating an appropriate and formative action plan, I promise that you will be able to increase sales conversion ratios and begin to reduce unnecessary costs going into 2014.

But beyond these assessments and reviews, attitude is critical. Remember that success can often times be the biggest breeder of complacency. The recent upturn in many markets is starting to show some signs of that. Also know that no market ever remains great or bad forever. Always stay grounded in reality and be focused on the fundamentals, disciplines, measurable benchmarks, and accountability that are required for consistent optimum performance. Increase sales revenue and reduce unnecessary costs without sacrificing quality, integrity, and sound business practices. Do not allow yourself to get distracted by irrational exuberance or unfounded optimism.

Being a pragmatist with more than four decades of experience in our industry—enduring four major housing recessions along the way—I am convinced that history does repeat itself. With the continued upward pressure on all of your construction and land costs leading to price increases, and the strong potential of increasing interest rates over time, affordability will become a major issue. Also, there is always the omnipresent possibility of any national or global event that could quickly cause fear and pushback from potential buyers.

Then all of a sudden, just as the market did not that long ago, we could go from hot to not in an instant. Don’t plan on that to happen, for that outlook would be pessimistic and not appropriate; however, you should always be preparing for that possibility. Doing so is good judgment and very appropriate. A final thought: Where does good judgment come from? Experience. Where does experience come from? Bad judgment.

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