By Jason Hurdis, Global Market Professional, Construction Materials Industry, Caterpillar Inc.
A year like no other is coming to a close, and you’re likely saying “thank goodness” (if not something stronger). As much as we’re all looking forward to bidding 2020 adieu, it’s important to set aside some time to look back. What went well that you can do more of going forward? What wasn’t so successful that you can do better in the months ahead? In addition to evaluating the obvious financial metrics — revenues, expenses, profitability — here are five other topics to add to your year-in-review list:
- Your project mix: Jot down a list of all the projects you completed (or at least got well underway) in 2020 and sort them into categories. You can organize by size, budget, type of work or whatever system fits your business best. Now take a look at your groupings. Are there too many small jobs that make it tough to earn a profit? Do most projects fall into your “sweet spot” or are you taking on too much work that doesn’t play to your strengths? Looking at a year’s worth of projects this way can help you determine what types of jobs you want to go after in 2021.
- Your team: We’re not talking about individual performance reviews here, although those are important. This is more about evaluating the strengths of your team as a whole. Do you have the right amount and mix of people to complete jobs planned for 2021? What about your operators’ skills — do they match your machines and projects, or do you need to bring in new talent or invest in training or technology? Don’t forget your support staff, either. If you’ve been outsourcing bookkeeping, does that make sense for 2021 or have you grown enough to warrant a dedicated employee? Are you handling scheduling yourself or is it time to hire a project manager?
- Your fleet: Having the right people for the job doesn’t matter if they don’t have the right tools on hand. The end of the year is a good time to take a critical look at your fleet. Could you be winning more work and earning more profit if you upgraded your equipment, invested in a machine or two, added different work tools or incorporated onboard technology? Or maybe it’s time to pare down your fleet. Analyze utilization data for the year to see if there are machines that aren’t pulling their weight. You may be able to sell an under-used machine and invest the profits elsewhere.
- Your disappointments: It can be tempting to sweep any failures or setbacks aside and just promise to do better next year. But if you don’t critically review why things went wrong, chances are you’ll make the same mistakes again. What disappointed you in 2020? Did you fail to win a job you thought you were perfect for? Did you have trouble meeting deadlines or budgets? Did you lose key employees or miss out on great new hires? Look for patterns, ask for feedback and be honest with yourself — that will help you avoid repeating these failures in 2021.
- Your successes: End on a high note. After all, you made it through 2020 and you’re still standing! Write down the year’s accomplishments, big and small. That could be anything from completing a job ahead of schedule and under budget, to landing a first-time customer or type of project, to finishing the year without an employee injury. Once you’ve compiled your successes, share them with your team and thank them for a job well done. That’s a great way to head into the new year.