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I was in Montreal last week for a private breakfast event with over 35 business leaders from the area, representing some of the biggest and hottest companies in Canada. Following the event, I had a full day of meetings with clients, prospects, and fascinating new connections. The day was valuable and incredibly busy.

As I traveled around the city and talked to CEOs in companies ranging from $10M/year to $1BN+/year in annual sales, I was surprised to hear the same concern from 2/3rds of the leaders I talked to.

What they said to me was some variation of, “Noah, I’ll tell you that I’m starting to feel a little antsy about the annual ritual of budgeting and goal setting for next year. We want to hit our growth numbers, but I’m not sure what concrete plans we have in place to get there. We can keep riding the X% growth we’ve had over the past four years, but there’s so much going on in the industry right now that we need to shake things up.”

We all know what we want, but we don’t always what specific things we’re going to do to get there or the best course of action to take to achieve our goals. Moreover, we often don’t think about how we’re going to measure progress along the way, or plan for course corrections along the way.

As you plan for the new year, there’s a simple strategy that can dramatically improve your chances of success next year. You might be looking to increase revenue, create better customer relations, or maximize customer value. Whatever the goal, this strategy might just be the ticket.

Here are three simple steps as you look ahead to 2018.

Step One: Clearly identify what is important to you or your company next year.

Step Two: Look back at the past year with an objective and critical eye, giving yourself an honest assessment of how you did, and why you didn’t reach the goals that you missed.

Step Three: Create a realistic action plan to ensure you work towards what you want next year and utilize the lessons you learned from looking back in Step #2 to identify where the problem spots were or what factors contributed to your successes.

It’s important to get specific here. Broad, vague goals are never going to cut it.

For example, if you say you need to improve customer service next year, what steps are required to make that a reality? What got in the way of it happening this year? What are you going to give up, or do differently, to make it a success this year?

What does it mean to have improved customer service? How will you measure it? In March, how can you tell if you’re meeting your goal?

What specific things are you going to do? Is it something you’re going to do daily (like outreach to existing clients), or something that happens in response to an outside event (No more than 45 seconds of hold time for clients on the phone)?

Don’t be lazy with your goal setting, and don’t be lazy in measuring and monitoring them throughout the year. If it’s important enough to strive for, it’s important enough to plan for.

As we wind down the year and look ahead, there are always two types of people and companies out there. Those saying, “that was one heck of a year,” and those saying, “where on earth did the year go?!?!”

Your challenge for this weekSend me an email and tell me your company’s single biggest goal for 2018; Why you think it’s the most important thing you can do, what challenges you see in achieving it, and what steps you’re taking to make it a reality.

I’ll promise to respond with some thoughts of my own that might be helpful.