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So the New Year is in full swing already. Within two weeks, there’s already the good, the bad and the ugly. The killings in
certain parts of the country are terrible to say the least, but the continued upsurge in oil pricing portends good economic omen for the country. On the political scene, the release of the time table for the 2019 elections will heighten the polity.
This is certainly shaping up to an interesting year.  From a business (and personal) standpoint, my advice today is to start the year early. January tends to be generally slow for business as several organisations are still dotting the “I”s and crossing the “T”s of their business plans, and keep budgets frozen until the completion of that exercise. To compound that, consumers don’t have much disposable income as they have to pay school fees and bulk annual rents in advance in some cases. Notwithstanding, the wise business leader would kick start the year on a fast note. We called for celebration towards the end of last year, but now it is time to focus on delivering a good business performance in 2018.
I have heard business executives say that the best time to hold meetings with their staff is January since business that month is soft and they might as well spend the month strategising. For me, doing this is like recasting the year to an 11-month calendar instead of the conventional 12 months; so I disagree. I expect that all the ducks would have been lined up for 2018 at the end of last year. You must start early with your execution. One of my favourite quotes in the corporate circle is “as goes the start, so goes the year.”Someone said the secret of getting ahead is getting started. The train is already on its track – get started in 2018 – start to make things happen. One strong positive step in January can change your whole year. Usually, when we move too slowly and things don’t happen the way we want, we are quick to say “it was never meant to be.” That’s a good way to console ourselves, but we would never know how much better our lives would have been if we made it happen. Leaders must get their teams into the groove and mood of a strong 2018 delivery very early in year. Playing catch up is dangerous.
Watch the Olympics and see the impact of a good start on a sprinter. If you’re slow off the blocks, you could struggle throughout the race. Is someone saying “life is not a sprint, but a marathon”? Okay- why don’t you then sleep for the first 40 years and start the journey after. Even in a marathon, a good start, well-paced mid-race and strong finish isn’t a bad strategy.  In business, hardly anything beats the first mover advantage. I had a Ghanaian driver – every newspaper to him is Graphic– the brand name of the most popular daily newspaper in Ghana. You’ve heard it before how consumers for instance request a Coke when indeed they mean another soft drink, or Omo when their intention is any detergent etc. Coke was invented in 1896 by John Pemberton, while Caleb Bradham invented Pepsi 13 years after. In some markets you go to, you would think Coke started 130 years ahead. The 13 years just made so much difference. Amazon, e-bay, etc are other examples of organisations currently enjoying the benefits of an early start. The benefit of a strong head-start in any sector or business is unquantifiable; and dislodging a strong No.1 in the market could be very expensive. When I have signed up with a particular bank, you’ll have to offer a lot more to cause me to switch. I recall signing a sponsorship package with the Black Stars of Ghana in 2006, at a time not many companies were willing to sponsor, but the same “property” turned to gold as soon as the team started performing. Don’t delay till tomorrow what you can achieve today. It’s so true that time waits for no one. The airline industry best reinforces this.

At peak periods, you book a flight seat today and it’s #X, but you don’t pay, 48hrs later the same seat costs 50 per cent more; for example. Start early. So how do you want to start?
(1) Provide clarity to all staff as to what’s at stake in 2018: If targets are not defined and aligned to by all staff, you’ll be shooting in the dark. To get the employees firing on all cylinders not only must you share your ambitions with them, you must ensure they have a skin in the game. Communication is so paramount in the business world. Create the environment for questions to be asked and clear the air as necessary to ensure you’re pulling in same direction with your staff when the game starts. There are some, for instance, who think that every cash inflow (revenue) to the company is profit, and wonder why salary is small. Explain the difference to them. Let them also understand their role in delivering the numbers.

(2) Differentiate need to have from nice to have: Because the year is young, your early start should focus on generating income not spending in anticipation of the income that may or may not follow. I say this carefully as there are strong proponents of “you spend money to make money.” My point is about prioritising the spending disproportionately in favour of ‘active’ expenditure – that which helps deliver bottom-line. Be financially disciplined from the get-go. Of course, there are challenges to starting early. One is – sustaining the energy of the team when things aren’t going to plan initially, either because the entire country is still ‘sleeping’ following the birth of a new year or the team is feeling stressed and snowed under as several colleagues are still on leave. That shouldn’t be a show stopper. In closing, despite the difficult economic clime of last year, some people had their breakthroughs. Economic power shifted, most times enhanced by an advantaged competitive positioning. The truth is, even if your fast start turns a false start, you have the benefit of a head start to adjust before others rush to the field. It doesn’t matter what industry or sector you are playing in – start early.

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