By Chuck Violand

December 22, 2014

There’s something about the end of a year that brings out the planners and the dreamers in all of us. We often find ourselves either celebrating the successes we’ve enjoyed over the past year or feeling disappointed about the things we didn’t accomplish. Typically, conversations turn to fresh starts and clean slates when the new year begins.

It’s easy to use January 1st as much as an opportunity get things started as an excuse to put things off. Rather than diving into changes that need to be made right away, we tell ourselves we’ll wait until after the first of the year, almost as if there’s something magical about the turning of the calendar that gives us a better chance at success. But there isn’t. The date that matters most is the one you use to get started, the operative word being “you.”

The changes we say we want to see within our companies starts at the top of the org chart—with ourselves. It’s easy to think that change can take place without our involvement, but it can’t. Even when we don’t have a direct say in decisions, we’re the ones who need to create cultures that foster ownership and support change in our companies.

Nothing will change our companies’ financial performances until we insist on making adjustments. Raising prices, collecting receivables, shrinking expenses, even deciding which customers we’ll choose to do business with are decisions that flow from the top. If changes need to be made with respect to any of these issues, we’re the ones who have to approve them and then follow through to make sure they take place.

The performance of the people we have in our companies also won’t improve until we make it happen. We can complain all we want about the people in our organizations who aren’t pulling their weight, doing the things that need to be done, or earning their keep, but we’re the ones who brought the people on board, set the bar on performance, and then followed through (or didn’t) to make sure our people were performing. If they’re not, then it’s up to us to see they’re developed or moved into seats that better suit them…even if those seats are on someone else’s bus.

To begin, we have to change ourselves. If our companies are experiencing strong growth, then we need to grow ourselves to stay ahead. If our companies are stalled, then we may need to change the way we’ve been doing things to get them going again, and there’s no better time to start than right now.

Even if we’re not planning to radically change anything about our companies in the coming year, we still don’t automatically receive a free pass on change. After all, the people and events around us will change, and by default this will have an effect on our companies. How and when we respond to these outside changes can determine our own futures.

The easiest thing in the world for us to do is avoid unpleasant decisions and turn our backs on changes we know need to be made by telling ourselves we’ll wait until next year. The “next year” we said the same thing about last year is today. By starting our own businesses, each of us asked to carry the ball. Now it’s time to run with it.