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The First 100 Days: action plans for the ‘new normal’

Adam Knight

As we start looking at a post-coronavirus world, there’s an opportunity for savvy managers and business owners to outline an action plan that will launch them out of their current situation and provide the momentum needed to be successful in our ‘new normal’.

It wasn’t until Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in 1933 that a president’s first 100 days became a topic of discussion. After inauguration he moved quickly to pass 15 major pieces of legislation. This level of productivity was unheard of at the time and lead to enormous popularity. Roosevelt actually coined the term “first 100 days” during a radio address in July, 1933 and since then it’s taken on great symbolic significance. It’s widely considered to be a benchmark by which the early success of a president is measured.

The idea of a “First 100 Days” is powerful because it forces you to focus on what really matters in a relatively short amount of time. It can be easily adapted for business leaders when they are dealing with a transition period or upheaval in the market that dramatically changes the way their company operates. These times can be so stressful and upending that it can be hard to figure out which way is up. When this happens, there is tremendous value in slowing down and dedicating the time to take stock of where you’ve been and where you’re going; providing clarity for you and everyone who relies on your direction. Only after that can you put together a set of goals that will keep you and your team focused and prepared as soon as the “new normal” starts.

Pride, confidence and motivation might be hard to find during times of change. Finding a way to tap in to these emotions will help calm the scrambling feeling you’re likely experiencing and provide a foundation to build upon. To do this, start with taking stock of where you, your team and your company have been, what’s working today and where you want to be in the future.

Looking back

You and everyone on your team have had experiences, learnings and successes in the past that undoubtedly have prepared you for this. Have you been through market changes before? Transitioned in or out of new roles or markets? Opened or closed businesses? Dealt with emergency or crisis situations that seemed insurmountable at the time?

There is a wealth of personal and institutional knowledge at hand, you simply need to take the time to access those events and remember that you’ve not only made it through, you now know what to do, what not to do and how to deal with it when it happens again. Many situations are similar, providing opportunities to draw on experiences where learnings can be adapted to current realities.

In a hospitality industry context, the coronavirus shutdown is forcing everyone to rethink how their business operates and it can be daunting to try and figure out where to go form here. While this is unprecedented, if you’ve been through any sort of emergency, hotel opening or seasonal slow down, you’ve got somewhere to start building a plan. You know what has worked and what hasn’t. You know what you should have done and vowed to do “next time”. Take some time to think back to individual occurrences that are in some ways similar to what you’re experiencing now and reflect on those actions and outcomes. You’ll undoubtedly find some parallels and more importantly, some wins that will build pride and confidence in your abilities.

Looking at today

It may be hard to see in the moment, but there are programs that were working for you and your business before today and continue to work for you right now. By looking at what is working today, you can get clarity the resources and capabilities that can move you forward and out of the transition time.

It’s easy to be myopic here. Seek to understand by making the effort to take a 30,000 foot view and account for all of the connectedness of your skills, resources and programs. Talk to your sales people and top customers to understand what was/is working, what you should do differently and what their needs will be as the situation gets better. Get feedback from the people around you that execute daily so you have a good understanding of the ground truth, allowing you to not simply make better decisions but also be better able to articulate what is working and needs to continue. Who knows, there may be a little known element hiding in plain sight that can set you up for success.

Looking ahead

Look ahead and start thinking about new opportunities that are presenting themselves as a result of the new normal. You can really ramp up your motivation by building on what you discovered in the previous two steps.

This is where you move towards defining your goals for the next 100 days. Don’t be too narrow focused here. By now you’ve done some solid reflection and ideation – so run with it! Think about what can you adapt to meet the needs of your stakeholders, the new markets can you leverage going forward, the processes that need to be adapted or additional resources you need to get there. The sky’s the limit!

Next step: Set 5 goals based on what you know now

The “new normal” will soon be here. You’ll want you to be completely focused and prepared for when that day comes so use your new found clarity and motivation to develop goals for the next 100 days that will bring you to a completely new level.

Maybe you want to introduce new packages or programs. Maybe it’s a wholesale rewrite of your marketing plan or a strategy to grow qualified leads. Perhaps you’ve found a new way to calculate productivity or measure financial success that can be implemented in a certain period of time. Whatever it is, the opportunities will be endless. That said, there are some tried and true factors to keep in mind when setting goals.

I’m not diving in to SMART goals here because we all know about those. This about going a little deeper than that. This whole exercise has been about finding pride, confidence and motivation to deal with turbulent times, and to stay on a path to success. You can do this by keeping two important points in mind:

Don’t try to fix everything

This is fairly self explanatory. Prioritize and stay laser-focused. You’ve only got so much time and so many resources so avoid the shotgun-effect. An 80/20 analysis is valuable here. In other words, where can you focus 20% of the work you do to generate 80% of the benefit. There is no need to put tremendous time and energy in to a goal that won’t yield beneficial results so make sure you’re focusing on what matters and ignoring the rest.

Goals should motivate you

If you want to stay on track, make sure your goals actually motivate you. They should be important to you and you should be able to not only articulate them but show genuine excitement if you’re presenting them to others. If you have little interest in the outcome or they don’t build you towards what you’re trying to achieve it’s unlikely that you’ll put in the work needed to make them happen.

Goals can (and should) have milestones attached to them so that you not only know you’re on track but so that you can celebrate the small victories along the way. Don’t fall in to the trap of setting a bunch of goals. You’ll have too little time to dedicate to each. You want to maximize your likelihood of success but at the same time, not spreading a sense of urgency to get things done across too many actionable items. If the workload of your goals is too heavy, your motivation will quickly wane and your 100 days effort will fall flat.

Goals should be in writing

There’s something about writing down a goal that makes it feel real and tangible. It imprints on your brain and is hard to shake. Use action words like “will”, “implement”, “demonstrate” or “solve” instead of non-committal words like “work on” or “would like”. For example, “I will increase my upsells by 10 percent this year,” not “I would like to increase my upsells by 10 percent this year.” The first statement is actionable. While there are likely to be steps in achieving it, you can “see” yourself increasing upsells. The second statement lacks commitment. It gives you room to get sidetracked and a scapegoat if that happens.

Make an action plan

Formalize everything on to one sheet to get yourself focused and dialed in. Writing out your past and present successes, vision for the future and the goals to get you there, then crossing each one off as you complete them has a tremendous psychological effect. You’ll realize that you are making progress and it will keep you going as you move through your 100 days.

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