December 2018 Motivate

Looking Forward/Looking Backward

Written By: Philip N. Kabler, Esq

Mentors can have a lifetime impact. I have been fortunate to have been the pupil of several excellent mentors over the years. One of the earliest (meaning back in the ‘80s at the start of my career) was the late Thomas J. Harlan, Jr., a leading civil trial attorney in Virginia. He introduced me to the concept of the “retrospectoscope” to demonstrate to juries what he called the power of “20/20 hindsight.” Applying that idea to business operations, then, please allow me to introduce a counterpoint, the “prospectoscope,” to recognize the forward-looking power of innovation.

In my column “Juggling for Business,” I discussed how important it is to identify and then consciously adhere to a venture’s mission, vision and values. I also explained the positive ROI of ethics in business. Those focal points, in turn, become the basis to a company’s operations and deliverables through the agency-based functions of its human resources.

As 2018 draws to an end, a company’s leaders should pull out their own retrospectoscopes to review the waning year’s performance, programs and metrics across their full range of activities. Begin by identifying the venture’s core business to ensure it is generally in its “lane” for creating goods, delivering services, or a hybrid of both. One technique to use is the traditional “SWOT” analysis.

Once a company’s overall stability has been tested, the next step is to review its specific operating functions, such as design and engineering, production, marketing, asset management, finance, logistics and delivery, warranty calls and regulation and compliance. Consider if they are being implemented in an effective, efficient and economical manner.

What was learned from those exercises? Pull out “the ole clipboard” (whether actual or figurative) and evaluate what changed during 2018 in terms of the business’s environment, including technology, competition, end-user demand, financial markets and regulation.

Pay extra attention to the company’s ability to remain flexible as helpful and harmful conditions change over time. Also, pay heed to their outputs’ shelf-life in the marketplace, in case exit strategies become relevant.

As a company examines its evolving environment, it can observe how other firms operate – even if that information comes from a totally different field – to absorb those observations into one’s own business practices, and to adapt those insights into the enterprise’s operations. [Big lawyer note: Be certain to respect the sources’ intellectual property rights during this process.]

It is crucial to involve in this year-in-review the people who propel a business. That group should include its internal stakeholders (such as employees, managers and sometimes independent contractors and vendors) together with its external stakeholders (predominantly customers and clients). Is those stakeholders’ input actually being collected, evaluated and implemented?

One of my current mentors is Jim Pearce, the CEO of CDS Family and Behavioral Health Services, Inc. Mr. Pearce introduced the notion of “intrapreneurialism” with regards to an enterprise’s operations. Society revels in the achievements of bold thinkers standing alone and casting out innovations much as Zeus tossed about thunderbolts. But, why not look in-house and recognize the talents of internal genius? Under the shop-rights doctrine, those innovations created at the worksite are the employer’s intellectual property, so why not take one extra step and motivate creativity from within by recognizing and rewarding it?

When all of this collecting, sifting, and analyzing of 2018’s data has been done, it is time to take out the 2019 prospectoscope and imagine “What’s next?” (Of course, a reference to “The West Wing.”) Where do the lessons of 2018, when laid against the emerging environment of 2019, direct the business? Since companies are not merely passive entities, but instead are dynamic cooperative endeavors, the important question is, where do the business’s founders and managers lead them?

Please note: Leadership, when done well, is not performed in a cavalier manner. Instead, it is a product of intentional and conscientious proactive risk management applied in the marketplace, with an ever-open eye towards innovation, responsiveness and flexibility. Which is exactly why as good as 2018 may have been, 2019 can be even better.

With the goal of using the 2019 prospectoscope in light of the 2018 retrospectoscope, let us plan to gather here again next year at the same time with our 2019 retrospectoscopes to look backward and forward. Let us also prepare to lather, rinse and repeat this entire process on a continuous and ongoing basis. That is, unless during 2019 we find a better way to review, plan and implement.

Happy New Year 2019 to all, and the earliest of similar wishes for 2020!

For more information, call Philip N. Kabler, Esq. of the Gainesville, FL office of Bogin, Munns & Munns, and P.A. at (352) 332-7688,, where he practices in the areas of business, real estate, banking, and equine law.

This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and readers should not rely on it as such. It is offered only as general information. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding their legal matters, as every situation is unique.

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