Get a clear picture of your business as it is today and what you want it to be in the future.

It’s that time of year again. January represents a fresh start, a new calendar year and, of course, the infamous New Year’s resolution. As a seasoned entrepreneur and business coach, I’m going to challenge you a bit this month, as well as question the concept of New Year’s resolutions.

If you’ve set a New Year’s resolution, chances are by the time you’re reading this, you’ve already broken it. This is because New Year’s resolutions don’t work! They don’t work because they’re not typically based on something you really, truly want. Goal-setting and accountability are what work, not some calendar-driven fad.

Gain clarity of business goals

As the old saying goes, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” Many contractors struggle when it comes to business planning. I’m not writing this month about a specific business planning strategy, but rather the fact that you must gain better clarity regarding your business goals in order to achieve them.

Do you know who you are as a company? Do you know who you’re for? Do you know with absolute clarity why you’re in business and what kind of company you want to have? When I ask contractors these questions, I often hear general answers about a business that provides services for anybody with indoor plumbing. Nothing is further from the truth, and most successful companies determine what they do best, exactly who they serve, and then do just that.

We live in a niche-based world and you must strategically design your company to serve your niche better than anyone else does. This is one of the greatest points of clarity I’ve ever realized when it comes to running my own plumbing company. And it’s one of the most difficult things to get through our (sometimes stubborn) contractor minds.

In my opinion, your company should exist for three simple reasons: to serve your life, serve the lives of your team members and provide value to your clients. That being said, most companies in our great industry aren’t positioned this way. The owners’ lives are dedicated to and structured around serving the company. It’s time to stop this insanity right here, right now, in the beginning of 2012.

The last few years have been a period of economic uncertainty and volatile market conditions. These “tough” times can make us feel defeated and cause us to slip into business survival mode if we aren’t careful. Do you ever feel discouraged or indifferent as a leader during times like these? If so, it’s time to adjust those feelings, because your team members are affected by your attitude. It’s time to become a driven, passionate leader people want to follow. This requires focus and clarity.

In my book, “The Six Dimensions of C.H.A.N.G.E.,” clarity is the first dimension. This is because clarity is the primary factor we must address in order to accomplish anything we want, business improvements included. It’s often difficult to find absolute clarity because we’re too busy running the company, managing daily activities and dealing with unexpected issues. It takes tremendous intention and commitment to be open to what is possible.

The thing is, we’re not conditioned to believe we are capable of creating the company we truly desire. Many of us don’t think our clients will pay premium dollars for our services in down economies. We don’t believe good technicians and team members are available in our industry. These stories we tell ourselves persist until we lose faith in our companies and ourselves.

It’s time to change these harmful beliefs, because what’s possible for one is possible for all. So, when you sit down to begin brainstorming for clarity about the kind of business you want to create, pay attention to your subconscious conditioning when the thought pops up that “you can’t do that.” Yes you can, my friend. Yes you can!

Are you beginning to understand why New Year’s resolutions don’t work? It takes tremendous discipline to build a successful contracting business, but it’s completely worth it. You’re working exceptionally hard right now, aren’t you? Of course you are, and you might feel you don’t have the time to focus on exactly what you want. I’m not advocating that you work any harder, but I am suggesting you work more effectively.

I’m suggesting that you work with more of a strategic purpose in mind. This begins with developing clarity in two crucial areas: where you are today and where you want to be in the future.

Analyze the present and future

In the business development world, we call this examination a Gap Analysis. I’m encouraging you to use this process as a planning tool in your company. Many great resources are available to you, but you can simply answer two core questions from a Gap Analysis to gain clarity. Where are we today? Where do we want to be in the future?

Be honest with yourself and don’t use “softeners” to downplay today’s reality. Your present state is a combination of past results, and the only way to change results in the future is to become clear about your current truth.

Many contractors won’t review financial statements because they’re afraid of present harsh realities. Some won’t look at daily reports or seek help analyzing the numbers because they don’t want to look “stupid.”

Instead of hiding from reality, take some immediate action. List what your company looks like right now. How many trucks do you have? What were last year’s gross sales? What was your gross margin and net profit? You get the idea. Sit down with a blank sheet of paper and begin answering as many questions as you can about your current reality, good or bad.

Then go back and analyze the same areas for the second question. Where do you want to be? Use complete honesty. If you want five or 50 trucks in the future, write it down. You’ve just created your own Gap Analysis. Now you realize the “gap” between where you are today and where you want to be in the future. This clarity will free your mind to begin finding ways to close the gap.

Forget about making a New Year’s resolution. Instead, let’s have a New Year’s revelation in 2012.