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30,000 Pairs of Shoes

For many businesses, 2016 has been a terrific year. For others it didn't live up to expectations. Those in the "business was great" category will have plenty to say. Social media sites and press releases are starting to fill up with those accomplishments. The people in the "Not so much" group may think that they don't have anything to say but that's not true. You have to be careful what you say and how you say it but even the most mundane accomplishments can be polished without having to embellish the facts.

A case in point: After a decade, John wanted to change careers. He'd been in the retail business, face-to-face with customers every day, but he had a passion for IT and he wanted to pursue a career in that field. He asked a mentor about how to go about the change, and his friend asked him what his accomplishments were. John said "I sold shoes for a long time at the local department store." "How many shoes did you sell?" "I don't have any idea." "Figure it out and come back and we can talk some more."

John didn't know what the shoe business had to do with his desire for a new career but he calculated that he sold about 30,000 pairs of shoes. He went back to his friend and told him. His friend was amazed! "That's great!" "That's a heckuva lot of shoes!" John figured out that it's not only what you've accomplished but how you present it that matters. Saying "I sold (fill in the blank) for 10 years" is a matter-of-fact way of presenting the information. No excitement there. "30,000 pairs of shoes" shouts 'Holy smokes! How did you do that?' Both statements are equally correct, but one suggests greater achievements? One approach begs for further explanation and gives you a chance for expanding about how you accomplished the goal. The other approach doesn't.

The point is this: At the end of your fiscal year, you should have something to shout about, even if the performance wasn’t as strong as you expected. The guidelines you should use are:

  • Make sure that it's accurate and relevant to your business and the interests of your present and future clients. You might say that you've conducted 10,000 hours of internal training and worked 50,000 hours in the past year without a lost work time accident. If you're a multi-billion dollar global enterprise those figures won't mean much. If you're just in your 4th year of growing a local/regional business those figures can be very significant.

  • Even if your financial performance is something to celebrate, resist the urge to tell the world every detail. Unless you're running a publicly-traded company there's no need to do so. No good will come of putting this information out there. If your performance is as good as you say, plenty of people will find you on their own.

  • Keep the accomplishments of your employees at the top of the list. Bragging about 50,000 hours of no accidents is good but thanking your employees publicly (on LinkedIn, for example) for their very significant contribution to the goal makes the shout-out even more valuable.

  • Use social media and trade press outlets to promote your year-end message. It's not for you to decide if the information is important enough for a pickup in a trade magazine. And, if you make the information attractive enough (think 30,000 pairs of shoes) then the article/blurb will get picked up. Everyone is always searching for good content. Help them do their job well.

​Think differently about what you are putting out into the marketplace (not only at year-end, by the way), and see if you can make it more meaningful. Use the information to drive a positive message about your company, your employees and your clients. Everyone will appreciate it. Next year will be even better.

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