I was not the best K-12 student. I attended a public school in a nice middle class neighborhood in Southern California. Both of my parents worked, very unique for those days. In fact, my mother often worked two jobs to help sustain our lifestyle. My father had a successful, middle management career, but it was a time when two car garages were populating the landscape and every kitchen needed an automatic dish washer – the middle class was born. Getting a college education wasn’t a conversation we had in our house. No one in my family’s history considered college as an option. Not to mention, my high-school transcript was more entertaining than most Warner Brothers cartoons.

After stints as a park and recreation leader, grocery clerk, and a very unsuccessful venture at operating a fork lift, I actually found my calling in the office of an industrial distributor. Starting at the inside sales desk and ultimately earning positions of Operations Manager, Territory Sales, and later Sales Manager and General Manager, I had found my way to a rewarding career, or so I thought. In January of 1993, I had the opportunity to start my own design-build firm with a couple of friends, in Ohio. My wife and I packed up our belongings, bundled up our new-born son and started a new life in the Midwest.

After two tumultuous years, the business closed in the spring of 1995. For the first time in my life, I felt that I had lost control of my destiny. I had no company, no real network and no college education – in Ohio. One night, shortly after my company had closed, my wife and I were visiting her mother in the Pittsburgh area. I shared that I thought it was time for our family to move back to Southern California. And then it happened… my wife said, “You’ve talked about it for years. You are a voracious reader and learner, why don’t you consider getting your degree?” To that, I responded, “That’s not realistic. I’d be forty years old before I graduated.” After a moment, my mother-in-law said, “You will, one day be forty, with or without a degree.  Wouldn’t it be better to get started and have the degree?” These two ladies didn’t know it at the time, but in one simple, clear moment, they helped change the direction of my life. Over the years, I’ve related this story to various other things in my work. One of our COACT promotion pieces asks the question,

“How did your business not reach its business growth goals?”

When I think about any important work initiative, I divide my efforts into a simple fraction, with a figurative denominator and numerator in mind. I think of operational issues as denominator management – breaking things down; improving delivery systems, optimizing work flows, improving effectiveness and efficiencies. Numerator management is where I think about business building activities; strategic thinking, making connections, promoting my company, preparing proposals, learning from customers and prospects. Think about it – the end of this year will come and each day will pass with relative rapidity. Our business growth success will largely be determined by the decisions we make each day, starting today. Goals are useful, but only the context that we take some regular action against those goals. What you did yesterday might help, but what are you doing today to drive up the numerator? Once you begin to recognize regular numerator activities, you’ll not only see positive results, but find this type of work very rewarding; building momentum and the spirit that is needed to grow any business.

So how did your business not reach its business growth goals? The answer is one day at a time. Just like me not pursuing my formal education. One day at time, over the years, I built inertia around the idea that accomplishing this goal was unattainable or too hard. Therefore, I worked at doing the best with what I had – numerator management. Not a bad thing, just not accomplishing increased potential that could change the way I think about the future. The hardest day, at the age of 34, was stepping onto a University campus, for the first time with the intention of being a student. That day, and eight years of days that grew easier each passing day, featured planned learning, and led me to earning both my undergraduate (six months after my 40th birthday) and graduate degrees – one day at time.

Best wishes for a successful year of revenue. May each day this year find you managing the numerator, building inertia toward business growth success.