“A man has to have goals – for a day, for a lifetime – and that was mine, to have people say, ‘There goes Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived.’” Ted Williams
As the calendar flipped from 2018 to 2019 many people have asked “What are your goals for 2019”
In 1979, out of a college dorm room in New York City, Queensboro, and the custom embroidered logo apparel businesses were born. Our mission today is to help people share who they are with the world. In 2018 we did that for over 50,000 customers.
By many measures, 2018 was a great success. It wasn’t our most profitable year, but by almost every other measure, we took significant steps forward.
Queensboro has been around for a long time, but it is only since 2014 that our primary goal has been to become a great company. It took me over 30 years to realize that in the end, that was all that really mattered to me.
We have improved a lot since 2014. Yet for all our improvement, we are still not happy with a few basic things. We feel it still takes us too long to turn around orders, the process of ordering custom logo apparel continues to be too complex and frustrating for our customers, and as leaders there remains much to be learned.
We have therefore decided to focus on these three areas for improvement in 2019: speed, ease of ordering, and leadership.
How are we going to do that?
In fact, just coming up with these three areas of focus took us a lot longer and was a lot harder than any of us expected. It was a great exercise though. It forced us, as a team, to take an in depth look at our entire business and organization and think hard about what was most important. The questions we kept asking ourselves were “What is keeping us from greatness? What are the main things we need to work on to get better?”
It became clear through this process that making intelligent and cooperative decisions about the most important things to work on is at least as important as any work on those decisions that would follow. If we make the right decisions, we move forward. If not, we don’t. Time, energy and opportunity are wasted. We get no closer to our greatness goal.
Reflecting upon our path to greatness, I believe that this was the first year our leadership team was strong enough to take on this goal setting process together. Decisions had been made in the past, but they weren’t truly owned by all. Our relationships, trust, communication and experience working together were just not deep enough to take this on. Goal setting clearly helps focus a team, but if that team is not solid and in synch, execution is going to be very difficult.
We spent a lot of 2018 working and talking as a team about smaller issues. We were very disciplined about setting aside at least an hour and a half every Wednesday to learn and talk about leadership and greatness. As the year progressed, our ability to communicate and work together got better. We had some really nice “wins” last year and made impressive progress.
As 2018 wound down we naturally started looking ahead and talking about 2019. At first, these conversations were slow and frustrating. Despite all our accomplishments in 2018 we were still seeing things too much from our own personal perspectives and had different ideas about what our primary challenges were.
We stuck with it, though, and I believe we are all pleased with our work. And most importantly, we now all own it. That was a huge accomplishment for 2019 before the year even started!
So now back to the question of how we are going to improve our speed, ordering process and leadership skills …
I have mixed feelings about the annual cycles of organization in our lives and business. In many ways they feel arbitrary. For example, it is a New Year, so now we need new resolutions and goals. We worked hard for the past 12 months to achieve certain results and objectives. We achieved some, missed others, and probably made some bad decisions towards the end to achieve short term results so we could feel we were successful. And now it is January and it is time to start all over again!
But the drive to improve never stops! And the New Year, with the break for the Holidays, does give us some time to reflect and recharge. So here we are.
This is how we will get to work on our goals …
Over the next two or three weeks we will get a benchmark on where we are with current lead times and discuss the specifics of what is slowing us down in our production cycle. We will also identify the biggest causes of frustration for our potential and existing customers. Finally, we will take a fresh look at our leadership principles, our 4 R’s (relationships, relentless, reflective and reconnect) to see where we are most often falling short as a team.
We will then pick one or two things to work on in each of these three areas and figure out how to best attack them, including the very important piece of determining how to measure our progress. As we do this, we’ll tell the rest of the company what we’re working on, why we’re working on it, and we’ll enlist help as necessary.
Then we’ll get to work. We’ll refine and communicate regularly as we progress. And we’ll work hard to keep focused on these goals as the daily demands of life and work inevitably pull us away.
As we get more specific on what we are working on and how we are doing, we’ll also communicate with you, our customers, and keep you updated on our progress. Stay tuned and let us know if you have any questions or comments!
On a personal note, my individual goals for 2019 are to get as comfortable with my golf swing as I used to be shooting free throws. To do this, I am going to spend at least an hour a week hitting golf balls. I am also going to try to connect better with my wife, children, other family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors. To do this, I’m going to spend another hour a week hitting golf balls …
Looks like piano lessons may need to wait another year, but I’ll get to them eventually!