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Letting go to make 2018 the best year ever

 2 January 2018     Donald Cooper 

A few years ago I did some work with a large trucking company that now leads its industry in customer satisfaction, management smarts and profitability. But it wasn’t always that way. Several years earlier, they were doing $95 million in sales and losing $12 million. That’s not an easy thing to do. You have to work overtime to lose $12 million on sales of $95 million.

So, how did they turn the business around? How did they go from ‘bleeder’ to ‘leader’? First, they developed clarity about who they were and what they could do well and profitability. Then they analysed every customer for sales volume, profitability and potential. What they found was many of their customers were hugely unprofitable, so they politely ‘fired’ them. Over time, they replaced those unprofitable customers with profitable, growing accounts.

At the same time, they analysed which routes and services were profitable and which were not. They immediately dropped anything that was losing money and couldn’t be turned around. Next, they consolidated and streamlined their terminals across the country to create world-class operating efficiency, reduce overhead and improve customer service.

Finally, they hired the best people in the industry at every level of their organisation and invited poor performers to ‘move on’. In short, they had the wisdom and courage to lose the customers, the products and services, the physical facilities and the people who were not making them money. They also did all with dignity and class – but, they did it! And now they’re four times the size with a bottom line to be proud of.

Managing any business or department sometimes calls for making tough decisions. Some of the toughest are about what and who to ‘let go of’ – so, what and who do you need to ‘let go of’ to make 2018 your best year ever? The list could include:

  • Products or services which are out-of-date, losing you money or hurting your brand – fix them or pitch them;

  • Customers that are not making you money, taking too much of your time or are disrupting your business;

  • Suppliers who keep letting you down or making you look bad to your customers. Give them a maximum of three months to get their act together and, if they don’t, give them the axe;

  • Branches or locations that no longer make sense or never did – shut them down while making sure you treat the staff working there honestly, respectfully and fairly;

  • Employees who are toxic or non-productive – if you can’t ‘fix’ them, invite them to make an alternate career decision as not everyone is rescuable;

  • Policies that make you look uncaring or unreasonable or that tick good customers off and drive them away;

  • Negative attitudes or incorrect assumptions about people, places or things that may be closing your mind, hardening your heart and hurting your business – is your business being held back by negative attitudes about yourself? Do you have the courage to ask what you’re worth or are you sabotaging your bottom line by under-charging or endless discounting? Sometimes the thing we most need to lose in our business is our own reluctance to charge enough for what we sell.

In both your business and your personal life, nobody will ever think you’re worth more than you do. Funny how that works.

Maybe you need to let go of your entire business model. Perhaps you need to rethink what you do, for whom you do it, where you do it or how you do it. If your business model is fundamentally out-of-date or no longer profitable, fine-tuning and fiddling it won’t solve the problem. It needs a total rethink.

So, what do you need to ‘let go of’ in your business and your life to make 2018 your best year ever?   What are the tough but necessary decisions that you’ve been putting off?  What needs to be done, who will do it, by when and measured how?

For more help in proactively planning for 2018 and beyond, my transformational 34-page Vision Critical Guide provides the insights, tools and templates to create clarity about the future of your business. It’s available as a PDF download for just $24 at

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TempurPedic Canada
This HGO article was written by:
Donald Cooper
Donald Cooper

Donald Cooper has been both a world-class manufacturer and an award-winning retailer. Now, as a business speaker and coach he helps business owners and managers throughout the world to rethink, refocus and re-energize their business to create compelling customer value, clarity of purpose and long-term profitability.

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Home Goods and its accompanying newsletter - HGO This Week - covers the furniture, bedding, appliances, consumer electronics, accessories, lamps and lighting and floor coverings product sectors of the big ticket home goods market in Canada. HGO is also a forum for the dissemination of market research and hard-hitting articles on best practices for Canadian retailers.

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