Five questions to ponder for 2015

December 4, 2014, 12:22 PM UTC
Illustration By: Davide Bonazzi

1 Would you rehire your key executives?

For growth to soar, you need the right people doing the right things right. Do the leaders of crucial departments such as sales or operations excel without being managed? Do they regularly wow your team with important insights? Are their frontline and midlevel ­employees getting the job done? If not, make some tough decisions now. ­Mediocre leaders make your job infinitely harder—and they’ll drive away the star players you do have.

2 Can you state your strategy simply?

At Nasty Gal, founder Sophia Amoruso’s game plan is selling vintage clothes to young women. Snapchat’s strategy is delivering disappearing photos. Ikea’s is selling nicely designed flat-pack furniture. If you can’t articulate your powerful, industry-dominating approach as clearly as they can, don’t expect your employees or the market to get it. Road-test yours at your next holiday party to see if it’s as clear as you think it is.

3 What’s your cash conversion cycle?

Your cash flow should be running faster than your investments in the business. If it isn’t, you risk flaming out. I’m shocked by how many leaders don’t know how many days it takes for a dollar invested in growth to flow back into their coffers. And make sure you check your available cash daily. That’s what I do at my company. Lose track and sharks will be your only financing option—even in an improving lending climate.

4 What 25 relationships do you need to nurture?

Every company’s success depends on powerful gatekeepers and influencers. Make a list now of the people who will help you double the size of your business—including the next five major customers you need. Figure out how to cultivate and deepen these relationships before you ask for any favors. “Establish how the relationship will benefit the other person, how you can help make them more successful,” says Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone.

5 What could disrupt your industry?

Your ascent will stall if you get blindsided by a new organization that is 10 times better, faster, and cheaper to run than yours, says Singularity University “global ambassador” Salim Ismail in his book Exponential Organizations. So which upstarts threaten your existence? Do some reconnaissance in a group of early adopters like Abundance 360, curated by Singularity’s co-founder Peter Diamandis. With the pace of change accelerating, hanging with the same old industry contacts doesn’t cut it.

Verne Harnish is he CEO of Gazelles INC., an executive education firm.

This story is from the December 22, 2014 issue of Fortune.

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