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Goals, Objectives and Blue Skies

For many companies, no matter when their Fiscal Year (FY) ends; the end of the calendar year represents an opportunity to reflect upon last year, complete year-end tasks and prepare for the year ahead. As such, unless your annual goals and objectives process takes place at a different time of year, January is typically the month for tying up loose-ends and planning. The size and complexity of your operation will dictate the amount of time that’ll be necessary to complete your year-end duties and get organized for 2015.

Whatever you do, don’t procrastinate! Set aside time right now for completing these exercises; they’re important and will pay big dividends over the entire year. Again, depending on the size and maturity of your organization, it will most likely take two (2) days or less to complete; and they may be the most important two days of the year.

Some of the activities you may be involved in during the month of January are:

• Budgeting or setting department or personal goals and objectives

• Running year-end reports in the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) • Perform some analysis on the reports to ensure that your company is maintaining a high level of compliance

• Purging old records – Only retain the last five (5) years of records, all others except those suspended from liquidation (usually involving anti-dumping or countervailing duties), can be destroyed. While not a requirement, we highly recommend retaining all documentation on entries suspended from the normal liquidation cycle.

• Update reference tools (download copies of the 2015 Harmonized Tariff Schedules of the U.S., update internal policies and procedure manuals, etc.)

• Conduct Business Review Meetings with service providers

• Plan to issue Requests for Proposal (RFP’s) for logistics or customs brokerage services

• Update your company’s request for manifest confidentiality with U.S. Customs and Border Protection

• Update business continuity plans

• Send C-TPAT surveys to supply chain stakeholders • Refresh your company’s C-TPAT Security Profile

One of my most favorite activities when I was managing a large group of compliance professionals was to hold my highly-vaunted annual Blue Sky meetings. Every year I would take the team off-site, away from noise and distractions in the office, sequestering them in a setting that fostered creativity and brainstorming. Then, the first 1-2 hours were spent reviewing the prior year and talking about what went right, and what went south on us. We would reflect and use that time to ensure we have effectively remedied the prior year mistakes and that we have closed off the gaps that caused the mistakes or problems in the first place.

Then, the remainder of the day is spent talking about short-term and longer-term goals. I would paint the sky blue and challenge the team to conceptualize what the utopia of world class compliance departments would look like. We’d throw out and kick around ideas; nothing was sacred and no idea or topic was off-limits. These exercises not only re-energized the team for the year ahead but they resulted in the creation of some very important projects.

As the day would wear on we would develop lists of tools and resources we needed to do our jobs better and lists of short and longer term goals. And by the end of the day I would have it boiled down to separate lists I could draw from when doing my budgeting exercises. The first list contained the more viable ideas with little cost or downside. Those were typically initiated immediately. The ideas requiring more resources or funding were on separate short and long terms lists. The more far-flung or far-fetched ideas were retained on list for revisiting in future meetings. And still more of the ideas wound up on my “Opportunities List.” This was a list we created of things or programs that we knew we were not doing because we lacked adequate or proper resources. Then, when challenged by senior management (as sometimes happens in the corporate world) on, “How we can do things better or less expensively?” I was armed and ready with an exhaustive list.

The establishment of annual attainable goals and objectives is an absolute best practice. Doing so allows you to effectively measure your level of success; or lack thereof. It also provides a vision or a roadmap for your subordinates to follow. If you are already in process, or perhaps have even completed your planning for this year, give yourself a gold star. On the other hand, if you’re procrastinating, use this article as your impetus or catalyst to get going. Good luck with your objectives this year!