Sticking with New Year's resolutions is never easy. Obstacles to achieving difficult goals lurk around every corner. Plans often change.
But at least five local professionals remain honed in on the goals they set for their businesses in January. Here, the Review-Journal catches up with the company executives who shared their professional dreams with the paper early in the year. Their experiences show that progress is possible even when the market is throwing up multiple hurdles.
Name: Leslie Bruno
Company: Pro-Tect Security
GOALS IN 2007: Bruno said in January that she wanted to boost revenue at Pro-Tect between 4 percent and 5 percent over 2006 levels. She also said she'd like to add 100 to 200 workers to her existing staff of 500. Improved benefits were also on Bruno's agenda; one long-range goal involved swapping out the company's current access to discount medical care for health insurance.
How she's doing: Bruno's objectives for higher revenue took a hit in the first quarter, when sales of Pro-Tect's convention-security services dipped 8 percent to 9 percent over the same quarter a year ago. April and May, however, have shown steadier revenue when compared with sales a year ago.
Bruno is faring better in her plan to hire more workers. She added about 70 workers through early May despite a competitive job market. Some of those new employees are part of Pro-Tect's new overnight-management team, which supervises the company's security efforts during the graveyard shift.
Health insurance will remain a distant dream for now.
"Full insurance is just cost-prohibitive," Bruno said. "More and more Fortune 500 companies and hotels are raising deductibles for people to go see doctors. The current health plan we offer is the only affordable solution I've been presented with."
Obstacles: Pro-Tect first-quarter sales were off because, in a calendar fluke, many of winter's major trade shows were booked concurrently, rather than scheduled on staggered dates, Bruno said. That meant the company could take fewer clients.
"Providing service was next to impossible for everyone in the convention industry, from the electrical contractors to the freight haulers," Bruno said. "Everyone is stretched when shows are booked for similar dates. No one is successful when that happens. It puts a strain on the entire city and its infrastructure."
And with unemployment in Las Vegas at 4.3 percent, Bruno must fight for new staffers. She vies for workers by emphasizing a "positive" working environment and extras like free bus passes for employees.
The prognosis: Bruno said she believes she can still achieve her revenue goals by year's end. Pro-Tect has added smaller, regional conferences to its stable of megaconvention clients, and the company is also providing security for more special events in the community. Plus, the hotel-security business generally picks up in the summer, and a spate of outdoor events in the warmer months should also boost the company's bottom line. Pro-Tect is also benefiting from a surge in its executive-protection division, which provides personal security guards for celebrities and high-level business owners.
"It's going to be tough (to reach 5 percent sales growth), but I'm very hopeful we're going to meet our forecast," Bruno said. "We're just going to sell, sell, sell."
Name: Melissa Zimbelman
Company: Dyson & Dyson Real Estate Associates
Goals in 2007: Zimbelman's primary objective in January was to close on double the 30 homes she sold in 2006. Because Zimbelman gets most of her business through referrals, reaching 60 sales in 2007 would serve as a measure of the customer service she provides.
Zimbelman also planned to hire an administrative assistant who could handle paperwork while Zimbelman focused on sales.
How she's doing: Zimbelman has closed on 13 homes in 2007, and has an additional seven homes in escrow and scheduled to close in June.
She hasn't hired an assistant because she said she no longer needs one: She switched real estate agencies in the spring and has all the support she needs. Her new brokerage's transaction-coordinating staff has relieved Zimbelman of most administrative burdens from the time she puts a client under contract to the close of escrow.
"It's freed me up to do more deals, and your customer service gets better when you're not stressing over paperwork, so it's helped my clients, too," Zimbelman said.
Obstacles: Woes in the mortgage industry have made sales harder to close. First-time home buyers and subprime borrowers are having a tough time finding lenders willing to give them a chance because of a rise in fore- closures among homeowners with unconventional home loans. Lenders no longer finance home purchases without substantial documentation to verify borrowers' financial pictures, and the additional time spent proving the ability to pay back a loan has added a week to transactions that took one to two days before the market slowed, he said.
Prognosis: Zimbelman said selling 60 homes by year's end is still a realistic goal. The market tends to pick up in the summer as families look to relocate before a new school year starts. And she recently joined the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, which is already proving to be a fruitful hunting ground for new clients, she said.
"I think in our marketplace, it's extremely easy to get bogged down with all the negative information out there," she said. "Every day, you read the paper or watch the news and someone tells us the sky is falling. You need to surround yourself with positive people and maintain an objective, optimistic outlook. There's plenty of business out there. It's just a matter of how hard people want to work to find it."
Name: Jody Lake
Title: General manager
Company: Boulder Station
GOALS IN 2007: Lake said in January that he's concentrating in 2007 on helping Boulder Station keep its status as "market leader" on the Boulder Strip. Lake also said he wanted to expand corporate programs that would help the hotel-casino's staffers "improve their lives."
When Lake became general manager of the property in November, he had just seven years of experience in the gaming industry, so a third goal entailed "breaking the paradigm that you need 20 years of experience to be a (general manager)."
How he's doing: A quick scan of head counts and other performance measures tells Lake that Boulder Station, a Station Casinos property, remains on top. The secret: The business constantly "shops" its competitors, sending in people to assess neighboring properties' offerings and devising plans to stay ahead.
For managers and supervisors, Lake organized a spring "river adventure" rafting trip.
"We wanted to take them off the property to give them an opportunity to get to know each other better and to build relationships," Lake said. "When you can help managers from the front of the house, the back of the house and housekeeping get to know each other, it's very powerful. It makes for a better environment, and it makes it more enjoyable to come to work."
The hotel-casino also held a barbecue for employees.
In addition, Lake sponsors several corporate softball teams and other activities to "keep everybody interested and involved," and to foster consistent team-building.
To bolster his knowledge of the gaming industry, Lake has tapped into the network of general managers at Station's 16 Las Vegas-area properties.
"They've been a really big asset to me," he said.
Obstacles: Boosting business in any casino on the Boulder Strip is a tall order given the rise in gasoline prices and energy bills, Lake said. The residents who live around Boulder Highway tend to have less discretionary income than those who live in neighborhoods surrounding some of the Las Vegas Valley's newer locals casinos. So Boulder Station's neighbors have fewer dollars to spend on leisure pursuits such as gaming and dining out.
Prognosis: Lake said he's confident he'll achieve his objectives in 2007. As Las Vegas continues to grow, the number of households with consumers who are old enough to gamble rises as well. Boulder Station also benefits from the marketing juggernaut parent Station Casinos offers, so Lake and his promotions team can adapt easily to changing consumer habits.
"I've learned that the business does change, that it's not always the best of times," Lake said. "There are highs and lows, and you need to have a different approach for different times."
Name: Andrea Worth
Title: Vice president, marketing and sales
Company: Nevada Association Services
GOALS IN 2007: Worth is concentrating in 2007 on enhancing the customer service her company provides to home-owners associations trying to collect delinquent monthly dues. Worth said in January that she wanted to launch a client survey, add new phone and computer systems to streamline service delivery, establish a quarterly newsletter and implement an e-mail notification system to provide property managers and homeowners associations with up-to-the-minute reports on late payers.
How she's doing: Worth can cross off virtually every item on her January to-do list. She sent a survey to 120 clients in March -- half of the clients responded, and 99 percent of respondents said they were pleased with Nevada Association Services -- and her first newsletter went out in April. The e-mail service is nearly ready and will begin in the third quarter. The only unmet goal thus far is the purchase of new phones and computers.
Obstacles: Vendors and costs. Worth had hoped the e-mail notifications would be available in the first half of 2007, but the vendor handling the project is inundated with other jobs, and it takes time to communicate specifications.
"I want to see it and test it and make sure it's OK," Worth said. "I don't want to send out something that's not right. What the vendor thinks is an acceptable printout might be something that I think needs to look better."
And upgraded phones and computers are a pricey proposition so that expense will have to wait until later.
"We had to prioritize what was going to get done," Worth said. "We still expect to buy new systems by the end of the year."
Prognosis: Worth said she's striving to convert that 99 percent satisfaction rate into a 100 percent satisfaction rate. She's using the results of the survey, which asked clients how Nevada Association Services could improve, to tweak processes and add offerings.
She's also redoubling efforts to train the company's employees in customer service. She's reminding workers to treat every client with respect, returning phone calls within 24 hours and handling questions as they emerge. Employees have monthly luncheon meetings, and the company's staffers recently attended a Las Vegas 51s game and exercise class together.
"This is a team effort," Worth said. "We want everyone to have enthusiasm. I can strive for excellence all I want, but our employees speak to the homeowners, so they need to feel that need for excellence as well."
Name: Dale Rowse
Company: Viridian Group
GOALS IN 2007: Rowse said his New Year's goals included paying off the investors who gave real estate brokerage Viridian Group its startup capital a year ago. He also wanted to double the number of agents in the company's residential division from three full-time sales associates to six. And he aimed to reduce his company's impact on the environment through the addition of paperless technologies.
How he's doing: "The company is carrying itself, so we're not having to ask investors for more equity," Rowse said. Still, Viridian isn't quite ready to let its shareholders cash out. That day is coming, though, if not in 2007, then in early 2008, Rowse said.
On the recruiting front, Viridian has added two of the three residential sales associates Rowse planned for at the beginning of the year.
The company's residential team, which focuses on sales of existing homes, has gone paperless on all of its transactions, using tablet computers that allow sales brokers to receive faxed contracts and make handwritten changes electronically, without printouts. The vertical team, which concentrates on high-rise sales, uses a different software program, so the division isn't yet paper-free.
Obstacles: A "very slow" start in the first quarter set Viridian back, Rowse said. Sales goals were harder to achieve, and brokers were working many more hours to close on the same volume of deals they posted in 2006.
"You just have to double your efforts and make business happen," Rowse said. "At the end of the day, we're in sales. It's up to you to make those sales happen, whether they're in front of you or you have to go get them."
Prognosis: Sales have picked up in recent weeks, with improved business in all of Viridian's divisions.
"It was partly a matter of getting through the slowdown," Rowse said. "Now the deals are coming through."
Rowse said finding the sixth full-time member of the residential team shouldn't be too difficult: Company officials have been hitting networking circles hard. The brokerage's lead-generation program is a big plus, Rowse said, because a slower market means sales agents appreciate the extra help in tracking down opportunities. The company may even surpass its hiring goals in 2007 if sales keep improving.
Said Rowse: "The last two or three months have left me with a much more optimistic outlook for 2007 than I had in January."