New Year’s Resolutions … for the Small Business Owner

The New Year offers a new beginning, a time to stop and reflect on our successes or struggles of the past year and to make resolutions to set a path in a new direction. For the business owner, this is a critical time to work “on your business” instead of “in your business.” Somebody said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. Yet too often we see business owners who fail to do annual planning and end up stuck in the same rut year after year.

Businesses that are proactive and invest time in goal setting and annual planning typically outperform similar businesses that merely react to market forces as they happen. And the anecdotal data suggests that those business owners in the proactive camp probably sleep better at night because they know they’re prepared for what will come tomorrow.

What Gets Written Tends to Get Done

Writing down goals is a powerful act. It can give you direction, clarity and focus. So why not make time around the holidays to make your own list of New Year’s resolutions for your business. Here are a few ideas:

1. I will set a budget for marketing and I will spend that money every month to ensure my business has a steady stream of customers and cash flow.

2. I will create a marketing calendar and schedule regular communication throughout the year with my customers and potential customers.

3. I will run monthly financial statements and learn to understand them, so I know how I’m doing financially, even if I have to hire a bookkeeper, meet monthly with my accountant or take a QuickBooks class and do the bookkeeping myself.

4. I will seek out ways to continuously improve my business in all facets, rather than rely on what worked last year or five years ago.

5. I will regularly engage my customers, either in-person or using surveys or social media, and ask how I can serve them better.

6. I will continually seek out advice from local experts such as CPAs, attorneys, marketing professionals, and other successful business owners, and try to actively solve my problems instead of suffering in silence.

7. I will join or become more active in a trade association so I can learn about best practices in my industry and keep up with changing trends.

8. I will take the time to put in writing my annual goals for the business: sales, profit, market share, customer satisfaction, new products and services, or new initiatives that will move the business forward.

9. Along with these goals, I will create a written action plan — that includes specific deadlines — to achieve those goals.

10. I will engage my staff in the planning process and update them regularly on the progress we’re making toward our goals. We all hold ourselves accountable for executing the plan.

So, if you feel your business is stuck in that rut, then resolve that 2014 will be different and better. Take the time to review your 2013 results: What worked and what didn’t? Then take a thoughtful look at your markets, your competition and the environment you operate in. Finally, draft a short list of realistic goals you want to achieve for the year and add bullet points to map out the steps and strategy to get there. Resolve to make 2014 your best year ever!

Tom Donaldson is Regional Director of the Small Business Development Center at Lansing Community College. The SBDC offers consulting services and business workshops to business owners in the Lansing region.
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