No Better Time than the New Year to Prepare for Your Next Business Success
The confetti’s been swept up, the noisemakers have been put away, the toasts have all been made, the last auld lang syne’s faded, and, surprisingly, resolutions have already been broken. New Year’s Day is over. It’s time to get back to work.
Not the words you want to hear, of course. But there is an upside… do some smart business planning today and at this time next year, you could have a reason to celebrate even more.
The opening days of the year represent a great opportunity to lay out a road map for future success. A solid, well-founded plan with clear goals can ensure you’ll end up right where you want to be instead of someplace else wondering what went wrong.
Getting from Point A to B
A lot of businesses like to tell interviewees and new employees that there’s no such thing as a typical day at their company. Perhaps that’s true. But here’s something else that’s true: No successful business has ever been run in a random or haphazard manner. Oh, it may seem that way during a hectic time or an emergency. If you want to be a successful small business owner and entrepreneur, making and having a clearly defined set of goals and targets is a must.
As the New Year gets under way, look back at how the past year has gone. What have you accomplished? What is still in progress? What did you fail to achieve? Examine each of these scenarios carefully. It’s not only important to understand why you lost, but how you won as well. Each offers valuable lessons. When you lost, was it because of poor planning, bad execution, a target set too high, or events simply out of your control? What could you have done differently? Don’t overlook your wins. For those areas in which you were successful, what did you do right? Was it due to your preparation? A heroic effort by a part of your staff? A misstep by a competitor? Were you simply in the right place at the right time? It’s never a bad idea to learn not only from your mistakes, but from your successes as well. After all, you want to succeed again, right?
Once you’ve looked back, take an objective view ahead. How can you avoid last year’s setbacks? How can you turn a loss last year into a win the next? How can you improve upon last year’s triumphs? How can you push yourself and your staff to even greater heights?
It’s important to set attainable goals and reachable targets. Place the bar out of reach and you’re just setting you and your team up for disappointment. With reasonable goals in front, everyone knows it’s possible to not only work hard, but that management understands the best challenge is one that pushes and rewards as well. That makes for a better workplace with everyone working toward the same end.
It’s all about the bottom line
The primary business of a business is to make money, otherwise it wouldn’t be a business, it would be a charity, right? If the customer is king, then the bottom line is the emperor. How was your bottom line last year? If it was healthy, congratulations! If it was a little anemic, now’s the time to give it an infusion.
Ask yourself what steps can you take in the new year to either keep your success going in the months ahead or what decisions need to be made to ensure your bottom line is a dark black instead of a blazing red.
Perhaps an acquisition can grow your business? Maybe a new partner would give you some fresh blood or new ideas? Could a move to a bigger space help you accomplish more? Or would a reduction be more in order? Do you need more staff to satisfy growing sales? Better marketing to help you identify more prospects? Don’t be afraid to examine every component of your business. Look closely at how revenue is coming into your firm. Is it generating profit? Or being eaten up by debt or expenses? There’s no better time than when the calendar flips to determine the answers to these questions.
New products and services
One way to generate greater revenues is to open up new revenue streams. That means additional products and services. If you already have a product or service in the works, give them a news release on your website or social media trumpeting this fact. Get them looking ahead and pique their anticipation about what’s to come.
If you don’t have anything yet upcoming, get your team together and brainstorm about ways you can deliver more value to your market. You can also gather a group of your clients and ask them directly about what new products or services you can add to your portfolio to meet their needs. Facetime with your clients helps build rapport, trust and understanding.
Key performance indicators
One of the most important business questions of all is: How do you define success and failure? If you as the business owner don’t know, who else will?
Still being in business on January 1 isn’t the best definition of success. You need something a little more definitive than that. As you set your goals and target for the year ahead, be sure to list important milestones and indicators to meet along the way that show you’re either on the path to reach your ultimate goals or are in danger of falling short. Tie these to months or quarters and review regularly. Pulling up the spreadsheet in late November and discovering your production targets are far behind or your sales nowhere near where they need to be is, well, not a good idea.
If your key performance indicators show you’re behind, you’ll need either to increase your effort or adjust your targets downward. If indicators show that you are ahead of your goals, give yourself a big pat on the back for your hard work and keep up the pace.
With some thoughtful planning and careful consideration, you’ll have a clear idea of where you’re going in in the new year. You stand a better chance of getting where you want to be instead of somewhere else.
Sr. Vice President of Operations at Charter Capital, a leading invoice factoring company for small to mid-sized businesses. Headquartered in Houston, Texas, Charter Capital provides accounts receivable financing and asset-based lending for major industries including freight and transportation, consulting firms, service providers, staffing firms, distributors and manufacturers, an oil and gas service companies.