With 2015 rapidly coming to an end, most small business owners I know are thinking about what they can do to make 2016 their best year yet, intent on growing their companies to higher levels than they are today. Of course, if you’ve ever tried to do this, then you already know that it isn’t always an easy task.
It’s like setting a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, quit smoking, or fix some other area of your life that you’re dissatisfied with. You can simply wait for January 1st to arrive and then just wing it, hoping that you reach your goal to better yourself, but taking this approach probably isn’t going to do much for your success.
Instead, you need a plan, specific steps if you will, so you know exactly what to do to get wherever it is you want to be. And with that thought in mind, here is the first step to help you make 2016 the best year in business for you:
Step 1: Know Where You Want to Go
While this one seems like a no-brainer, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations of running your business and lose sight of where you actually want it to go. However, if you’d just take a few moments and think about what you want to accomplish in the next 12 months, where you want to see yourself when January 1st of 2017 rolls around, you’ll be more inclined to take the steps necessary to get you there.
Here are some questions to consider when working on this particular step:
- What do you want your sales to look like over the course of the next 12 months?
- How many clients or customers do you want to have at the end of year as opposed to the beginning?
- Does the size of your staff increase?
- What are your products and services? Any new ones that will be added?
Basically, the goal is to determine the differences in how your business looks at the end of the year versus at the beginning.
Step 2: Set Goals for 2016 (And Beyond)
Once you have a clearer image of where you want your business to be and how you want it to grow, it’s important to set some goals so you’re continuously working toward getting bigger, better, and stronger. One effective way to do this is to create mini-goals that you intend to hit monthly or quarterly so you don’t feel so overwhelmed by one giant goal. Plus, having small goals enables you to have more successes along the way, motivating you to keep moving forward in pursuit of your dreams.
As an example, if your goal is to grow your revenue by 10 percent next year, then your mini-goals might be to grow it by .8-.9 percent per month, or 2.5 percent per quarter. These smaller numbers seem less daunting, making them feel more possible and easier to hit.
In addition to having these smaller goals for the next 12 months, you also want to keep in mind where you want to be beyond 2016. By having a big picture image of what you want your small business to look like in 5, 10, or even 50 years, you’ll be more inclined to stay on a path that will ultimately get you there.
Step 3: Analyze What’s Working and What Isn’t
While it would be tempting to move onto step four at this point and create a plan to help you reach your goals, before you can do that, you must first take an honest look at your current business and analyze what is working for you, as well as what isn’t. Knowing this type of information up front can help identify the areas where you need to put more effort or make changes, and where you’re doing perfectly fine.
If you’re unsure, ask your staff for their input. They’re your front line and can often see issues or concerns that you can’t. You can also ask your clients where they think you’re excelling and where you could use some more work. As a side note: Be open to what you’re hearing and instead of defending where you are, start to think of what you can do to improve in the areas that need it so that you’re able to hit your goals.
Step 4: Create a Plan
With the foundation established, you’re now ready to create a plan. Admittedly, this is where I used to get stuck because I was unsure how to get from point A to point B. Then I learned a little trick from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which is to “begin with the end in mind.”
In other words, start at your end goal and work your way backward when figuring out the steps you need to take. For instance, if your goal is to go international in your industry, working your way backward would probably tell you that you must first conquer the national market. Before that you would want to excel in your region, and so on.
Using this method to create your plan requires you to thoughtfully consider where you want to be and how to get there without your mind stopping you with the logistics, which can sometimes seem impossible at first glance. It also changes the way you normally plan (which is from beginning to end), enhancing your creativity and sparking your imagination.
Step 5: Check in Regularly
Of course, you can’t just put a 12 month plan into play and expect it to work perfectly the whole way through. Because the world is ever changing and ever evolving, you’ll want to check in regularly to see how things are going and ascertain whether you’re getting closer to (or further from) your goal.
To make this step easier, it helps to have some sort of measurement system in place so you can see if you’re on target. For instance, if one of your goals is to grow your social media following on Facebook, then you’ll want to keep track of how many people like your page as well as how many shares and likes you get on your posts so you will know whether they’re increasing (yay!) or not (hmm…time to try something different).
Step 6: Create Strategies to Stay Motivated
Just like with New Year’s resolutions, it’s fairly easy to have motivation when the year begins, but staying enthused as it progresses is sometimes difficult. To overcome this, it helps to have strategies in place to keep you inspired to grow when you actually feel like giving up.
One option to consider is to find a quote or inspirational saying that resonates with you and pushes you when you don’t have the energy to push yourself. Another alternative is to join a mastermind group so you constantly have a bunch of cheerleaders and coaches in your corner, helping you to do your very best, even if you begin to struggle.
Personally, I have a board in my office that I write my goals on so I see them each and every day. This helps keep me going because I always feel like I’m working toward something.
Step 7: Be Flexible
Okay, this one isn’t really a step, per se, but it’s listed as one to remind you that even the best made plans sometimes have to change in order to achieve the end goal. So don’t get so locked into your plan that you aren’t willing to change it if things aren’t progressing the way you hoped they would.
Be flexible and willing to alter your path for 2016, even if it means altering your goals as well. Life happens. Go with it. Oftentimes, the best journeys are the ones you never intended to take.
If you’re up for sharing your goals or how you intend to achieve them, feel free to comment below. Who knows? You may just help someone struggling to do the same.
I’m always interested in learning other small business owners’ thoughts on relevant topics and issues, so if you have a comment or unique article idea, feel free to contact me at [email protected] (put “Businessing Magazine” in the subject line, please). If I use it, it’s a free link to your website!