In our personal lives the New Year is a great time to celebrate - sometimes with New Year's Eve parties and family reunions. It's a wonderful time, even though we know we have to face the credit card bills that come in the mail after the New Year.
In business it should be time for reflection, looking back on last year; figuring out what worked and what didn't and applying that experience into plans and dreams for the coming year.
For any entrepreneur it really is a great time to think about the business; where you've been and where you're going.
The best way to deal with this opportunity is to use the tried and true method of putting it in writing.
Start with a list of things that worked out well for you in 2014. Did any of these occur by luck or were they the result of good planning on your part? There's nothing wrong with things that go well with luck - you can still use them as a prompt to perhaps expand on that project or new client or whatever and leverage that into your New Year's plans.
Then examine what didn't work, where you lost money on a project or strategy perhaps. Did you overextend yourself on advertising spending? Did you hire a new staff member before you were really ready? Did you fall into the trap of giving too much of yourself away in order to impress a client rather than billing the full amount that logic says you should have charged?
These are what Thomas Edison called "the wonder and thrill of doing it wrong the first time." He once said that he had figured out through failure, several hundred ways how not to build a battery.
When you look back on a mistake:
- Accept responsibility and don't blame anyone else.
- Analyze the situation and figure out where you went wrong.
- Look for corrective measures and implement them.
- Take note of the lesson learned from the mistake.
- Build those lessons into your New Year plan.
Once you have your list of what worked and what didn't, find a quite corner to reflect on how you might have dealt with each of these issues differently; both the good and the bad.
Then and only then start on your plan for the new year, incorporating your mistakes and your small victories into your strategy for 2015. In looking at your strengths and weaknesses, where are you ahead of your competition and where are you falling behind?
Are you using available technology? Studies show that many small business owners are not taking full advantage of the opportunities in social media. If you find it hard to understand Twitter, LinkedIn and SEO's find someone who loves the stuff and see if you can work out a way to compensate him or her; maybe reducing the cash outlay using contra services if you can offer something that they need.
Here's some resolutions for you to consider in the new year.
I will promote my business regularly and consistently.
Set weekly and monthly goals for marketing and adopt a PR strategy by building relationships with local business reporters.
I will learn a new skill
Learning something new will help you add a new dimension of interest. It doesn't have to be a business skill, since anything new can broaden your horizons.
I will expand my network
Work your network by always being there to assist your colleagues and friends. Think of the term, 'Paying it Forward'.
Find people with common interests since making the effort to be a part of a group (or even leading a group) will revitalize you and your business.
I will give something back to my community.
Make a New Year's resolution to find a cause that matters to you, and give what you can. Take a fresh look at your November edition of the Leading Edge for the story on doing well by doing good.
I will find new ways to listen to my customers
Customer surveys, focus groups, having regular open house events and periodic one-on-one meetings with key clients are all great methods of finding out what they're priorities are. People love to be asked.
I will have the courage to drop what's not working and move on.
All products aren't going to be super sellers, all sales methods aren't going to work for everyone, and all suppliers or contractors aren't going to be ideally suited to your business. If a technique or a product or a business relationship isn't working for you, stop using it.
Happy New Year!