The holiday season and resulting festivities have passed. January and February can offer a great time to reflect on your business, particularly because you’re probably also pulling your financial data together for tax purposes. What a great time of year this is to review your business and establish your coming year’s operating goals. Think of this as an annual health check-up for your business, much like the annual exam you get for your personal health. And just as you exhibit certain symptoms when you’re not quite right, so will your business. Keeping as close an eye on your business as you do on your health allows you to get a head start on “treatment”, often preventing a small problem from turning into a crisis.
1) Review 2010. What were your goals? Did you accomplish what you wanted to? What went well for you? What took you by surprise? What could use improvement? Did you meet new people? Did you learn new skills? What was your biggest obstacle? Have you overcome this obstacle, or does it still require a solution? Did you lose any clients? If so, why? Did you gain new clients? How? Did you lose employees? If so, why? Did you hire new employees? How are they working out? All this information provides you with a baseline.
2) Set your 2011 goals. Is there something that you’ve been meaning to do, or always wanted to do that you keep putting off? Or maybe you’ve got a great idea, but haven’t moved beyond the idea stage. Perhaps the coming year is just the time to tackle this project. Often a project is large enough that it is the sheer size of it that deters us from getting started. Break the project into all the steps needed to fulfill it. By breaking the project down to smaller components it becomes a manageable size. That way you can start to take one step at a time. It may be a project that requires more than one year to accomplish, and that’s okay. This could be the year you actually get it started. After all, it will never happen if you don’t take those first steps.
3) Make your goals quantifiable. Create a reasonable timetable for each step. If you are unsure, talk to others who have done a similar project about what steps they took, how long each took, and all the associated costs. Identify where you will get the money from to accomplish your goal. If you can identify alternate sources, then you are more likely to succeed.
4) Thank your clients. Without them you wouldn’t exist. You will find that if you take them for granted they will disappear and reappear with your competition. There are many ways to let your clients know that you appreciate them. If you are a business that has a physical location, have a customer appreciation day. Have food and entertainment available at no cost to them. If you provide services you may want to offer a referral discount. Or your thanks can be given in a public forum through an advertisement. Social media is another avenue for thanking your clients and providing special offers for being a client. Even though we are an online culture now, it is wonderful if you can remember them with a card or other surprise at the holidays and on their birthday. Genuine interest goes a long way.
5) Ask your clients how else you can fill their needs. This helps maintain a client’s loyalty, as well as gives you a good feel for new product and service offerings that you may want to offer. It also helps keep communication channels open.
6) Thank your employees. You may have discovered that it can be difficult to find the appropriate match for employees for your business. When you have good help, be sure to let them know it.
7) Talk with your employees about their 2011 goals. Find out if they were satisfied with their 2010 employment. If you have an open relationship with your employees this will not be difficult. You will also discover areas that your employee would like to grow into or contribute to. They will excel at what they do if they are part of setting their goals. If you have a closed relationship, be prepared to hear what they think you want to hear.
8) Look around you. How has your industry at large changed? Have you kept up with these changes? What courses, networking, and mentoring can you find to help you stay abreast of the industry? How has your immediate market area changed? Have you gained business because someone has shut down? Will you lose business if someone else fills in where they left off? Is there any new competition entering the market? It’s is not always possible to foresee all that will happen, but being in touch with these issues certainly makes a big difference in your ability to keep your piece of the pie.
As you can see, your annual check-up follows a pattern of reflect, plan, take action. With these steps you will be aware of what is likely to happen and be able to adapt to change as needed. Growing your business is a continuous process, just as monitoring your own personal health and well-being is.