It’s rare to find a small business owner who isn’t heading into the final stretch of the year worrying about areas of improvement to their overall operation. As we all reflect on the year gone by, thoughts naturally turn to making the next twelve months better across the board. While it’s one thing mustering up the gumption to honestly assess your performance and make business resolutions for the coming year, it’s another thing to actually keep them.
In this piece, we’ll help you get the process right by breaking down commonsense ways of setting goals for the new year (ones you’ll actually be able to stick to). Let’s start by identifying some obvious targets.
Identify your biggest win
When faced with a potentially wide open field of improvements to consider, it’s important not to get paralyzed by indecision straight out of the gate. In the vast majority of cases, there’s probably one screamingly obvious change you could make that would deliver outsize benefits across the board. Kick things off by thinking about what it might be in isolation, and you give yourself one clear target to aim at before getting bogged down in any further detail.
Naturally enough, what this might be will vary wildly from business to business, but every firm has one. Simply ask yourself, “If I could change just one aspect of my business next year, what would it be?”
Once you’ve answered that question to your own satisfaction, make sure to also pose your business resolution to everyone on your team. You want to ensure the whole company can potentially align around it.
Identify your easiest win
Identifying your biggest potential win is great for introducing clarity to your overall endeavors, but making it actually happen isn’t necessarily easy.
You want to also make sure you can get a little early momentum going as you start the year to keep smiles on faces and overall morale high.
As a counterpoint to our first suggestion, also determine the easiest possible improvement you could make is. This might be adding a business blog to your company’s site, creating a social media profile on a new platform, or any other feasible task you have in mind — you decide. Again, run this by your team while you’re doing it. If everyone instantly agrees on one item in particular, you’ve got an obvious and achievable business resolution on your hands. If a whole host of potentially simple and positive changes occur, even better!
Take business resolutions one quarter at a time
The temptation when speccing out things that should happen next year is to start identifying entire theoretical sequences of events. However, you’ll need to be a little careful about chaining items together too far into the future. While there’s a lot to be said for quarterly planning in general, it’s often best to limit yourself to a one- or two-quarter horizon unless you’ve been in operation for quite some time.
Small businesses are inherently chaotic environments, and you often simply can’t predict what will happen any further out than six months. By narrowing your focus to the short term, you keep yourself honest in terms of what’s actually achievable, as well as give yourself enough leeway to tack and adjust to circumstances as they arise.
Our final point is perhaps the most important one. For your business resolutions to stick, they need to be super-specific and highly measurable.
Vaguely aspirational mutterings such as “boost sales” are simply not going to cut it — you want real-world numbers in play to make things crystal clear for all concerned.
Your resolutions should be Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time-Related, i.e., SMART. Committing to this across your team is a simple way of enforcing good habits. And if you’re confident your goals meet the criteria, there’s an excellent chance they’re actually going to be achieved. Even if you do happen to stumble along the way, you’ll at least know exactly how short you were of achieving your goal.
The end of the year is the perfect time to take stock of where your business is actually going. Now is the time to identify actionable improvements that can be made for the future. However, as with any set of business resolutions, it’s all about actually knuckling down and doing them rather than patting yourself on the back for a plan well made.
Take our four simple suggestions on board as you get down to business, and you’ll find your chances of success naturally skyrocketing:
- Isolate the one change that could really move the needle.
- Make sure you’ve identified some easy wins to build momentum.
- Keep a clear focus on the immediate future rather than getting sucked into long-term daydreaming.
- Commit to being SMART throughout the year.
Are there any tips or tricks you have around planning resolutions that we’ve missed? Get in touch via the comments section below and let us know!
Also published on Medium.