Six Ways to Start the Year Off Right
By: Connie Certusi
A new year inspires renewed energy and excitement for what could happen. It’s a fresh start and the perfect time to reflect on the past and plan for the future–to set goals and figure out how to meet them.
We may already be a couple of weeks into January, but it’s not too late to kick things off with a bang to help ensure growth for your business. Check out these six tips:
1. Learn from the past. Look
back at the previous year. Assess what went well and what didn’t, and find
takeaways from both, the mistakes and successes. Review your business plan and
make updates. Were there big moves you wanted to make last year but didn’t? Did
you want to expand your team? Open a second location? Expand your office space?
Take a hard look at where you’ve been, and perhaps where you wanted to go but
didn’t, so you can better know where you should be heading.
“We can draw lessons from the past but we cannot live in it.”–Unknown
2. Focus on the future. As
you develop projections for the year, consider the broader economic conditions
and how they might impact your market. Of course, keep in mind that projections
are just that–projections. It’s impossible to know what will happen, so ground
your projections in as much data and objectivity. Knowing the latest business
trends and economic news will arm you to handle the constantly changing
environment. Finally, rely on the experience of others to help. Many have been
where you are now and possess great wisdom. Look for one or more mentors to
offer advice for growing your business.
“The future depends on what you do today.”–Mahatma Gandhi
3. Improve communication. Effective
communication is vital to business success. Encourage your employees to share
their thoughts about the past and the future. Provide several ways they can
communicate with you, from regular team and one-on-one meetings to an online
chat platform. Have an open-door policy and be open to receiving honest
feedback and ideas. Set the tone for consistent and transparent communication.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”–Stephen R. Covey
4. Find new ways to create buzz. With
so much information and so many products and services flooding the market, it
can be very difficult to differentiate your business–especially on a reasonable
budget. Look for simple, affordable, and creative ways to stand out from
others. Think of ways to connect with your customers using social media
platforms, starting with the big three: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. All
are free and can effectively reach your customers while generating
word-of-mouth about your business and its products or services. When used well,
social media can greatly promote special deals and giveaways, and provide a
vehicle for sharing the day-to-day, behind-the-scenes glimpses that give your
business personality and establish customer intimacy.
“I define marketing as sharing what you love with people who want to hear about it.”–Joanna Penn
5. Mind the budget. It
can be difficult to keep track of all expenses, especially while juggling many
areas of the business, but it’s crucial. Businesses can maximize dollars in
numerous ways–from tracking tax-deductible business expenses and minimizing
long payment terms, to making monthly instead of annual insurance payments and
leasing or buying used office furniture and equipment. And, while employee
costs are a major business expense, you must make smart decisions here; you
can’t focus only on cost-cutting. Effective hiring practices will help ensure
you’re getting the best bang for your buck. Consider hiring temporary staff or
interns during busier times to help save on overall costs throughout the year.
“Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.–Benjamin Franklin
6. Create a positive work-life
atmosphere. Your business couldn’t operate without your
employees. As you look for areas of improvement for this year, consider how you
can let employees work in ways that best motivate them and are flexible enough
to suit their various circumstances and personal responsibilities. Also,
encourage your employees to take time away from the office, and set an example
by taking vacation time yourself. I bet you’ll find getting that gym time in,
taking that trip, and pursuing that hobby keep your entrepreneurial fire going
and make you even more productive.
“You can’t do a good job if your job is all you do.”–Unknown