In a nutshell: Before the sun sets on 2017, make plans for the upcoming year.
Ah, the New Year! It’s always an opportunity for optimism and hopefulness, giving us a chance to reflect on what went right (and wrong) in the past 365 days, and reset our expectations and strategy for the upcoming year.
With New Year’s Day just around the corner, we propose 18 resolutions to guide you and your small business in 2018.
- Stay informed: Update your browser bookmarks so that you’re getting the most up-to-date industry, local and national information. Good journalism can be expensive to produce, so consider investing in useful news sources.
- Scope out the competition: Ask around and find out what other companies in the same line of business are doing.
- Talk to your customers: Identify your top clients and take them out for coffee, lunch or dinner. Build a personal relationship and find out what their needs and pain points are.
- Join an organization: There are lots of groups that will advocate for your business, including local associations in your areas. Research them, find your favorites, and participate.
Get Your Ducks in a Row
- Update your mission and vision statements: These documents are not set in stone. Resolve to set aside a little time each quarter to adjust them as your business changes.
- Revisit your marketing strategy: On a regular basis, evaluate your current plans and determine if you need to adjust any of the 4Ps of marketing — product, price, promotion and place. If you haven’t, commit to writing these plans down.
- Who’s leading who? Whenever you add or remove leadership positions, update your organization chart so that the lines of communication are clear.
- Evaluate your technology needs: Don’t assume what worked in the past will protect you now! In this age of security breaches and malware, you’ll need to regularly assess your needs and make sure your systems are secure. Educate your employees to use leading security practices.
- Make plans for the future: At least once a year, review your succession planning to make sure your business will survive if something happens to you. This is especially important if you want the business to remain in the family.
Improve Your Skills
- Always be learning: Education doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Look for webinars and Twitter chats, and find out if your local library offers access to learning resources like Lynda.com. You might also consider going back to school for an advanced degree or certification — online education will provide the flexibility you need to go to classes while running your business.
- Practice communication: Are you getting your points across clearly? Take some extra time to make sure your emails are understandable, and join a networking group to practice your verbal skills.
- Ask for feedback: Encourage your employees to provide honest, constructive feedback about your performance.
- Don’t get frustrated: Many skills require practice and patience. Allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them.
Be a Better Leader
- Learn how to delegate: It’s natural to want to manage all aspects of your business, but this situation can’t be sustained in the long run. Find people you can trust and hand over the reins.
- Make time for yourself: Avoid burnout by scheduling time for yourself. Block out time on your calendar. Recharge with friends and family.
- Set realistic goals: Setting your sights too high will lead to frustration. Make your goals SMART — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based.
- Give your employees the right tools: Ask your employees what they need to do their job effectively and efficiently, and provide it. Do this within reason, of course — be suspicious of any employee who says they need a new Maserati to be productive!
- Set an example: Your employees are looking up to you. In every action you take, demonstrate the behaviors you want them to emulate.