Plan For a Better Year
Use Tools That Help You
The most important step you can take toward success in the new year? That’s easy! Plan to do better than last year and adopt tools that actually help you get there.
Very few small businesses plan their year in advance. Of the few that do, most forget about their plans early into the year. That happens because we get busy and fall into maintenance mode.
To stick with your plan for the year and see progress at the end, follow these simple tips.
#1 Plan Realistic Goals
If you did $50,000 in revenue last January, don’t plan to do $200,000 this year unless you are trending with that level of growth now. Setting outrageous goals leads to early failure and abandonment of goals. This is like losing weight. People who decide to lose weight in the new year and set goals of dropping 20 pounds in the first month feel defeated by their lack of early success when the scale barely moves. Keep in mind that the first month of any new discipline will be a struggle. The victory comes from sticking with the plan more than the first month’s results. Once you get a month of actually following a budget and hitting targets in the books, you can plan higher goals as the year progresses.
#2 Adjust Your Plans
Don’t be afraid to adjust your goals according to your success at reaching monthly targets. Warning! If you do nothing to reach goals, get back in focus. Don’t reduce the goals if you do nothing to achieve them. But if you planned for a 20% increase for 3 months and find yourself hitting a solid 10%, it might be wise to make a practical adjustment. The goal is always to hit your goals.
#3 Make Your Success VISIBLE (Thank you Jason Fox)
It’s very important that you find ways to make your goals known to your employees and to show them progress. Even if you are a single person business, keep those goals upfront and post the results where you can see progress. This is very important. If you have to go into an accounting program, input a ton of data and then spend an hour setting up a custom report, you probably won’t do it often enough to motivate you. Find a simple way to put your goal in front of you and your employees. Then do everything you can to make the progress as visible as possible. Use progress charts, thermometer graphs, big giant comparative numbers, leaderboards, or whatever makes progress visible. Skipping this step, most do, is guaranteed to lead to abandonment of goals. Making your progress visible adds a level of commitment and accountability—even if only to yourself.
#4 Use Tools That Help; Drop Tools That Don’t
I have struggled with this one. One year I set up very complex and ‘useful’ spreadsheets to capture very important data points. I included key website statistics and lots of esoteric metrics from my accounting system. This is no small task as I have 8 active websites. It was an elegant and beautiful system complete with goals, budgets, and To-Do lists that changed colors if the due by date passed! It was an incredible tool. I used it for a month. It took nearly a day to update the thing. And that first update was very valuable. It helped me improve and I hit targets I had not hit previously. In fact, I got so busy that I didn’t update it until things slowed down about 4 months later!
Now, I use simple mind maps to plot the goals and remind of what I need to do to reach those goals. I love IMind Map. (https://imindmap.com/). This is a terrific tool for quickly laying down a strategic plan. I no longer spend hours doing updates. I follow my plan and the results follow my planning. Another great tool is ASANA (http://www.asana.com)
You can use a spreadsheet or you can run reports from your accounting system. You can write numbers in a journal or a single sheet of paper. You can make a simple graph and color it with a crayon. Post this goal and your progress on a cork board. SIMPLE IS THE BEST.
Find something that will suit your style and stick with it. And if you can’t, don’t be afraid to try something else. Stay with the plan, use tools that work.
#5 Don’t Measure Everything
When you start a goal-achieving plan, don’t budget and measure 506 different metrics. Sure, they all matter in some way but I guarantee you will abandon the plan early in the year if you measure too many things. For a small business, you might set goals and budgets for sales, advertising, and labor. You might just use sales and advertising. If your sales rise, you can figure out how to handle the extra money, right? That’s a problem we all want! If there is an expense item that constantly seems to mess up your progress, include it in your plan. Otherwise, simple is best.
#6 Plan Your Plan
It is not enough to just set goals though you’ll be surprised at how much that alone will help. You must also make a plan to reach those goals. Write down 3-4 steps you will take to meet your goals. Make sure these steps are enough to get you there.
For example, you might say increase advertising to $500 for the month. Then you should add what you will spend that $500 on and how much it should produce. Better to say, “spend $500 on advertising for the month. Send out a flyer to existing customer base offering a loyalty discount of 20%. This should produce $1,000 in sales.” Make sense?
You might include things like: Update at least 1 page of the website, train all employees in the handling of customer issues, clean up office to improve efficiency, etc.
If you did this every month, can you see how much better your business would be at the end of the year? This stuff works and it costs very little to capture a solid return. Think about it. If you do 3-4 things each month to help your business hit goals, by the end of the year you will have done 36-48 things that build revenue. That’s huge.
People don’t plan to fail. They fail to plan. That sounds a little trite and maybe overly simplistic. It’s true though. I would add a few pieces to that simple saying. As I said above, in addition to planning, you must make progress visible.
Here’s my ultimate tip to tie into your plan. Have fun. Build fun into your plan. I can tell you right now, before you even start your plan, if there is no fun in it, it will not last long. You must look for ways to add fun to your plan.
You are in charge. You control the levers of your business. Your drive and creativity will make your business succeed. If you, the one with the controls, are little more than another worker at the business there won’t be much, if any, progress.
Last thought. Thought I’m writing this in late December in anticipation of a new year ahead, you can start a plan any time of year. If you’re reading this in May, start with June. The success isn’t in the calendar, it’s with you and your plan and ability to make it fun. Good luck with your continued success.
Chris Reich, TeachU
This could be a better year than last year if you do a little planning and stay on course. Make resolutions and stick with them. Use tools that help you; drop tools that don’t.