It’s mid January, which means by now you’ve already read dozens of articles about why New Year’s resolutions work and/or don’t work at all. In reality, both arguments are true. According to business strategist Barbara Findlay Schenck, it’s not about making a resolution, it’s about knowing where you want to go and what’s preventing you from getting there. “It’s like getting into your car and knowing what to enter into the GPS – by defining where you want your business to go you are already ahead of your competitors just by having an achievable goal in front of you,” Barbara explains. So, instead of just telling yourself, “This is the year I get my business off the ground!” — Barbara suggests every small business owner get out a pen, paper, and answer the following questions before embarking on 2014.
1) What’s your dream for your business?
Think about what brings you to work everyday. Barbara prompts: “What’s driving you to move towards some sort of milestone?” Start by defining that milestone and establishing where you are in the process. Think about when you want to acquire your first or next customer, break a profit, or receive funding (if you are looking for investors or a business partner). If you’re starting a business from scratch, your destination might be a long ways off — the important thing is to be realistic about where you are in the process. This is the only way to set the milestones you intend to surpass and set a timeframe for doing so.
If you own an established business, this is the stage where you need to reevaluate your progress toward milestones. All companies change. Take Twitter, for example — the tech giant started solely as a way to communicate and share podcasts with friends. When competitors beat them to filling that niche, the company switched emphasis to a messaging app for sharing information and conversing with friends and strangers alike. The dream was reworked and the rest is recent history.
2) What’s standing in the way of your goal?
There are plenty of obstacles on the way to building a successful business. It’s practically impossible to know all of them ahead of time — many lessons are learned the hard way — but it’s important to understand the roadblocks that are directly in front of you. “For some business owners,” Barbara says, “it might be capabilities, equipment, location, or something as simple as a domain name.” Whatever it might be, Barbara recommends you identify barriers to success and then plan the necessary steps to overcome them. “This way, you’ve narrowed down what you need to do and can focus in on those tasks.”
3) What strategies will help you reach your goals?
Once you know where you want to go and you also know what’s in standing in your way, the only thing left to do is to plan how to move forward. “Determine whether you need to grow your team to succeed, for example,” Barbara says. “Or, do you need to broaden your clientele by opening new markets or distribution channels? Or will you introduce new products — or reintroduce existing products?” All of these questions will play into your overall strategy. Truth is, too many businesses move forward without considering which strategies will lead them to their goals. Then they find themselves having to turn around and backtrack to get back on the road to success.
If you can answer all three of these question in detail, you are well on your way to a great 2014 for your business. Your business is a lot like the perfect vacation. You can’t just pick a destination – you need to pick it, find out what you need to get there, and go make it happen.
For more business planning essentials, be sure to check out Barbara’s free course on creativeLIVE January 16-17.