“Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.”
How was your business this year? Did it meet all the expectations you thought it would as you started the year? It’s important to know the good, the bad, and the ugly of the past year so that changes can be made in order to envision and enjoy the new year. So that being said, here are 10 things to think about as you contemplate your past year and plan for the coming year:
Marketing and Sales Evaluation – Did you meet your sales goals this past year? Did your marketing efforts support your sales efforts? Where did you fall short? Where did you exceed expectations? Did your website support your business? Did you even have stated marketing and sales goals this past year? If you didn’t, then what are you going to base your efforts on for the new year? If you did, then it’s imperative that you review them and find out what worked and what didn’t; what sold and what didn’t, and why. You can’t plan a strategy for the new year unless you know what happened in the previous year.
Supplier Evaluation – Going into the new year, it is important to know where your money went in the previous year? Were your costs higher than expected? If so, why and where? One place that should be evaluated each year is your supplier costs. Not just your product/service suppliers, but your day-to-day operations suppliers. Is your bank supporting you as well as it should? Are there fees you don’t understand? What about your merchant service provider; are the current fees the best you can get? A careful look at all your vendors is imperative to keep costs down for your business. Many companies are using the same suppliers they started the business with – not because they are the best, but because they haven’t taken the time to evaluate them and maybe replace them.
Metrics Evaluation – What metrics did you have to measure your business’ effectiveness? Were the financial metrics useful in helping you make decisions? What about your customer metrics, internal operations metrics, or employee metrics? If you established a business dashboard measuring your key activities at the beginning of last year, it’s time to evaluate them to see if they need to be changed or enhanced going into the new year. If you didn’t establish a business dashboard, it’s time to seriously think about having one for the upcoming year. You can’t fix what you don’t measure and you can’t manage what you don’t fix.
Talent Management – As you think about going into the new year, it’s time to think about whether you have the right talent in place to execute your strategy and whether you need to replace some. Additionally, if you believe you have the right managers and other employees, it’s a good time to think about how you can enhance their skills and experience with the goal in mind of increasing their accountability and responsibilities to take more off of your plate.
Business Owner/CEO Evaluation – As long as you’re evaluating your talent, it’s a good idea to evaluate yourself. Did you spend more time at the office this year or less? Did you take on more responsibilities or take some away? Did you do anything last year to help you work more on the business and less in the business? Every business owner needs to have goals associated with taking themselves out of the day-to-day operations so that they can work on the strategy for where they want the business to be in the next three to five years. If you didn’t have plans for doing that last year, seriously consider establishing some for the new year.
Product/Service Evaluation – How well did your products and services perform this current year? Did some do better than others? How about customer satisfaction associated with them? For those that did poorly, is it because they were not marketed as well as they should have been or do they need to be replaced or updated? Without such an evaluation and plans for each product and service offering, you could be going into the new year already behind the eight ball. Take the time to evaluate and dig deeper into each of your products and services so that you can plan the new year accordingly.
Competition – Did you perform a competitive analysis last year? If you did, it’s a good time to review it and see if any additional competition has come into the market; or if your current competition has changed anything thus allowing them to be more price, feature, or customer-satisfaction competitive. You need to start your new year knowing exactly what you do better than your competition and what they do better than you and address the shortfalls as best you can.
Glaring Problems and Issues – Did you identify any glaring problems or issues throughout the year and perhaps put band-aids on them with the hope of fixing them at a later time. Now is that “later” time. You want to take a hard look at your systems, operations, processes, customers, suppliers, people, etc. and identify those things that flared up during the year that were not fully addressed. You need to identify whether they were just an anomaly or a symptom of a much bigger problem. Ignoring them will not make them go away, it will just make them harder to resolve when you finally get around to it.
Internal Operations Evaluation – Did everything run as smoothly as you had hoped this year? Did your day-to-day operations have any problems that hindered your ability to deliver your products and services as promised? It’s always good to review your internal processes and procedures to ensure you are delivering constant and consistent value to the customer. If you had or plan to have a business dashboard, make sure you identify those critical customer paths in your processes and include metrics for evaluation and improvement.
New Projects – Now is the time to look at projects for the coming year and identify what, if anything, they will affect as far as day-to-day operations. For example, thinking of re-doing your website? What kind of an impact will that have on the marketing efforts or the team who has to work on the website while they are doing their regular jobs? Adding new hardware, a new POS, other new equipment? Moving to a different building? Making any major purchases? All these things need to be project-managed so that you know the effect of both time and cost on your entire operations.
So there you go. Ten things to consider as we close out the old year and plan for the new year. Evaluate what you implemented last year and put together those plans for the coming year. No company can continue to grow if they stand still and no company can move forward unless they have a good understanding of what they did and a good plan of what they intend to do. Happy New Year!