The start of a new year is a great time to think about where you want your business to be heading, and how you are going to get there.
But as with many new year’s resolutions, it’s often hard to keep the promises you make to yourself on 1 January and maintain momentum throughout the year.
In the same way that many gym memberships will already be going unused, or pledges to quit smoking fallen by the wayside, the goals small business owners set for themselves can slide after just a few weeks, too.
So what can we all do to make sure the targets we are setting for our businesses are the right ones, are achievable and are going to be embedded into the way we work in the future?
Get to know your business
Sounds obvious right? But if you can’t confidently sum up what your business is about in one or two sentences, then how can you a) know where you want to head and b) express this to your customers and potential customers? Take time out to understand the very core of your business and where you excel. This will then make the next step of looking ahead to the future much easier.
A SWOT analysis can be a really handy tool to help with this. SWOT stands for Strengths Opportunities Weaknesses and Threats and can give a good picture of where you are now, before identifying specific goals for the future.
What is it you really want to achieve?
Picking the right goal is vital. While it is great to think big, it’s also important to be realistic and understand you can’t achieve everything at once.
Do you want to generate more traffic to your website? Is it time to refresh your brand? Or maybe it’s something as simple as becoming better at your own time management? Being specific about what you really want will make success much more achievable.
Those with a tendency towards creative thinking might find mood boards useful at this stage. A mood board is a way of gathering together information, images and other objects to help establish a vision of where you want to head. They are often used in fields like interior design, fashion, and graphic design but can help get the creative juices flowing for other types of projects too.
There are lots of tools out there that can help make sure your goals aren’t just pipe dreams. One example is the SMART acronym which gives a focus to the aims you identify.
As MindTools explains, each of your business goals should be:
Sometimes the SMART acronym uses slightly different language, but the focus is always on making sure your business goals are clear and reachable. Often it can be widened out to SMARTER, to include the need for Evaluation and Review. After all what is the point of making changes to your business if you aren’t going to check they are having a positive impact?
Break it down
Once you have identified your goal it’s time to break it down into bite sized chunks. As the saying goes “The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time”. Each step should help you to get closer to your overall aim. Having smaller, achievable tasks will help you keep on track with the overall goal. And everyone likes being able to tick something off the to do list!
Start with a template which makes it easy to sketch out what you need to do to achieve your goal.
While a template like the one mentioned above will work for some people, there are lots of other methods which would work equally well.
Spreadsheets can be a lifeline, offering a very clear and structured way of monitoring multi-stepped tasks.
But if you are the kind of person who finds this sort of structure intimidating, then bullet journals may be a better method. They offer a way to help busy people keep organised, and can be perfect for those who prefer to have a physical document rather than being tied to a computer. Our Jade is a bit of an expert in bullet-journaling - keep an eye on our Facebook page for details of her next course.
Seeing the bigger picture
As all small business owners know getting a work/life balance can be tricky. Running a business can be all consuming. So don’t forget that goals for the future may not just be driven by the success of your product or service but by how you look after you or your team. The Federation of Small Businesses has some great advice on this area.
Sometimes as a small business owner it can be almost impossible to see the wood for the trees. All of your energy is spent making the business run on a day to day basis and taking time out to set longer term goals can feel like an unachievable luxury.
Small Business Geek understands this pressure which is why we have set up our new Business Surgery.
The service gives you the opportunity to take just an hour out with one of our team to puzzle out an issue, work on your plans for the future, help with marketing - or whatever other support you need to move your business forward. You give us the info and we will do the thinking.
You will then receive a written overview of what we have discussed with an achievable to do list for you to implement within your business. Surgery sessions can be booked as a one off, or carried out on a monthly basis, whatever works for you. For more information get in touch!