December is a time for closing out the books and putting a bow on all of your accomplishments over the past year, but it’s also an important month to set business goals and intentions for what’s to come. Good or bad, the year behind us has been a learning experience. It’s crucial to evaluate successes and take stock of shortcomings so you can continue to build your business and grow in the right direction for the future.
No one likes to dwell on failures, but it’s essential to identify and learn from them if you want to avoid repeating the same mistakes. What flopped for you this year? What do you wish you had done differently? These things should all be taken into account when you think of the year ahead.
Now, take the same inventory of what went well for your business. Was there a standout marketing campaign you might want to expand on next year? Did your team improve in any key areas that you want to keep focusing on?
Once you have a good handle on what’s in your rearview, there are four main areas to consider as you plan for the year ahead. Consider them New Year’s Resolutions for your business.
Resolution #1 – Review and update your business plan
You’ve probably heard the famous quote about failing to plan is planning to fail. It’s a classic for a reason – planning is key to continued growth and success for your business. All those decisions you encounter in the course of daily work will be resolved much more easily if you have a solid business plan leading the way.
Now is the time to take stock of your plan. Hopefully, you have already thought through what worked and what didn’t work over the course of the last year. Make sure your business plan is updated to reflect those key learnings. Moreover, the plan should reflect the mission, vision and goals you have laid out for your team.
Most business plans follow a similar outline. Review the following sections and update them as needed:
- Executive Summary and Company Description – What is it that your company does at its core? This will help guide the rest of your business plan and strategy.
- Market Analysis – What is at the forefront of your consumer’s mind? What are your competitors doing? Use this information to help you determine what markets you should focus on.
- Services Offered – Have you expanded your list of services? Focused more on some services and less on others? Writing these out gives clarity to your technicians and sales team to know where they should focus their efforts and help you prioritize what you want to be promoting and selling.
- Marketing & Sales Plan – What marketing campaigns have brought in the most leads for your business? Do you want to try new tactics next year? A clear marketing and sales strategy is critical; see Resolution #2 below for more information.
- Financial Projections – Did you come in over budget? Under budget? Use data from your current year to determine how much you think your business will grow; more on this in Resolution #3.
Resolution #2 – Give your marketing plan a refresh
Increased revenue comes from a clear marketing and sales strategy that helps you attract and keep customers both old and new. A robust marketing plan is essential, so you’ll want to spend some time refreshing yours for the new year.
Again, start with a look at the current year in review, making note of any marketing campaigns that brought about results or fell short of expectations. When you see something that worked – a healthy number of leads from a social media channel or direct mail, for instance – allocate more money in that direction next year.
Do you have a calendar of promotions/deals you want to highlight throughout the year? Consider creating a social media strategy to support them. Promoting one deal each month could be a good rule of thumb, and you’ll want to set a plan for the content you want to post and when you want to post it.
If you don’t already have a monthly email newsletter in your toolbox, consider adding one as a cost-effective way to reach your customers with your marketing messages – deals/special offers, new products or services or any content that will further convey all that your business has to offer.
Resolution #3 – Set realistic growth goals
If you set a business growth goal that is too high, you run the risk of unrealistic expectations that can lead to demotivation and ultimately failure. Use your financial metrics from the current year to root yourself in reality.
Did you meet the numbers you forecasted this year? Are you coming in way over or under budget? Look at the goals you did not achieve this year and think about what roadblocks you encountered. What might it take to reach those goals next year? Maybe you need to add services or products, or you may want to consider beefing up your team with an additional technician or truck. All of these can lead to additional revenue that you should include in your forecast.
Sometimes your goals have changed, and your updated plan needs to reflect that. Defining your sales, marketing and revenue goals will help tremendously when updating your business plan and budget for the new year.
Another benefit of clearly defined goals is helping your team know where their efforts need to be focused. They can also help you identify any tools or training they need to help reach those goals.
Resolution #4 – Focus on building a great company culture
Demand for skilled trades workers continues to increase as the number of qualified applicants decreases. Your company needs to up its recruitment and retention game if you want to thrive. One of your biggest goals for the new year should be to build the kind of positive work environment and culture that employees don’t want to leave.
In order to create that great company culture, resolve to:
- Communicate with your employees. Be open about what’s going on with the business and any upcoming changes that may affect them.
- Be open to feedback. Employees often have great ideas on how to solve the problems with systems or processes they encounter on a daily basis, so listen to what they have to say and work with them to find solutions
- Invest in their growth with additional training or help in obtaining needed certifications or licenses. When you believe in them and help them reach their goals, they will be more inclined to help you reach yours.
Now that you and your employees have a clear direction to follow throughout the year ahead, you can enjoy ringing in 2023 knowing you have a solid plan for operating and growing your business. You’ll be ready for the highs, lows and everything in between that makes business ownership such a rewarding adventure. Happy New Year!
Paul Carmody has over 20 years of experience as a senior executive in Software-as-a-Service, technology-enabled services, internet infrastructure, and supply chain/manufacturing industries. He has served as a key executive in five successful exits and one IPO. He is currently President of Successware, an Authority Brands company. He previously served as COO of Nicus Software in the Information Technology Financial Management industry. He was also General Manager (GM) of a business unit at E2open, a provider of cloud-based, on-demand software for supply chains. Before that Paul was GM of Strategic Businesses at Change Healthcare, a $1.2 billion company backed by Blackrock that merged with McKesson Technology Solutions.
Prior to that experience, Paul was CEO of AchieveIt, a SaaS business that provided a results management and strategic planning software platform to hundreds of businesses across the globe. He has held senior executive roles at Internap, Cbeyond, Rackspace, and Broadlane. He began his career as a consultant at McKinsey & Company.
When not ensuring that things are thriving at Successware, Paul is spending time with his wonderful family – wife Teresa and two daughters.