What better time to reinvigorate your business than in the new year? Rhian Morgan gets resolute in 2015
You may be gearing up your business mind after the festive season but perhaps reflect on what you have achieved: plenty of parties (“net-working opportunities”), alcohol-induced reflectiveness (“mindfulness”), combined with snacking while sofa surfing (“a bit of much-needed r&r”).
After all, this helps to remind me that I have already made those first steps in my resolutions of being more social, trying meditation and mindfulness, as well as improving my health (though admittedly my plan to give up sugar has been majorly derailed by above-mentioned sofa snacking).
Statistics show that adults who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to reach their goals, possibly because it’s like making a promise to yourself. Forget the naysayers who are sure resolutions are a waste of time. If scaling up your business is part of your 2015 plan, making – and keeping – New Year’s resolutions will give you cause to celebrate a year from now.
I’ve put together a set of resolutions for 2015 that I plan to work on – or that women in leadership have suggested for their peers.
If you’ve been feeling rundown over the past year, or even from just too much excess, there will be plenty of articles around to give you a bad case of the guilts on top of everything else. However, in order to achieve more, I want to feel less tired. So I’m cutting out sugar, which has been giving me temporary energy boosts but long-term slumps. I’m also interested in meditation to cure my migraines and prevent stress. It is also supposed to be helpful in enabling you to focus – a great work asset. It helps you to focus on the important more, rather than the urgent. A small amount of time devoted to doing some important tasks can save days in the long term. And, if you feel healthy, it is easier to juggle the work/life balance. But do whatever works for you, even if it’s only promising to get up from your desk more often. Or delegate more so you have more time to yourself. Just don’t be too hard on yourself.
Reinvigorate your business plan
A business plan should be updated as often as necessary to reflect your current focus and long-term plans and whenever your business experiences noteworthy growth. It is useful to reflect weekly on your plan, to ensure you and your team are achieving goals. And then it’s imperative that you refresh it in January, to find out what was achieved and what wasn’t.
It is also useful to have an updated business plan if you are actively looking for partners, investors, funding, or when bidding on contracts. If you are planning any major changes in your business this year, you should also do a feasibility study.
A business assessment should look at the strengths and weaknesses of your business – not your own or that of your partners and employees.
You also need to concentrate on whether this is the year you want to grow as a company, or exit. Growth can be achieved through diversifying, targeting new markets, acquiring or merging with another company.
It’s also worth looking at an exit strategy. Is this the time to follow new ambitions and get the most return for your company? Do you want to pass it on to the next generation? Or are you having severe financial difficulties and need to become more realistic about the future of your company? Make a New Year's resolution that the goals you set will be goals that are achievable, rather than unrealistic pipe dreams that are so far out of reach they only lead to frustration.
Finances should be a major part of your business forecast for the year. Projections must be done by analysing financial and other data. This is especially true if you are already struggling financially. Create a budget that’s realistic and involves research. If you are not preparing monthly variance reports (how much your actual expenses and income differ from what you projected) you should.
However, while monthly reports are great for timely information and can serve as early warnings, quarterly reports are better at showing trends. A monthly report only shows recent information and while it does show if you had a good or bad month what you need to be more concerned (or excited) about are trends.
To grow, you'll likely need financing. While banks typically offer the lowest interest rates, they're often hesitant to lend to small businesses. Now’s the time to improve your credit score and also look for other areas of investment, like community funding. It’s also worth looking at financial trends when thinking of investments, such as stocks and shares. Each year brings new policies. Ensure you understand the industry developments that affect your investments and determine whether you should keep them or sell and reinvest your capital.
Get down with the kids (while never dismissing the wise ways of your elders)
When I talked to a few of the top businesswomen I interviewed during the year about useful resolutions, business coach Jill Geisler came up with one I hadn’t considered: keeping up with the Millennials. When you think about it, learning from the next generation encompasses so many areas of business, from understanding new technology, to social-networking, through to mentoring. And, if you’re young and just starting out, there is obviously a whole lot of experience that you could be learning from.
Three-quarters of young people aged between 14 and 25 don’t think they will be able to fulfil their career ambitions, according to a LifeSkills survey. Yet with a reciprocal relationship with a mentor, you could be reaching those goals. For all of us, thinking about what career is ideal for you, and what sort of people you’d like to work with, can refocus vague aims, not just for the young but those who are thinking of a career renaissance.
Meet the future head-on
Technology. Employing the right technology will help you increase business efficiency and give you a competitive edge. Developing a solid IT infrastructure capable of growing with you is essential and a cost savings in the end. Also look at courses (or e-courses) where you can learn new skills and refresh old ones, especially in emerging technologies that impact on your business. Diversify your social media. My resolution is to look beyond Facebook, make more use of Twitter and LinkedIn, and find out more about sites such as Pinterest, the new MySpace, Google+ and others that are in their nascent stages. Pay attention to new social media programmes and use them to gain the upper hand before they become overcrowded and lose their marketing potency.
If you are not using social networking, start today. Even if your website is doing well now, it might start to slip if you are not found on sites like Twitter.
Which leads us to…
Good, old-fashioned networking
If you are not actively networking, you are selling yourself and your business short. Networking not only helps your business to grow but can boost your confidence and business knowledge. However, know when to rein it in if you’re spending more time having drinks with timewasters than actually getting work done! A few tips to bear in mind: remember to save all those contacts. File business cards or input them into your phone or tablet. (I think there’s a CamCard app on the iPhone you can use.) And add notes so you remember who’s who. If you’re a bit introvert or new to an area, call your local chamber of commerce or business association and ask about events and services. Be sure to ask if there are events specifically for women but do not exclude other events as possible networking opportunities. And take advantage of online business associations and networks. Finally, always carry business cards or product information in case you meet someone interested in your business.
Cut the bitching and give something back
Make this the year that you listen more to peers, colleagues, family, another generation and make sure you give something back. There are all kinds of worthy organisations that make a difference in your community. Make a New Year's resolution to find a cause that matters to you, and give what you can. Make this the year that you serve on a committee, be a mentor, volunteer, or make regular donations to the groups in your community. And promise yourself you’ll cut the bitching, as it only creates a bad atmosphere and brings everyone down. Value people on the merits of their actions: quality of work, integrity, work ethic, honesty.
In short, this 2015, stick to your morals and let yours be the business model other people emulate. Happy New Business Year to you all!