As we go into 2021, what resolutions are you setting for yourself and for your small business? 2020 was a crazy year with a worldwide pandemic affecting all aspects of most small businesses. New executive orders needed to be evaluated, funding programs and grants had to be applied for, and an online presence became essential. With so many new things to absorb, small business owners went into survival mode and got to work trying to make (some) money and cut costs where they could.
Failing to Plan? Or Planning to Fail
Now, it’s 2021 and we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. The new year can be a chance to start over, be better, set new goals. One of my favorite Ben Franklin quotes is “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”. We think about this in the form of New Year’s resolutions as individuals but, not so much for a small business. By February, most people find their resolutions are difficult to keep or completely forgotten. So, how does planning, help you to be successful, instead? And which resolutions are right for your small business?
What Are Your Top 3 Resolutions?
I fall back on my engineering and manufacturing experience which taught me to look for things going wrong and make a list. If there’s quite a list, you’ll need to focus your attention on those you can control and fix. I used to focus on three things at a time to keep the big picture in mind instead of getting bogged down in the details. The top three things were usually those that either wasted the most money or kept us from increasing sales.
What if the broken things aren’t obvious? In that case, it’s a good idea to check in with your customers and employees to figure out what they think. This might be as simple as a perusal of your reviews online or it might mean you need to dig in and call customers who haven’t shopped with you for a while. For your employees, it’s a good time to grab a cup of coffee and check in with them. Then, make a list of what you learn and write down some things you’d like to improve.
In business consulting, we encourage setting SMART (Strategic, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Bounded) goals; however, V. F. Ridgway was right when he wrote something to the effect that not everything that matters can be measured and not everything that we can measure matters. As a point of fact, measuring things that don’t matter can waste time and money which, doesn’t achieve anything.
Trust Your Instincts
As a small business owner, you got started because you knew you had something (a new product, better quality, or a better price) to offer that wasn’t available. This instinct, when it matches what your customers want, can move your business forward.
So, look at the list you made of things to improve, check it against your gut instinct, and figure out how you’ll know if you’re making it better. If the goal is large, make sure you break it down into smaller tasks to achieve in a week, month, or season. Otherwise, you might find yourself putting it off until, eventually, deciding there’s no way it can be done.
Finally, write down your resolutions and put them in a place you can’t help but notice them (think toothbrush by your bathroom sink). Keeping a goal that’s important to your business, right in front of you, keeps you working towards it.
If you have no idea how to get started setting your goals or figuring out what needs fixing, the Northland Small Business Development Center can help – and our services are offered at no charge to you. Sign up for our no-cost business consulting services to be matched with a local consultant in your area. We help small businesses start, grow, and succeed. The Northland SBDC helps small businesses at no charge due to funding from the Small Business Administration, DEED, the Dept. of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation, and other local funders like the Cities of Virginia and Ely.