January is like the first blank page in a new notebook. What you do during that month can set the stage for success for your business for the entire year. Getting your business off to a great start in a new year requires planning, critical thinking and dedication to executing your strategy.
In a recent article, members of the Forbes Coaches Council share their tips on what every business owner or leader should do in January to set themselves up for a successful 2019. Here’s what they had to say.
1. Document And Map Out Your Goals
Focusing on what you want to achieve, documenting it and then setting up an annual, quarterly and monthly plan to achieve those goals is a great way to get your year started. It allows you to know what you are working towards for the entire year and what is most important, while also providing a way to track progress throughout the year. Share your plan with others too for accountability.
2. Define Your Potential ‘Big Wins’
While the top of the year is an inherent time to start fresh, that doesn’t mean your goals will be set for you. Take time to define the big wins for your organization in the new year. This could be making a key hire, landing a contract worth a certain amount or setting the desired culture within your team — it doesn’t matter! What matters is setting your sights on wins from the beginning!
3. Ask Your Staff About Their Needs And Priorities
It is important to ask your internal customers — your staff and yourself — what they need and what is a priority for them for the year. Our priorities shift over time, so it is important to check in with yourself and your team to find out what the priority is and how it aligns to the organizational goals.
4. Focus On Improving The Customer Experience
It’s no secret customers expect more every day, yet businesses still don’t invest in the customer experience. There are so many ways to exceed expectations and build loyalty with customers, but leaders are often not provided the time or focus to do that. Create a customer-first strategy for your organization, including rewarding leaders for delivering exceptional experiences in 2019 and beyond.
5. Understand The Trends Likely To Impact Your Business
It is important to do an evaluation of your market and tangential markets to determine likely changes during the year that you will need to be prepared for. One valuable approach is scenario planning, where the organization’s leaders look at what is likely and at early warning signs to alert you that the scenario is in play. Base plans on most likely scenarios.
6. Set Your Human Resources Strategy
Prioritize your HR needs. Identify your competitive advantage and how to measure it. Decide on your desired culture. Create the tactical piece of the plan. Then, decide how you will implement it: How will you push the buttons for compensation, benefits, work-life balance, performance and recognition, and development and career opportunities to impact each of your priorities?
7. Be Ready To Respond And Adapt To Change
It is no secret that the business environment faces a high degree of change in our post-digital world. Applying systems thinking to address the intense shifts in the economy and demographics, the global pressures, and quickly maturing automation will help business owners face complexity head on and maximize competitive advantage.
8. Give Yourself Time To Think
Most leaders have so many demands on their time that it’s easy to fall into a pattern of reactive behavior like attending meetings, replying to emails and returning calls. Great leaders recognize the importance of carving out time to think, whether it’s to develop a new strategy for customer acquisition or to reflect on what’s going on with a dysfunctional team. It’s not easy, but it pays dividends.
9. Take Stock Of What’s In Front Of You
The new year often draws people to look for new bright and shiny objects. However, I recommend that leaders take a step back and assess what is already in front of them. What are you taking for granted? What resources and people are underutilized? What areas have you been avoiding working on because they feel like too big a challenge? Your greatest opportunities are usually right in front of you.
10. Think About Increasing Revenues In The New Year
One successful analysis is to determine who your clients are. Do you provide products or services to students, technical professionals, executives or folks with specific careers? Track the types of products or services you sell and who in your client base you are not targeting. You can easily broaden your online marketing strategy and increase your income base.
11. Improve Your Company Culture
We live in a time of options, and if you’re not the best option for your employees, they will find a better one. You need to create core values, drive the mission statement into their heads and be authentic when it comes to sticking to those core values. Focusing on your employees and the company culture is an important way to start the year.
12. Revisit Your Five-Year Plan
January is a great time to update your five-year plan, including financial projections, key strategic goals, tactical support for those goals and planned investments in capital spending. Survey your clients, tweak your sales team, resolve operational and IT issues, spend some money on cybersecurity, and look at all your insurance plans for the year.
13. Identify What Not To Do
It’s simple to plan for the new year by considering only what you need to do to be successful. That’s an easy and lazy trap to fall into. Instead, identify the hurdles. Pinpoint the behaviors to stop, the thinking to halt, the projects to pause. Where have you been putting energy and getting little to nothing? Once that is done, seeing how you’re on track and how to continue is more clear.
14. Critically Debrief The Prior Year
Revisiting goals and strategies is important, but that effort needs to be book-ended by two groups of questions. First, what is it that we’re trying to achieve, and why? What impact do we want to have? Where did we succeed and not succeed last year? Second, where did we spend time and energy last year that we didn’t need to? What activities did we engage in that derailed us? What should we stop doing?
15. Establish A Regular Habit Of Reviewing And Adjusting Goals
The reality is too many people put too much emphasis on January as the only time to focus on aspirations and goals and to reflect. Any truly successful person is taking daily assessments and making regular adjustments as needed, through a consistent habit of taking stock of what’s needed to continue to achieve sustainable success. Start now to make this a regular habit.
16. Program Your GPS (Growth Plan Settings)
The best way to start the new year is by developing a growth plan. A growth plan is like the directions on your GPS. You know where you want to go, and the growth plan plots the things you need to do to get there. Without the growth plan, you are driving around aimlessly with a vague idea of where you want to end up and no idea of how to get to this unknown destination.