Fellow business owners, employers and entrepreneurs lend me your ears for five minutes.
Let me start this piece by saying “well done” to every one of us who has strived, survived and/or thrived through the biggest global and business challenge thrown at us in the last decade.
Before I start speaking about looking forward to 2022, I think some acknowledgement and recognition is needed.
Time for a 60 second breath.
I want you to park whatever else you may be doing this minute. I invite you to stop for a whole minute and all the 60 seconds in it. Take a breath and acknowledge how far you have come. This is worth doing. This 60 seconds is for you.
Acknowledge the difficult decisions you may have made (for the good or the less than good, decisions were hard to make and we made them), recognise how far you/your teams have come, acknowledge those who stood with you and those who continued to help and support you.
Most importantly, we must remember to acknowledge ourselves as well and recognise what we as business owners, as parents, as partners and as personal individuals, and as humans have managed and overcome.
Some may say “but ‘sur Mags we do this anyway everyday”. I think it is fair to say that we, the business owners and entrepreneurs often take what we do for granted because…..we do it every day, “ ‘sur its’ what we do”, usually said with a shrug because it is our craft, our skillset. We need to understand and see that it is not what everyone is able to do, we need to recognise that.
So, take that minute to breathe before we look at 2022.
Review what has worked & what has not worked
We are now well and truly into the final quarter of our calendar year and approaching the final furlong so to speak, that being December, the month of Christmas, Cheer and a little chaos. It is also the time that many business owners tell me where they get uninterrupted holidays (for the most part!) and it is a time to switch off, slow down and recharge.
It represents the close of another year and what a year!
For me and my team it also represents the opening of another year and each year in very early December we look at what we have planned and what we want to achieve in that new year to come.
I have broken this down into nine simple steps. It works, the simple stuff always does.
Note to you, the reader; These steps can be taken by any business regardless of size or sector. It applies to the one-man band as much as it does to a large enterprise, it is all relative.
Step 1: Schedule time away from the business with you and your team in a closed meeting room for an organised business review. THIS IS IMPORTANT, DARE I SAY INVALUABLE.
Time is a luxury and it is one of the most valuable commodities in life and in business. This time away from the business is time I will not compromise on.
Even though it may be time away from the business (or at least the activity of working in the business!), it is very much time dedicated to the business.
I know the importance of it. My team know the importance of it. We recognise the value it represents for us as a business.
It allows us time to review what has worked and what could work better. It allows us to set an agenda for everything in our business to be specifically reviewed.
It allows us time to confirm specific aims and objectives for the year ahead. It gives us the opportunity to review, refresh, plan and prepare for the year to come.
Most importantly it allows us to identify what actually needs to happen for us to achieve our aims, reach the goals and objectives that we set ourselves. This is not all related to revenue.
In business revenue and bottom line is where everything stops and starts. However, we need to also look at what in your business helps to generate that revenue, build/sustain the consistent cashflow and make it all happen? It is not all revenue.
It is the action taken and pieces in between the revenue that allow the financial targets and goals to be met.
Taking this business day allows you to identify where your business is going and to start getting your simple plan and strategy in place.
Include business balance in this day by organising lunch to be included in this day and take time to actually say the words “thank you” to yourself and to your team. It matters now.
Now it is time to plan the path of progress.
Step 2: Know the numbers and prepare.
It is a simple thing and oftentimes, it is taken as a given “of course I know the numbers in the business” but do you look them in the eye?
Do you take time to consider why/where are you losing some business? Why/where are you winning business?
I cannot impress upon you the importance of digging deep and drilling down to get really clear on all the numbers in your business. Once again, it is not just the revenue numbers you need to know.
All the numbers matter for a business strategy or plan to work.
This allows you and them to be informed and prepared. It also allows your team to know that their input counts and really matters.
Step 3: WRITE it out to RIGHT it out.
What do you want to achieve in 2022? Sounds like a very general question doesn’t it? Well, the answers need to be very specific.
Remember, it is not just the revenue you want to achieve, that does need to be looked at but do not let it be the only thing you consider.
Do you want to grow your service/product range? Do you want to build your marketing effort? Do you want to grow your team? Do you want to increase online sales?
The strategy needs to specify the “how to” activity that is needed to achieve your goal(s).
Set out key milestones as part of your strategy path, these provide you and your team with a focus and also mark achievement at key points.
All the pieces between the actual goal outline and the revenue target being reached are the pieces of the pie that make the vision a reality and help you to get to where you want to be.
So, again, revenue is one milestone, let it not be the only one.
Step 4 – Can you grow your markets?
Grow your markets
This is something I always look at with our clients, can they grow new markets or existing ones?
Can they diversify? This is something I would recommend that every business asks themselves right now.
The pandemic has in many cases “persuaded positive progress” where businesses had to consider engaging with customers/clients in new ways. That is not a negative, this is when progress occurs.
If you are considering growing existing markets or diversifying into new markets then there are some questions you need to ask of yourself and your business;
- What is being lost in the existing markets and why is it happening?
- What do you need to do to turn that around and reach more of that market and convert more of that market share?
- What new markets would you like to develop? Are they viable?
- What new markets have a demand for my business offer?
- What do I need to do to develop these new markets? Do I need to change my language, my messaging, my marketing, my process?
- How and where can I enter and connect with the new market?
Get this on paper and recorded for your plan of activity to make the vision a reality and reach those business goals you intend to set out for 2022. As focused and committed business owners and professionals, we cannot afford to fly blind.
Step 5 – Up the ante – Aim for Excellence
“Its’ grand” is an Irish phrase that I love. When it comes to business potential I absolutely cringe when I hear “ ‘sur it will be grand”.
It is perfectly fine to be grand, it is a choice. It is not for everyone. I genuinely love to help focused and committed businesses, business owners and their teams to succeed because it is in me, it is what I am all about and it is at the heart of my own business.
Why shouldn’t we want to be a bit better than “grand”. This does not have to be a stress piece, it needs to be simple and positive. It is nothing to do with having “notions”, it is about wanting to do better and reach your full potential.
One thing I always ask of myself, my team, our clients and my business is “how can we/you do better?”.
If we remain the same, little changes. I believe that it is important that you are always striving onward and aiming to just put that extra smidgen of finesse on your business efforts every year.
So, with that in mind, take time to look at the business and ask yourself the one question:
- What could be working better in the business?
No business is perfect. There is always something we can improve upon, that is part of upping the ante, staying progressive, staying relevant, staying present and staying sustainable.
The next thing is to outline if you identify something that could be working better, what specific steps now need to be taken to make it better?
Ultimately, you should focus on aiming for excellence (not perfection, there is no such thing!) in your business. It will set you apart for all the right reasons.
Step 6 – Embrace Technology
Let’s be clear on one thing, I am no way techy whatsoever, but I do believe that technology is our friend and I mean that.
With that in mind, even though I am not a lover of tech I will always look at its benefit(s) to my business, our systems and our lives and if it is viable then I will encourage myself and my team to learn.
If you have an eCommerce arm to your site could it be generating more sales or enquiries for you? Are you using your website to its max? This is not about online sales, it is about using the website to engage the ideal customers/clients.
Are there systems out there that could support better processes in-house
at your business? Can they help your business to work smarter?
Businesses have started to engage effective technology in their everyday work and have realised the real benefit that the right systems can bring to the table.
Technology and innovation is continually evolving and progressing, it feels like we are being bombarded from all corners with new apps, new software, new IT. It is not something to be fearful of. It is something to consider and learn about. It could add value, it may save time, money and stress.
Step 7 – Make the message matter
Your brand matters. Your business ethos matters. If you do not understand one or either then you need to, now. The reason they are important right now is that they are a key differentiator for every business right now post-pandemic. To my mind, they have always been a key way of differentiating yourself from others.
Take time to look at the message you send to your audience. Put yourself in your prospective customers/clients shoes and see things from their viewpoint. What is the perception of your brand and of your business? What does your communication, your brand, your message say about you and your business to others? What do you want it to say?
This stuff is invaluable because it is the difference between a prospect choosing your offer over an alternative. With your message and your ethos, I would encourage you to be transparent front and centre.
The message, ethos and culture not only influences how the customer audience perceives you but also importantly how the candidate/future employee audience perceives you too.
This is important to remember presently as many businesses and sectors are struggling with staff retention and sourcing the right candidates for new positions.
Step 8 – Bring it all together
Now for the fun stuff, you need to bring everything together in a simple, focused, smart, positive and proactive manner.
All the information gathered from steps 1 to 7 will bring you to step 8. Identify the key path pieces, state each individually and break it down into mini activity steps that will help you to make it all happen.
I work with clients every year on helping them to review their strategy for the months and year ahead. I say this again and again to clients; putting it on paper works, a) because you can see it and b) because it forces you to actually look it in the eye…and it looks back at you!
However, I also say that the “bringing it all together” needs to be treated as part of a plan and working document and not something which sits on the desktop or gathers dust on a desk or shelf and is not used.
Like every tool, it is only as good as the use that is made of it. If you are not going to use it then of course it won’t work for you.
Step 9 – Activate Accountability
Human nature is a funny thing. If we are not held accountable for activity then we are reluctant to undertake the activity consistently. We become lazy grown-up children. This is human nature. We need to be checked and held accountable. Without consistent activity very little will happen and success and progress will be short term only.
Establish a healthy habit of holding yourself accountable and your team accountable for what you and they need to do every day, every week and every month. You are actually doing you, your team and your business the best favour when you activate accountability.
Communication is key to yourself and your team. Ensure that you communicate clearly what is expected and what the taskings are for everyone individually and collectively.
Activating positive accountability is a very worthwhile piece. It allows you and your team to take ownership of the progress that needs to happen and to recognise that their input and action counts and contributes to more progress or less than that.
You will not achieve your vision on your own. Regardless of your business size or stage, assigning responsibility for each action piece is important. Assignment represents accountability and responsibility.
Embrace this and empower your team or external suppliers of service to do likewise.
Remember, we cannot do it all and we are the sum of those around us in our business. Get really definitive about the goals and the key milestones, leave no room for ambiguity, assumption or anything to be lost in translation, if you do, confusion and mistakes will happen.
The steps above represent the plan path that can help you to make your future vision a reality.
However, the plan can change and it may need to from time to time. When or if this happens, let it happen, it is the natural way of things.
I will close with the following two quotes;
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
“No plan survives contact”
Here’s to closing 2021 strong and ready for a new year of opportunity in 2022.
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