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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

10 Things to drive business success in a new year

Aspiring Business Blog

by Shawn Kinkade on January 3, 2009

photo by wili hybrid

... Here are the 10 things you need to do to make sure you and your business achieve the success you’re aspiring towards.

Chances are that you’ve already got a good start on a few of things, but the key to really making things happen is take consistent action. It’s not enough to make a great plan, the real benefit comes from the follow-through. How many of these are you currently doing? ...

1. Carve out time to work ON your business

The biggest problem most businesses owners have is a lack of time. ...

It’s not ever going to get better until you can make the time to really work ON things. You should be able to clear out 4 hours a week that are specifically targeted at strategic planning and development of you and your business. (Maybe you need some ideas on How To Get More Done…).

2. Figure out what you really want

...Growing your business, doing things differently, thinking big thoughts are all hard things to do. ... What is it that you want out of your life and your business? ...

This effort of figuring out what you want is a continued work in progress, but without it the other 9 things in this list don’t really matter. For some inspiration, check out this post on Zen Habits on How to Press the Reset Button or this post from the excellent Jonathan Fields on Are you living a significant life or on a related topic, check out Start finding your life’s work from Pamela Slim (always a great read!).

3. Create a written plan

I’m sure you already know what your plan for the year is - maybe you even made some notes and put down an outline. But have you put down a month by month forecast of revenue, costs and cash flow for the year? Have you clearly broken out where the money is coming from, how you’re going to attract it and what’s different from last year?

If not, you’ve got to do that now (well not right this second, but put it at the top of your list!). It’s amazing the insight that comes out when you convert your annual goals into the forced clarity of a spreadsheet. ... You should have line items for each major source of income and those should match up with any corresponding costs that need to go along with that. ...

It may seem like a lot of work, but in the long run it will save you an immense amount of time, money and effort and dramatically increase your chances of success.

4. Build a practical plan to exercise

... [Assuming] that you are an important part of your business, then it’s critical that you are regularly exercising. Not only is it a great way to relieve stress, but it will give you some important time to not be constantly fixated on your job...

To really make this meaningful, you must build at least 4 to 5 exercise appointments into your weekly calendar. ... If you’re like most people and believe that you can’t find the time, then literally schedule the time as an appointment with yourself. ... You can go to the gym, work out at home or just go for a walk. The important part is to start somewhere.

There are tons of great resources on fitness, but I’ve been impressed with Tom Venuto’s blog Burn the Fat, he knows what he’s talking about and he doesn’t make it too complicated!

5. Review your marketing fundamentals

The purpose of marketing is to get your prospective customers to contact you with the intention of possibly trading money for your products or services. ...

You’ve got to know who your best target market is. You should have a niche that you serve best. The natural tendency is to broaden your focus over time, so even if you’ve defined your target before, it will be worthwhile to do it again.

Beyond that, your marketing message needs to be effective, it should be focused on overt benefits, it should establish your credibility and it should stand out. If you want to learn more about creating an effective marketing message, check out my workshop at the end of January.

6. Audit your 2008 Revenue

Now is a great time to look back at the previous year and how your company made it’s money. Be detailed and go down a product level and look for the following:

  • What products generated the most revenue?
  • What products generated the most profits (by percentage)?
  • What activities drove most of those revenues? (Apply the 80/20 rule, can you figure out what your top 3 marketing and sales channels were?)
  • If you have a sales team, is there a clear leader? What do they do differently?

Look for trends, seasonality, drivers that you can use to prioritize efforts for 2009.

7. Join a Mastermind group

... If you’re like most business owners, you don’t have anyone to talk about about the issues you’re dealing with. ... Generally you’re too close to the problems to really get a good perspective on them - and it’s especially difficult to brainstorm by yourself. ...

I’m biased, I would suggest that you check out my Brainstorming, Accountability and Networking Groups (BANG!) It’s a Peer Group Advisory board (Mastermind group) that’s facilitated by a business coach - a great, cost effective way to get some quality focus on your business. However, even if you don’t want to consider BANG!, I believe every business owner should be in a mastermind group of some sort - start your own or ask around to see if you know of anyone that’s doing some like that.

8. Do a people review

... Everyone on the team needs to have the strengths needed for their job to go along with the desire to do that job as well. If you don’t have the skills (or the desire) in-house, then seriously look at outsourcing those tasks. ...

Whatever it is, do a full review of who’s doing what and find a way to make improvements. Work with your (and your team’s) strengths and find solutions for things that you don’t do well or don’t like doing.

9. Develop a process and procedure manual

This isn’t as painful as it sounds and it can really make a huge difference both in running your business now and planning for an exit strategy in the future (your business is worth a lot more if it’s well documented and consistent!).

Start out by identifying at a high level all of the major processes that you do to run your business. ... Your list will end up with at least 8 to 10 things on it, with no more than 20 (if you’ve got more than that, you need to combine and simplify).

... [Use] use some of the time you’ve got carved out to gradually start filling in the steps. Make it a goal to do at least one per month - make it a team effort, or delegate it out and do a team review. ... (Once you’ve got a first round of everything documented, go back around and start improving those processes…).

10. Plan and take at least one vacation

... There are several great reasons why you need to plan and take an actual vacation that gets you away for at least a week - here are a couple of them:

  1. Personal sanity: A big reason why people burn out is because they never take the time to recharge. ...
  2. Perspective on you versus your business: It’s extremely important to recognize that your business is not you. ... Getting away will help you plan and visualize how your business can run successfully without you.

Pick a week that works with your personal schedule and block it out now. Pick a destination that you can afford and will look forward to and start letting everyone know that you will be out that week (and to plan accordingly). If you’re really feeling crazy - plan a second week as well.

So that’s the list

Let me know what I missed, what else you think is important or if any of these don’t really work for you. ... Best of luck in 2009 - and if you follow this list, your business will likely be in great shape to grow!

Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach