It's time. We've survived the holidays, and the new year is looming large. Each year, we make bargains with the devil (not unlike the nights we over-imbibe), swearing to change our unproductive business ways. We'll create higher margins! We'll shut down the laptop at 5 p.m. every day! We'll fix that darn inkjet printer that never prints anything right!
You know ... all those things we swore we'd do last year, too, if we weren't so busy running our businesses.
So, I’ll make you a deal. You can either:
A. Keep doing what you’re doing, and I’ll check in with you next year—see how that’s working out for you.
B. Or ... use this short, poke-you-where-it-hurts checklist to set yourself up for some real change this coming year.
Earning money is one thing. Making money is another. Are the prices you charge for your products or services making you money? Take 15 minutes and review your products and projects. Ask and answer these three questions for each one:
- Did the time I spent on this project allow me to make money (and not just earn it)?
- Was the money I made (if I made any money) worth it?
- Is there justification for raising my price?
Every product and service you offer can’t be a loss leader. The only trouble is, you won’t know if you have a whole shelf full of losers unless you actually do the math.
Check Your Tech
Throughout the year, we tend to accumulate all sorts of widgets, gadgets and thingamajigs. We hear about something, we sign up and, before we know it, we’re paying for 17 online tools we simply don’t use. Time to cut your losses:
- Review your credit card and bank statements for recurring charges.
- See if there are services you aren’t using or use minimally.
- Cancel accounts accordingly.
Now, I know there’s that thing you’ve had your eye on. Maybe it’s a shinier, savvier email marketing platform. Maybe it’s an iPad to make your travel days easier. Whatever it is, see if all those canceled accounts make it a no-brainer to get the tech you want (and maybe need) to make every business day brighter.
Who’s on your team? Are attitudes and work ethic lining up with your expectations? Who knows? Maybe you’re just one of those bosses who’s hard to please. If you can never find great help, maybe it’s time to have a tough conversation with the person in the mirror doing the hiring and managing.
End and top of the year are fantastic times to see if you have the right people on your team. Here are a few ideas to cull through your support structure and make plans to find the talent you need.
- Do I love (not love-love, but just love) everyone on my team?
- What am I prepared to do with the people on my team who aren’t bringing it every day?
- Are there talents that we need in order to meet our growth and customer service goals that we don’t currently have?
- How can I change the way I hire staff and vendors to create a team of people that I can say I love this time next year?
Conquer Your Fear Of The Calendar
Our daily calendars are where many small-business owners seem to have the most trouble. Have you ever looked at your calendar and thought, “Man alive—I need to fire my assistant!” only to realize that ... you don’t have an assistant?
It’s time to set some systems and boundaries so you stop looking at your calendar like it's a monster under your desk. Make eye contact and show that monster who’s boss by answering these four questions:
- How many hours do I want to work every day?
- What personal things do I need to make more time for in my schedule?
- How often do I need to meet with my customers, clients and vendors each week to feel I understand what’s going on in my business?
- When are my “no fly zones”? (The ones where you won’t answer email, phone calls or be “at work” in any way.)
Mirror, Mirror On My Website
Most of us don’t visit our own websites every day. Maybe the blog page, but that’s about it. You owe it to yourself—and your audience—to give your entire website a once-over. Start on your home page, and click through to every link, every page and everything possibly clickable. As you click around, consider these questions:
- Is all my content up to date? Ditch the old webinar/seminar/speaking engagement banners.
- Do all my links work properly? Try this free tool.
- Do all my blog posts have a featured image so they share beautifully on social media?
- Does every image on my website have an alt-tag? Here’s another free tool.
- Is my contact information up to date on my site?
- Do I need to refresh team photos, bios and press links?
- Is my site mobile-savvy and easily viewed on smartphones and tablets? (If not, make it a goal for the first half of 2014.)
Hear The Voice Of The People
Your audience has been asking for something. Faster Wi-Fi in your coffee shop. Audio blogs. More video. A certain product or service. Well, it’s time to put your Santa suit back on and deliver.
When your audience asks for something—something that’s completely in line with your business model, brand and personality and not something like a manatee—they’ll thank you for delivering it. This is the easiest way for you to be a hero to those who matter most—your customers—in the coming year. Take pen to paper. Map it out. Create it. Share the news.
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