One thing I love about the end of the year is the prevalence of lists. Every magazine, blog, website and newspaper presents list upon list of year-end bests… and worsts. (The worsts are usually more fun to read.) There are best and worst lists for movies, books, celebrity outfits and more. And, of course, there are plenty of best and worst lists in our entrepreneurial world as well.
But best and worst lists are more than just fun reading. For a small business owner, creating your own best and worst list can be a great way to improve your business in the New Year. Sit down and think over your business’s “bests” and “worsts” in the past year. Here are some ideas you might find useful when compiling your lists.
Best and worst marketing moves.
Assess your marketing strategy for the past year. Which marketing methods paid off and which didn’t? Are there tactics you’ve recently started using that hold lots of promise?
Best and worst clients.
As any experienced entrepreneur knows, there is such a thing as a bad client. If someone demands too much, pays too little, or simply takes up so much of your time that the ROI doesn’t make sense, it may be time to cut them loose. Conversely, consider your best clients and what steps you can take to do even more for them in the coming year.
Best and worst employees.
Who are the essential players, the rising stars, the eager novices? Who needs an attitude adjustment, a skills update, or is simply deadweight? Take an honest look at your staff and figure out what you can do to reward and keep the best ones, improve or let go of the worst ones -- and motivate and train those in the middle.
Best and worst ideas.
Haul out your business plan and see how closely you’ve been following it. Have new initiatives you launched this year panned out, bombed out, or simply died on the vine from lack of follow-up? Maybe a good idea got lost in the shuffle of day-to-day business. Resurrect it. Or maybe you’ve thrown too much time and money after an idea that’s just not going to work. Let it go.
Best and worst processes.
Look at all elements of your business’s operations. Where are the bottlenecks? Are outdated procedures holding your team back? Is a lack of communication slowing decision-making? In today’s 24/7 business environment, your company needs to be able to turn on a dime, or customers will go elsewhere. Fix or jettison what’s slowing you down.
Best and worst tech tools.
Go over your company’s software and hardware to see what needs upgrading, updating or pruning. Make sure your security is up-to-date. Did you invest in something that’s not working out? Don’t throw good money after bad -- not with so many free or almost-free solutions out there today. At the same time, don’t make do with jerry-rigged systems just to save a buck.
Some of this exercise can be done with your team. But before you get started, assure everyone that this is a no-blame game. People’s feelings will get hurt if their project is picked as one of the year’s “worst.” Reassure your staff that all of these ideas seemed like good ones at one time, and that the purpose of this exercise is to figure out in an objective fashion what worked, and what didn’t.
Personal best and worst.
This one’s for you to do on your own. What habits, attitudes and actions on your part this year deserve best and worst status? Did you find a way to be more productive? Are you still blowing your top too often? Is your email out of control? Honestly assess your best and worst practices and make an effort to do more of the best… and less of the worst.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit SmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. Image credit: Photos.c