Small-business activity is on the rise going into the new year, according to the National Federation of Independent Business’s chief economist William Dunkelberg. Not counting seasonal variations, 55 percent of owners have recently hired or are planning to hire new staff, 23 percent are raising worker compensation, and 11 percent plan to create new jobs.
Now that 2016 is almost upon us, I asked four small-business owners how they will take their enterprises to the next level in the new year. Jeffrey Bowman, founder of business accelerator REFRAME: in New York; Shirish Phatak, CEO of Talon Software in Mount Laurel, New Jersey; Alejandra Pikulski, president of accessories company Allie & Orietta in Jacksonville, Florida; and Andrew Vines, co-founder of the law firm Johnson Vines in Little Rock, Arkansas, let us in on their plans.
What’s a new goal you’d like your business to achieve next year?
Alejandra Pikulski: A new goal is to launch a new product, fee-for-service, that will create a steady cash flow into the company. We are a new company that makes fashion accessories, so our sales fluctuate depending on the season. We want to create a service that will provide monthly income.
Andrew Vines: Our main goal for next year is to better manage our cash flow and increase operational efficiencies. We have been experiencing high growth over the past few years, which has required us to increase our overhead expenses in terms of space, human resources, equipment and vendor services. In order to keep up our capacity, our spending has been more reactive than strategic.
Shirish Phatak: Talon provides companies with centralized file collaboration. In 2016, we would like to double our revenue and global staff footprint. Since Talon’s inception, we have maintained a very aggressive growth trajectory driven by cloud adoption.
How did you choose your 2016 goal?
Jeffrey Bowman: Our overall mission is to educate about and enforce total market disruption for the marketing and communications industries, and to be a major voice of change. With that in mind, a main focus and goal for 2016 is to scale our U.S. business.
Pikulski: We realized that new designs alone will not help with cash flow and the bottom line, so we decided to focus on creating a service that will complement our seasonal sales.
Vines: We see our growth leveling out next year, so while doing our year-end planning, my partner and I decided to scrutinize expenses in all areas of our operation. We hope to eliminate any inefficiencies and redundancies that could impact cash flow. We feel that taking a more proactive approach to overhead in anticipation of slower growth is the way that we best serve the firm next year.
How will you ensure that your goal is accomplished, and not end up like the typical New Year’s resolution?
Vines: We will meet to confer specifically about firm financials, instead of just having them as an agenda item at our broader planning meetings. We also plan to survey our employees to determine what expenses are essential and what vendor services might be in need of consolidation.
Phatak: We benchmark on a quarterly basis, continuously revisiting our goals, making adjustments and holding our people and partners accountable for the standards we’ve set.
Bowman: We now know that it’s essential to have software that will fully support the conversations we’re starting in the market. We will pursue this technology one step at a time, executing our programs with preciseness and trying not to get ahead of ourselves.
What are your anticipated or hoped-for results, and how will you measure them?
Phatak: Our support of Microsoft Azure will translate into a better business environment for our clients and results that will be measurable in terms of Talon’s bottom line. We have a detailed, quarter-by-quarter business plan, and during our mid-quarter reviews, we will assess our success against the plan. Talon is fluid, and will make adjustments based on trends and customer requirements.
Bowman: We will measure success by ultimately retaining our current core client roster for longer durations, along with being given opportunities to demonstrate our value and increase the number of members of our peer-to-peer community.
Pikulski: We set goals on a spreadsheet or trello.com. Usually, at the early stages of planning, we meet monthly to talk about goal progress. Once we get closer to a deadline, we meet more frequently. If we have at least 20 people sign up for this new monthly service by December 2016, we will say we’ve been successful.
Want to grow your business in 2016? Read more articles about strategic planning.