Happy New Year, everyone. We hope you all had a safe and happy holiday season! If you’re like many business owners or managers, the start of a New Year comes full of hope and promise of a great year ahead. But stop for a minute. Were you full of exactly the same hope and enthusiasm on January 1, 2018? Sadly, much of that New Year’s hope and optimism slowly dissipates through inaction, only to be faithfully but equally fruitlessly reenergized the following January 1. We’re outlining a framework for how you can drive meaningful change in your business to help achieve the growth you’ve annually pined for.
Take a Trip Back in Time
Start 2019 by looking back at 2018. What goals did you set for yourself at the beginning of the year? How did you go about achieving those goals? How did those goals work out for you?
Unfortunately, the all-too common response to these questions is a bunch of humming and hawing and some uncomfortable looks. People simply don’t take the time to clearly articulate their goals or put a plan of action in place, so does it really come as a surprise when they fail to make significant progress towards those goals throughout the year?
If you want 2019 to be different than 2018, you must do things differently than you did in 2018.
Start by Getting SMART
Let’s dissect what didn’t happen last year and start with the lack of clear goal setting.
Looking to grow your business? Sure, we all are! But what does that mean and how are you going to go about doing that?
There are a thousand different ways you can grow your business. You could expand your sales team to increase your sales funnel input. You could release a new product or service to your existing customer base. You could acquire a competitor or complimentary business. You could change your pricing structure, making your products and services appealing to buyers who they had previously not appealed to. You could create strategic partnerships with other businesses to cross-pollinate each other’s customer lists.
If you don’t figure out specifically how you want to grow your business, chances are that weeks and months will pass and you won’t make any significant progress on achieving those objectives. Then you’ll find yourself full of fresh hope and enthusiasm at the beginning of 2020, and so the vicious cycle will continue.
Use the SMART goal setting framework to set your goals. Make sure your 2019 goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Google ‘smart goal setting’ for more information on how to set SMART goals than you’d ever know what to do with.
A Goal Without a Plan is Just a Wish
These words written by Antoine de Saint-Exupery in his 1943 novella, The Little Prince, could not be any more appropriate for why business leaders and managers fail to achieve the business growth that they pine for at the beginning of every New Year.
Once you’ve set your SMART goal, the next step is to put an action plan around it. Can the goal be broken down into smaller tasks or objectives that you can work towards that’ll get you closer to that bigger year-end goal? Can you break your year-long ambition into monthly – or even weekly – checkpoints? If you’re not on track at the end of February, for example, it’s less likely that you’ll be on track at the end of the year, unless you course-correct in the meantime.
Beyond breaking your goal down into smaller chunks, develop a plan for how your organization is going to achieve your goal. Who is going to be involved? What work needs to be done? Do you have what you need or do you need to acquire more people and resources?
If your plan includes more than you, schedule regular meetings with your team to make people are communicating, sharing progress and challenges, and making sure things stay on track.
Even if you’re running solo, schedule regular check-ins on your own calendar to keep your objective top-of-mind and on track.
Measure, Measure & Measure Some More
With your SMART goals set and your regular checkpoints added to your calendar, it’s time to keep a keen eye on progress throughout the year.
Part of setting SMART goals is to make your goals measurable and timely, and this should help you determine if your plan is on track throughout the year. That your goal – and ideally the subcomponents of that goal broken out in your plan – is specific means you should have an easy time determining whether you successfully achieved the checkpoint at the expected time interval.
The critical control point in this process is brutal honesty. If you’re not meeting your checkpoints along the way, it’s very easy to convince yourself that it’s okay, that you actually are on track when you’re not, or that you’ll catch up later. Plans aren’t meant to be perfect, so if your plan is starting to come off the rails then don’t be afraid to regroup. Alter the plan to either catch up to where you need to be, or even to modify the goal. It’s much better to fully achieve a revised 90% goal than stubbornly stick to and completely miss out on achieving your original 100% goal.
If the feeling of hope and optimism for growing your business in 2019 seems eerily familiar, it might be because many people suffer from feeling like that at the beginning of every New Year but fail to follow through on turning that hope and optimism into tangible results. The next year they’re doomed to fall into the same vicious cycle of hoping for but never quite achieving business growth.
Set goals, make a plan, and stick to it through 2019 and you’ll be much more likely to really make 2019 the best year ever in your business.