In my last article, I began looking at how entrepreneurs can best spend their time at the end of the year. What I suggested was that you
take the downtime that comes with the holidays and use it to your advantage. And in this regard, one of the best things you can do is to perform a year in review. Analyze what in your business went right and wrong, and come up with some strategies for how to improve things.

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In that previous article, I suggested a number of different areas to review: operations, the competition, sales strategies, marketing techniques, and so on. The value of this sort of analysis is that it gives you a very clear idea of where you have been. Here in Part II, you will use that same information to figure out where you want your business to go.

 

So where do you want to go? Let’s find out:

 

Budget: We need to begin with money because that is the bottom line. The problem is that many small business owners don’t like making budgets; they find them intimidating. But what about making a “plan”? Coming up with a plan for your business seems simple enough, doesn’t it? So let’s do that instead. Let’s come up with a financial plan for the year ahead:

 

  • Make a list of everything you have spent money on in the past six months in your business.
  • Review it, and decide if there are better ways to spend that money.
  • If so, create a new list of what you want to spend it on instead in 2014.

 

Hey, wait a minute – you just created a yearly budget!

 

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Brainstorm: Based on your budget, you will also have a pretty good idea about what your priorities are for the upcoming year should be. But the thing here is to get the buy-in of your team, and in order to do that, you need to include them in the process. Lucky you. As they say, two heads are better than one.

 

After you hear your team’s ideas, from the brilliant to the bizarre, your job is to then pare them down and figure out which have the best chances of success. Incorporate those into a strategic plan and all of a sudden, you have a blueprint for how to build the next wing of your business.

 

Use the 80-20 rule:
In my last post, I suggested that you use the 80-20 rule to really hone in on:

 

  • Who are your best customers?
  • What are your best webpages?
  • What are your best products?,
  • Which services make you the most money?
  • Which 20 percent yield the best results?

 

This week the trick is to use that same analysis to extrapolate for the upcoming year. You can use the 80-20 rule to figure out how you can best
grow your business. Here’s how: Let’s take the 80-20 rule with regard to your customers as an example. Determine who your top 20 percent customer is. Look at what they have in common and what traits they share. This will help you create a “best customer” template, which can be
used to find other, similar potential 20 percenters.  

 

Pull Quote.pngDo the same thing with products. Figure out what your best sellers are and double down on those. Which web pages do best? Create similar
pages.

 

Marketing: All of this plotting and planning will do you little good if no one hears about your business. Sure, your current customers know and love you, but the lifecycle of any business has three types of customers at any given moment: Current customers, customers who are leaving, and new customers coming in to replace the departing.

 

You have to plan for all three. Current customers are taken care of by your customer service. Departing customers are just that. And the way to replenish the stockpile, the way to get new customers, is to market your business, and then market it some more, and then market it some more. So your strategy session needs to address new marketing ideas.

 

At the end of all of this, what you should have is a plan of action to carry your business forward into the new year. Then, don’t just set it on a shelf and let it gather dust. Keep it close by. Refer to it often. Update it when necessary. It is your roadmap for success.

 

And here’s wishing you all a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year. Thank you for stopping by, for being a member of our community, and for
reading my articles. You are my valuable 20 percent and I thank you for letting me get to do what I love to do.

 

If I do my job right, yours just got easier.

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

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