The new year inspires hope and high expectations for positive change and success in many entrepreneurs. But within the first three months of the year, at best, this optimism typically becomes just a distant memory. By this time the business owner has become overwhelmed with immediate tasks and problems, no different from the preceding years. This is a cycle that holds true for too many aspiring millionaires, but is not one that can’t be broken. One thing is for sure, if you’ve been doing the same things year after year, expecting different results, it’s time you considered using a new approach. Here are some things to consider if you want to be successful in 2012.
1. Don’t focus solely on your profit-and-loss statements: It’s critical to focus more on the business assets. Thus, you should focus on things that will allow you to expand your reach and grow your company.
To develop and execute a business plan that will work for you in 2012, focus on assets like your client base, new employees, systems, and partnerships. Putting your attention purely on profits can take you off track. More profits are nice, but more clients can be leveraged for significant future growth. Focusing on deliverables is certainly important, but planning and execution is what will grow your client base, thus your company.
If your business plan is to bring you any success, make to include the following;
Mission Statement: It is important to answer the simple question of why your business exits. The answer will be a great source of motivation for you everyday as you wake up to take on the challenges and opportunities of the day. In this regard, don’t make a Mission Statement overly general but rather, it should be precise. Think big.
SWOT Analysis: A comprehensive SWOT analysis (assessing company strengths, weaknesses, market opportunities and market threats) is critical to assess your opportunities, generate ideas and focus on which to go after.
Marketing Strategies: Take a good look at your current marketing strategies. Have you been using only one marketing channel all this time (e.g. print media advertising)? If you have, it is time to spread the word about your business using other channels. Consider channels you never thought of and analyse how they can aid with marketing your product.
Company Goals: Set goals for your business e.g. a five-year target point – what income level do you plan on achieving in that time? Will you sell the company, remain at the helm, or go public? Plot your course, and then break down your goals and strategies into a one-year plan. Which opportunities are best to execute this year in order to achieve your five year goals?
Business Asset Goals: Formulate projections on customer count, employee count, training, new equipment and other expenditures, like a new facility or office expansion. Be prepared for growth.
Key Performance Indicators: To enhance your success in the New Year you should start tracking things you probably never tracked. Like visitors to your website, customers in the store, the percentage of sales in the store vs. the website, upsell percentages, number of sales, sales closed, proposals issued, etc. It’s important to keep detailed metrics so that you can analyze problems. Don’t simply look at those top line figures in your P&L, study your KPIs as well. For instance, if your team didn’t upsell enough, it may be time to create new sales scripts. For example, if your website isn’t converting enough sales, it’s time to explore a different conversion tactic.
When determining what to include in your KPI details, ask yourself these two simple questions: Of my top five direct competitors, which one would I purchase if I could? Then, what would I want to know to determine the best buy? So, for instance, would you purchase the company with the highest sales conversion rate, best Web stats, perhaps the most stable customer base? Now create a tracking method for those key factors, which are apparently very important to you.
Target Audience: Define your customer in detail to maximize your marketing efforts. Create a customer persona. Explore what is important to them, the real reasons they do what they do, and their key problems. Also include demographics such as gender, age, race, geographic location.
With your customer persona well defined, you can find publications, radio shows, blogs and other well-targeted means to reach out to your customer. You can speak to them more effectively and achieve a much higher conversion rate. Be as specific as possible. Remember the 80/20 rule; 20 percent of customers represent 80 percent of profit. Who is your 20 percent?
Competitive Analysis: This will give you the chance to be prepared for the inevitable—competitive challenges. Examine your competitors and outline actions they could take that would threaten your business. Imagine the worst case scenario and develop a strategy, if you can have one, for a situation where your competition has made a move that threatens your business.
If your competition drops prices to a certain point as part of their growth strategy, for instance, what can you do now to control the impact of such a move?
Define your team: Even if you are a sole entrepreneur you should have a team. You don’t need to do it all on your own. Consider your virtual assistants and other outside contractors, or employees if you have them. Where do you want them to be one year from now? What skills will they have developed? What training or mentoring is necessary to get them there? Is there anyone who’s not working out? Who do need to grow your company? How can you get those resources in place?
Operations Plan: Finally, looking at your five-year plan and what you want to accomplish, define your marketing strategies, any additional services or products to offer, and all of your key initiatives for the year. I suggest creating a Gantt chart, so that you have a visual for each project.