One of the best things about a new year is that it represents a new beginning. It’s a time to plan for you personally and where you want to take your business, and a time to look at the past and learn what worked and what didn’t. For us here at ezClocker, we use it as a time to reflect on what we’ve done the past year and plan our one and three year roadmaps to achieve our ultimate goal which is to serve our customers. I’m a believer that every day given to us is a new day where we are presented with an opportunity to achieve our dreams, but a new year always has that extra excitement and hope where possibilities are endless.
- Reflect and Evaluate: Start by reflecting on the past year; what worked? What didn’t? What should you change or do more of? What should you stop doing? All of these are questions you need to ask yourself as you evaluate your business. Approach it with no blame or regret, just learning and improving. One of the most important things to do when doing reflection is to think about your customers. What worked for them? Send out a survey asking what features or changes they would like to see this coming year from your business. Your growth will come from your customers so you need to understand their needs, but also where the market is heading. If you have a website or an e-commerce business, is it built for the best user experience? Keep in mind that by 2020, user experience will surpass pricing and product as the main differentiator between brands, according to Walker, an Indianapolis-based customer intelligence consulting firm. You can read more about that here. One major factor in user experience is for it to be mobile friendly. You need to know your customers are changing so you must adopt new tools and experiences accordingly.
“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.” — Colin Powell
- Set Goals: Start with your goals, what do you want to achieve this coming year? This could be X number of new customers, increase revenue by Y amount, or be listed as best in class for your local community business listing. Whatever your goals are, write them down and then setup a road map to achieve them. What tasks need to be done to get to these goals? These are high-level tasks and milestones that we put in a roadmap. It’s best to break down your year into quarters: Q1, Q2, Q3 and Q4, and then in every quarter you evaluate your progress. Put what you need to accomplish in each quarter to achieve the ultimate goal at the end of the year. This can include creating an editorial calendar for your blog posts, or if you are writing a book then it can be the number of chapters needed to be written every quarter to finish the book on a particular date.
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” — Mark Twain
- Self-improve: Your business won’t grow unless you grow and great leaders are always learning. Put on your calendar what conferences you want to attend this year. One of your goals should be to set aside time every week to learn something new. This could be to read one book a month or attend a workshop/networking event. Reading business books will not only improve your skills and increase your knowledge, but if you write blog posts regularly for your business then it will inspire you with new blog post ideas. Podcasts are another option. Podcasts have become very popular the past year so find a podcast you find interesting and listen to it while you are at the gym or walking the dog. Inc. magazine had a great article about the 15 best podcasts for entrepreneurs, you can check it out here. Self-improvement is not just for your brain, you also need to take care of your body so make sure exercise is an appointment you put on your calendar because if it’s not prioritized like the rest of your tasks, it won’t get done. Research has shown exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins—chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers—and improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress.
“Old ways won’t open new doors.” — Unknown
- Utilize Software: Part of the year-end evaluation is to check what tools you and your employees are using. Do they need to be upgraded or replaced? You should try automating manual tasks as much as you can and check that all of your employees are on the same page. If you are still using a manual way to track your employees’ hours find a software that will do it for you (read here how ezClocker can help you). Tools now days should be designed to help you run your business from anywhere so you are not tied down to the office. If you are waiting for your kids to get out of school or sitting at a coffee shop waiting for your customer to show up, don’t waste it on reading who commented on your Facebook post. Instead, use your phone to check on an invoice or finish payroll. If you are not sure what can be automated, shadow one of your employees for a day, watch how they work, what tasks they have to do over and over again, get your team’s input, and draw out the current process. You will be amazed as to how much of that can be improved or automated with the right tools.
Nobody can see the future or know what it holds for us personally or our business, but with a new year comes new opportunities and new beginnings. Make sure you’re open to receiving them.
“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” –Steve Jobs
Author: Raya Khashab
Raya is the CEO and co-founder of ezClocker. She is passionate about customers and building products that change the way people run their business. She is also a big supporter of the startup community and helping people achieve their dreams.