Planning for the New Year

Steve Strauss, founder of www.theselfemployed.com, gives advice for planning for small business success in the New Year.

Steve Strauss headshot

Q: Any tips on what we should be doing now to gear up for next year? It turns out that unlike a lot of businesses, mine is very slow during the holidays, so I would like to use this time more productively. Thanks in advance.

Lars

 

A: Your question reminded of a guy I once knew who blew the roof off of his business (in a good way, not literally) by doing some careful analysis one slow month. Let’s call him Greg.

Greg was a speaker. He was a very good speaker and made a nice living, but it wasn’t exactly what he wanted. So he sat down for a few weeks a few years ago and really tried to figure out what he was doing right, and wrong, and what he could do better. Two things emerged.

First, from his 80-20 analysis, he realized that 80% of his revenue came from 20% of his gigs, most of which were corporate. If he could duplicate those valuable 20% clients and get more corporate customers and engagements, it followed that he would make more money.

Secondly, he concluded that what those gigs also had in common was that he was a keynoter (as opposed to moderating a panel discussion or doing a seminar.) The upshot was that Greg re-packaged himself as a corporate keynoter. He marketed only to those folks and actually turned down speaking engagements that were not of that type.

Within a year, Greg almost doubled his income.

Or here is another, more famous example: For many years while he was the chairman of Microsoft, Bill Gates famously took a “think week.” He would head off by himself for a week to a beach retreat, read hundreds of technical papers that had been culled for him, and ponder the future of technology generally and his company specifically.

The result of these think weeks changed not only his company, but many lives as well. Think Week 1995 for instance resulted in Gates writing, “The Internet Tidal Wave” and plans to create Internet Explorer. Other weeks have resulted in decisions to create the X Box.

So the idea of taking a step back and taking a good, long, realistic, visionary view of your business is a smart one. It can create new goals, reaffirm old ones, reignite your fire, and result in dramatic new initiatives.

Some of the things you might want to consider are:

A thorough 80-20 Analysis: What 20% of your efforts (or clients or products) results in 80% of your income? This well-known dictum, the 80-20 Rule also known as Pareto’s Principle, can yield some dramatic insights, as it did for Greg.

Do 20% of your webpages get you 80% of your traffic? Double down on those. Do 20% of your products result in 80% of your sales? Stock up on those.

Update Your Business Plan: Many small business people have a business plan . . . in their head. Not only does it help to write your plan down, but even better – update it. Even something as simple as keeping a log of ideas, plans, goals, and actions, and then referring to it and revising it as needed, allows you to see where you have been, how effective you have been, and where you can improve.

Come up with some new recipes: My old standby remains relevant. Doing the same ‘ol gets you the same ‘ol.  Your recipe for success is how you make your dough, so consider trying out some new recipes. It could be a new marketing strategy, a new product line, a new location, whatever. Just try something new. Next year is looking to be a very good year for business (and I haven’t said that in a while) so get ready now to take advantage of it.

 

Today’s Tip: I recently came across a cool new startup that you probably should know about. Maapit calls itself a “social billboard.” The site teams up with big brands to give you “ads with benefits” and additionally, it archives real-time emotions of “Global Events” in order for people to relive the moment.” Here’s an example from the last election. Maapit will be hosting a live digital New Years Eve party too. It is simply amazing the different sorts of businesses that people are creating online these days.

 

About the Author

Steven D. Strauss is a lawyer and writer and is one of the country's leading experts on small business as well as an international business speaker. The best-selling author of 17 books, his latest is the all-new 3rd ed. of The Small Business Bible. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success Powered by Greatland, visit his new website for the self-employed, TheSelfEmployed, follow him on Twitter, and "like" TheSelfEmployed on Facebook. You can e-mail Steve at: sstrauss@mrallbiz.com. © Steven D. Strauss