Raj Malik is CEO & Co-Founder of KikScore, an exciting startup that helps small online businesses use their own track record of reliability and trustworthiness to increase sales and close more leads. Raj is a contributor to his company’s blog at blog.kikscore.com, a past speaker at SXSW and is passionate about helping small business and entrepreneurs succeed.
It is early January and 2011 is just behind us in the rearview mirror. The economy is still making it hard for many businesses to grow and build momentum. As we start January and the new year we can do two things for our business planning for 2012: You can yet again try to create a brand new strategy for the new year or you can pause, look back and do some serious reflecting. Reflect on what? There is a massive amount of data, feedback and information from the operations of your business from 2011. How about you take that information and create a plan for 2012 based on the good, bad and hard lessons learned from 2011?
This is now a very important time at the beginning of 2012 to look closely at your overall vision and strategy, the underlying tasks, your execution of those tasks in 2011 and plan accordingly for the year ahead. This straightforward step will better position yourself for success in 2012. You can then avoid what did not work last year and instead really build on what did work and use that as a stepping stone for 2012. Here are a few tips suggest to get going on this:
1. Take at least 60 uninterrupted minutes to list out what worked and what did not in 2011
These 60 minutes may be your most important 60 minutes you take for your business all year. During these 60 minutes, work on creating a list broken down by parts of your business (customer service, sales, business development, employees, budgeting, costs etc) of initiatives and strategies that did and did not work. Don’t stop your analysis there. There is another critical step in this and that is to reflect on whether parts of your operations failed due to poor execution or you should have never undertaken that endeavor in the first place because perhaps customers were not responsive to it. Bad execution can be cured by thinking through and documenting what went wrong and how that execution can be improved upon next time. What about the items that worked? This is also a very important list as you should look at how can your business and its operations build on these items to help continue to grow your business.
Action Point: You business must work in your 2012 plans to eliminate items that failed last year and rather focus on what did work and doing more of those items.
2. Carefully reflect on 2-3 trends that you noticed in your business in 2011?
During your deliberation (probably outside of the 60 minutes mentioned in #1 above), take time to look back on your business and the industry you work in from a broader view. There must have been 2-3 trends that you noticed in your operations or your industry? These trends could be basic ones like marketing trends using more social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, operating trends such as your employees really are asking for training or product trends that your customers really keep asking for the same new item from your product. As you plan for 2012, weave these trends and your responses to them into your strategic, marketing and operating plans. That will help ensure that you do not get left behind as these trends become permanent parts of your business and industry.
Action Point: Every management team needs to take the precious time to step back from their own businesses to analyze and plan for the trends that are impacting their own operations and their industry as a whole.
3. Identify the 5 major areas of customer feedback you received last year?
Every company gets a lot of customer comments and feedback. Therefore business teams need to pay attention to the major customer issues and feedback trends. But paying attention is only half of the job. Knowing when to act on the feedback and what feedback to take action on is the other half of the job that is also vitally important. Throughout the year and especially at the end of each year, your business should track these 5 major areas and ensure that your plans and strategies incorporate addressing and acting on these 5 main areas of customer feedback. Here is an excellent article from Inc Magazine on using customer feedback for your strategic plans.
Action Point: 2012 planning must take into account your customer’s feedback and comments that you have received throughout the prior year. That way you will know that your customers’ concerns are being addressed and you are further serving your customer’s needs.
4. Is there one part of your business that if it got more attention it could yield better results?
Business owners are always pulled in so many directions. So they face the concern of neglecting key aspects of their business that could actually yield them better results. The trick is to identify those areas of your business and make a detailed list of them. Then detail out what are the benefits you think could come from more attention. After you have that list and the benefits, determine if you can outsource any of these areas to freelancers, interns or other professional service providers. Check out this post at Startup Nation on small business outsourcing for some more good tips on this point.
Action Point: When your business needs more bandwidth in key areas in 2012, instead of neglecting those areas like you did last year take the time to outsource business activities. That will enable you to take advantage of subject matter experts while you can focus more attention on your core business.
5. What two objectives are vital to get accomplished by both June 30 and Dec 1 of 2012?
Here is a business planning tip for 2012. We should all probably do this yearly for our companies. Based on what you were and were not able to accomplish from 2011, identify two absolutely must accomplish items for 2012. That is a mission-critical accomplishment for the middle of the year (June 30) and then a mission critical accomplishment by the end of the year (Dec 1). Notice I listed December 1 and not December 31st because those extra 30 days give you time to make sure you get these objectives accomplished with a some time to spare. These two objectives will help you focus on two vitally important goals for your business that are deadline driven. Also at year’s end you can look back on your business and measure the success of these two objectives (and others) on whether they were accomplished and also their results. That will also help your 2013 planning.
Action Point: It is vital for every business to creating yearly goals and targets. Without them it is impossible to track progress. Introducing the concept of the two mission-critical accomplishments that are set to mid-year and year-end can help the overall business stay more focused on goals and targets.
So as January gets rolling and 2012 planning is underway, try out these five tips as you establish your plans and objectives for this year. Building these plans on your lessons learned from 2011 should allow you to build on last year so you accomplish so much more this year!