I have to admit: as independent-minded as I am, I tend to get caught up in the end-of-the-year hoopla when everyone starts talking about New Year’s resolutions and how they want to improve their businesses. When it comes to personal resolutions, such as exercising, I tend to put that off until January 2 (or never). But when it comes to business resolutions, I like to start early so I don’t have such a huge list when the New Year begins.
Usually I start by gathering the many lists and ideas I’ve accumulated over the past year and see what I have yet to do. Sometimes items on my list are no longer relevant and I can cross them off; sometimes the items have changed direction. In general, I can narrow my list to following five categories of things to evaluate in the past year and for the New Year:
- Money. When I look back over credit card spending and bills paid, I pay attention to where the bulk of the money went. Were my business travel expenses worth it? Did we really need a fax service (when is the last time someone asked you to fax something?)? Did I spend too much money trying to repair business equipment when I should have just bought something new? Should we have spent more on small business insurance so we’re covered if something goes wrong? What about personal financial issues? Did I put enough in my retirement fund?
- Community. What did my company do to give back to the community? Not only do I scrutinize our charitable donations, but I also want to make sure my partners and I have volunteered our time to make a difference in our industry either by speaking at important events or participating in discussions relevant to our business and personal passions.
- Marketing. I’m usually good about trying new avenues when it comes to marketing trends like social media, content, and paid shares, but it’s always good to analyze where we put our efforts and try to determine where we should spend less time and where to really pump up. It’s not easy to keep up with all the innovations in digital marketing, but this time of year is a good opportunity to read about what the experts think will be the “next big thing.”
- Clients. My partners and I like to make sure we have a handle on which clients we believe are happy and which need some TLC in the New Year so they’ll stick around. Year-end thank-yous show clients and customers how much you appreciate their loyalty. And what about all the vendors, business peers, and friends and family who have given you ideas, support, and insight throughout the year? They deserve thanks, too.
- Staff. Finally, although I believe my staff works well together with mutual respect and zero resentment, I like to look back at ways we could have solved issues quicker and with less frustration. Even a work marriage as long as ours needs to air out differences and disagreements once in a while. Whether we resolve to redistribute duties, keep better track of deadlines, or just get together without talking about work periodically, the end of the year is a great time to reflect on the continuous journey we’re on and how to improve the ride.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at [email protected], follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva's free TrendCast reports.