As the end of the year approaches, every business owner starts the daunting task of reflection. You start to assess what you have accomplished and what you have not, what made you money and what did not, what expenses are no longer necessary and so on. It can also be an exciting time as you look back and relive your accomplishments and big wins. But now is the best time to re-establish your goals and make some new ones.
But first – you need finish up the current year. Before you go making a lot of changes and getting caught up in the magic of the promises of a new beginning, let’s bring this year to its proper fairy tale ending by really looking at what your business accomplishments were, and what can be improved upon.
I have put together a list of the top ten things an entrepreneur should ask themselves as they wrap up the year and prepare to start a new one.
1. What was your revenue and how did it compare to the year before?
It is no secret that a successful business comes down to the dollars. But to truly know your dollars, are you keeping track of not only income, but expenses? Revenue numbers being high are a beautiful thing but sometimes outrageous expenses can kill that excitement. Take the time to get your numbers in order on a monthly basis so you are not cramming it in at the end of the year. That being said, were you able to provide enough products and services to increase your revenue? If numbers are staying the same year after year without much growth it is time to start looking at the reason why and deal with it.
2. What could be delegated and what do I need to keep doing myself?
I wrote about this earlier in the year. Most entrepreneurs feel like they need to take on all the roles of the business themselves in order to save money, when in fact they can be doing something else that makes the money while they delegate a task that is boring to them or takes them A LOT longer to do than a professional. Sit down and do the math to see if continuing to do certain tasks is actually costing you more money than just delegating them to someone else.
3. Which marketing method worked the best for me?
When I coach my clients, I train them on the six core promotion strategies that you incorporate into marketing your business. Which one of these strategies brought in the most clients? If a particular method is successful and bringing in the clients that turn into sales, consider doing it on a semi-regular basis. Always re-evaluate at the end of each strategy. Also consider: what is fun? Let’s face it, when it comes to marketing most entrepreneurs start to groan – unless it is something they LIKE to do. For example, I LOVE to network. It is how I got my name, Queen Bee. I love going to events and learning about what others do, sharing who I know, what I know, and how I can either help them myself or direct them to someone who can. I love the community and magic that comes with networking. Others see networking as a total nightmare and prefer to blog. Whatever your method – run with it as long as it makes you money!
4. What was your biggest struggle and why?
Taking a look at the end of the year for reflection will always bring up discussions of what DID NOT work. Perhaps it was a good idea that was just executed poorly. Maybe you did not have enough time to plan and if given the opportunity to do it again you would make some changes. Maybe your struggles were not with bringing in money, but dealing with employees or some other issue. Take a look at what was eating up your time and why – then you can make a plan so it is not a struggle in the new year.
5. What type of client brings in the most money?
This one should be easy to identify – but can you identify what brings in that specific client in the first place? If you can properly assess the needs and desires of your clients, then you can communicate the #1 biggest result they get from working with you. Follow that up by outlining the deep rooted benefits they will receive when they work with you, and then articulate it regularly so they keep coming back for more.
6. Do you have multiple ways in which clients can do business with you?
I call this your Sales Cycle. The amount of money clients will spend with you is in direct proportion to the amount of trust you have earned. If you have their interest, but they are not completely sold and still need to hear more, than you need to have an offering that is at a lower price point to give you the opportunity to win their trust. Do you have multiple levels of financial commitment in which to do business with you? Do you have various programs at various time commitments? If not, it is time to make them.
7. How often do you stay in touch with your current clients?
Keeping in touch is a NECESSARY step for every entrepreneur. It is a lot easier to do business with people that already know, like, and trust you than to win over strangers. Are you using social media, email marketing (yes newsletters are still important), or some other method to regularly reach out? Seth Godin once said, if you could never have a new client, how differently would you treat your current clients? Very profound. Treat your current clients as if they were your only clients moving forward. They already love you and want to promote you if you are keeping in touch and taking care of them. So make it easy on them.
8. Are there improvements you can make with your technology to make your life easier?
Disclaimer: My husband and I run a technology company as well. But I have seen SO MANY entrepreneurs that still waste so much time taking on tasks that would be so much easier with the right technology. Contrary to what you may think: proper technology DOES NOT always mean more money. There are so many ways to use mobile devices and cloud based systems to make your life easier that will not break the bank. My advice: get a hold of a technology professional that is focused on entrepreneurs and how they do business.
9. Is there a product I can create that will create passive income for my company?
Who doesn’t want to make money while they sleep? Dumb question – but I bet there is an information product up your sleeve that will not only establish you as a category authority, but a product you can make that will be an inexpensive way to get in front of your target market and win their trust. Could be an eBook, regular book, webinar series, or video series. (See #6 above.)
10. Do you have an accountability partner?
This one is probably the most important. As entrepreneurs, we are the captain of the ship and have to prioritize and choose where we spend our time. Unfortunately, life can get in the way and all the things I listed above can get put on the back burner. Which is why EVERYONE needs to be held accountable to someone. Find an accountability partner or coach that will meet with you on a REGULAR basis. Here and there is a waste of time. If you want to accomplish your goals, have someone hold your feet to the fire and you will.
Comments? What questions would you ask yourself at the end of the year that you feel is super important that did not make the list? I would love to hear from you!
My mind has already been on 2015. What did I learn this year? What can I do better? What did my marketing efforts of 2014 actually accomplish? I ask myself, and my clients, all of these questions as I sit down to prepare what I plan to take on in the marketing department for 2015.
First step: Get your calendar ready. I prefer to keep things simple. I have a very simple spreadsheet that outlines the twelve months of the year and I brainstorm different events or anniversaries that make sense for me to comment on. It is basically a “big picture” approach about the kind of content I feel would be relevant to my readers and clients. I take that information and formulate the various blog posts I want to write about that make sense with certain times of year. I am always open to move topics around to adjust to current events and moments in time that have events where the need for a little shuffling is in order. Always remain flexible and have the ability to capitalize on current events.
If you are not into spreadsheets or documents, another great place to organize your calendar is on Trello. I have mentioned Trello in the past. It is a FABULOUS online tool that multiple people can log onto and all of your team members can brainstorm content for the following year. This is a great one if you have a team, or if you want to share it with your business coach. **hint hint***
A lot of my clients – and other business owners – like to put their topics and ideas on their actual calendar. Having your due dates in front of you when you can glance at it and prepare for it weeks in advance allows you to prepare for it so you are not running around at the eleventh hour trying to meet a deadline. You can either color code your online calendar, but quite often it is even very useful to do it the old fashioned way – with post its and stickers! Below is a the folks at CoSchedule who make a WordPress plugin for an editorial calendar, and they are still using sticky notes! Whatever works for you – do it!
But what does one do when they sit down to a calendar and come up with nothing but a blank piece of paper? I will highlight my favorites from a great resource, CopyBlogger, and their article “50 Can’t Fail Techniques for finding Great Blog Topics” but make sure you click here for a the full list.
1. Google alerts – setting an alert with some of your industry’s key words. This can give you an endless supply.
2. Riff on a popular post. Post your reaction and thoughts to a popular blogger’s thoughts and a hot topic and you can gain some power packed link benefit!
3. Try a new medium. Check out YouTube videos, podcasts, or one of MY personal favorites: watch some TV for inspiration. I continue to get inspired by the show, Restaurant Impossible!
4. Do an interview. Do you have a favorite person you like to follow online or connect with at networking groups? The answer is no unless you ask them for an interview! I am sure they won’t mind the free publicity!
5. Take an entire day off. I love this one. Recharge your brain for a whole day by doing something you love. Go focus on your hobby and enjoy yourself. Giving your brain a break may be just what you need!
6. Do a product review. Is there something in your business you use every day that you just LOVE? Write about it and spread the love with your readers! My husband, who runs an IT company, does a great post every December on his picks for Holiday Technology Toys as an example.
7. Recruit a guest. When all else fails, call for back up and schedule a post of someone you respect that you can feature on your blog. Make sure their content is what your readers are looking for and it makes sense with the overall feel of your blog. But don’t get lazy and rely on them every month!
Lastly, you will want to set some sort of alert and an accountability system in place so this task actually gets completed. If alarms work for you, wonderful. If you need an accountability partner to make sure it gets done, then set that up. You will be amazed how much you get done when someone else is watching!
So I want to hear from you! What is your preferred calendar method and where do you get most of your blog topics?