Yes, it may sound devastatingly obvious, but having talked to many, many small businesses over the years it’s surprising how few people use the new year as a chance to reflect or plan ahead.
Since setting up Moneypenny in 2000, we’ve made a point to do this every year; looking back over what’s worked well; planning how we want the business to develop, and thinking about what we want to do differently. And predictable as it may be, it really does help.
So, here are five of our resolutions and the reasons I believe they’re a must for any small business:
Push your boundaries
Last month our staff arrived at work to find a bungee jump in the car park. Every single person was, quite rightly, terrified at the prospect of launching themselves off a 175ft crane – myself included – but 121 of us took the plunge. Knees were shaking, palms were sweating and plenty of unmentionable words were uttered, but we did it.
It was only after the event that I got thinking about the wider benefits of doing something like this. Pretty much everyone that I spoke to said ‘I never thought I’d be able to do that’. But they did. It brought home to me that we’re actually capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for. Obviously I’m not suggesting everyone should have a go at bungee jumping, but the same principle can be applied to your professional life so make this year the year you step outside your comfort zone. You might surprise yourself
There’s a quote I like by Thomas Edison who sums this up perfectly: ‘I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work’. This is so true. Never forget that success is the result of hard work, determination and learning from failure. Remember Bill Gates’ Traf-o-Data? No, nor does the rest of the world probably, and has it affected the multi-billionaire? Of course not.
Without taking big decisions, small businesses stay small. When we founded our company 14 years ago we couldn’t get funding to buy our first office, but we didn’t take no for an answer. Now we are about to start work on a new £10 million world-class office development. So evaluate the last year but don’t be judgemental, rather view it as an opportunity to make the year ahead your most successful and profitable yet.
Ask your employees what could be done better
As your representatives on the front line they will have a good grasp of any issues which might need addressing. We have an open door policy, and I make a point of knowing each and every one of our 400 staff by name. This isn’t a gimmick. We do it because we know it’s important. From IT and client support to HR and the PAs – each has a vital role.
We, as a business, can only carry on successfully if everyone is on their A-game. There are so many firms where directors shut themselves away and rarely talk to staff, and why? An elevated sense of ego? Or a genuine lack of time? Either way, it’s not doing their business any good. Good staff are the lifeblood of any organisation so trust in your colleagues to help lead you in the right direction.
Be your own customer
Customer service can make or break a company. You only have to look at the monumental (and often hugely damaging) power of review websites like Tripadvisor to see proof of that. So how would your company fare if you were a customer? What initial impression does your website, office or staff offer? Would you shop/do business with your own company? Be honest with yourself, there’s no point in lying. It’s better to address any issues now rather than sweep them under the carpet and have them trip you up later.
Wake up and don’t be a ‘sheeple’
Are you leading or being led? Look at giants like Apple, Virgin and Ikea for example, and ask yourself what they have in common. Each one has a strong identity that makes them stand out from the crowd. Can you honestly say the same applies to you? Scrutinise other companies in your sector; see what sets you apart and then shout about it. Be bold and take risks. It’s good to look at others for inspiration but never lose sight of your original vision and goal.
Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list, reflect on your own business’ successes and challenges over the past year and start the new one with a clear and renewed focus.
Ed Reeves is founder of outsourced reception and telephone services firm Moneypenny.