It has been a year to remember, for better or worse. The shock waves of Brexit, the ascendancy of Donald Trump, and the economic implications of such events have had commentators speculating on the impact on small businesses. Only time will tell how enterprise will fare in 2017, but for now smaller business owners can only reflect on their own operation, and what can be improved about their company to move it forward over the new year .
Having goals is important, but Shaun Thomson, CEO of Sandler Training in the UK says that a typical mistake made by SMEs is that they are over-cautious with their long-term goals and overly optimistic in what they can achieve in the short term.
‘A New Year is figuratively an excellent time to realign this,’ he says. ‘In order to boost growth, SME leaders should spend time setting a vision for where they would like to be in three to five years’ time, and break this down into micro-milestones – then put a 2017 plan together that supports achieving these goals.
‘The resolutions must be strategic and have a plan behind them. For example, if the business wants to double their 2017 trade, but do the same as they did in 2016 and add no new resources, then it is not going to happen.’
Saskia Nelson runs photography business Hey Saturday, which provides snaps for online dating profiles, and her new year’s resolution is to get to know her customers better, with plans to invest in a new website that enhances the customer experience.
‘To do that I need to understand the customer’s needs, and enhance our services based on those needs. By focussing first of all on customer needs, I can anticipate any remaining obstacles they face and help them overcome them. I also want to focus on identifying the good feelings that they want to experience and help them get more of those.’
The best possible service
A customer focus is also the 2017 goal of Paul Inman, director of Airoutdoor, a company that provides billboard advertising opportunities. ‘Resolutions, always a hard one in business,’ he says. ‘For us, there is a constant focus on providing the best possible service to our customers, always looking at ways to save money and increase profits.’
‘Listening to your customers and acting upon feedback you get is crucial to identify business pitfalls and make improvements; also make sure your staff are happy and motivated – these things should be ongoing resolutions in every business, no matter how big or small.’
The New Year can afford you time for reflection on the year just past; the successes and failures, adds Inman. ‘I think the best resolution businesses can make is to understand what the failures were and how to put processes in place to mitigate them should they happen again.
‘Success is about moving forward, treading a new path; if you fall, understanding how to get yourself moving again is the key to running a strong and healthy business.’
Personal life impacts professional
Personal goals can often complement business goals. Ryan Shaw, CEO of Vape Shoreditch, which produces e-liquid for e-cigarettes, says his New Year’s resolution is to make his significant other happier.
He says, ’You may think ‘what’s this got to do with business?’, my answer is, a lot. Making my significant other happier will have a butterfly effect on my business life. For example, leaving work before 8pm will have a knock-on effect on my work-life balance, which in theory should have a knock-on effect on my productivity.
‘Another example, go for less after-work drinks… I think you can guess where this one is going.’
Entrepreneur Jerry Brand has made a New Year’s resolution to ‘give something back’ to budding entrepreneurs and this year he’s been putting that resolution into motion, ready to start in 2017.
Brand believes that everyone deserves the opportunity to shine if they have a new business idea – regardless of circumstances. He himself has been setting up businesses for more than 30 years and wanted to give something back to the entrepreneurial community.
‘With this in mind, I set up a new registered charity The Brand Foundation, which is providing a smart, free business modelling tool to anyone with a great idea, so that they can road test their idea to see if it has legs,’ he says.
Thinking beyond the financials
Michelle Wright, founder and CEO of consultancy Cause4 says the key measures for small business success are increased turnover, profits and number of staff, but it’s all too easy to get hooked into trying to meet those traditional and more ‘expected’ metrics of entrepreneurial success.
‘My hunch is that often that, in fact, slows us down or we grow too quickly and the quality of work and company culture suffers. The further along the road of entrepreneurship I get, it’s how it ‘feels’ that is the truly important benchmark of success for me.
‘So that’s going to be my resolution for 2017; is this business performing against my core values? We’d create a more compassionate environment if we took a step back to re-evaluate what success looks like for entrepreneurs.’
For more information about how FSB could help you achieve your New Year’s Resolutions, visit www.fsb.org.uk You can also follow FSB on Twitter @fsb_voice.