Small business milestones are important, and if you managed to survive another year, it’s time to step back and take stock. You probably know all about the financial and tax side of year end preparation. If not, your accountant will be delighted to set up an appointment to discuss the particulars with you. Whether you look forward to reviewing your performance, or approach the prospect with fear and loathing, this can be a productive time for a very internal inventory.
Starting a small business is hard. Starting one in a down economy is even harder. Striking out on your own in your 20s, 30s, 40s 50s, or 60s (pick a decade), is a big challenge. Entrepreneurship involves making thousands of decisions and taking responsibility for all of them. That alone makes it one of the most potently compelling and terrifying undertakings around. If it works, it’s financially successful and a personal triumph. If it doesn’t work right away, it’s a worry that will haunt your days and add insomnia to your list of woes.
In reviewing the current year, it’s easy to focus on the bad calls you’ve made without taking the time to place them in context. You know, the litany of small failures that undermine your confidence and enthusiasm for the challenges ahead: the extra employee you hired in a rush who turned out to be a lackluster addition to the team; the new location that isn’t performing; the marketing campaign that fell flat; paperwork you haven’t gotten around to; the time away from home that’s distancing you from your kids; and the money mistakes, too.
If this sounds like you, there’s a spectacular gift in reviewing your performance during 2011. You’re doing something, moving forward, and learning valuable lessons from the mistakes you’ve made. At the beginning of your journey, the landscape may have looked promising. Now, it’s getting interesting. Have a seat and take a moment to celebrate your triumphs, even if they’re modest ones. Review the near misses with a forgiving eye, too. Come January, you can make a fresh start.
We have a few bulleted points that will help revitalize your outlook and prepare you to face the New Year:
- Make a list of your achievements during 2011. You may be surprised at what you come up with. Post it prominently in your office, and look at it often.
- Review your vision statement and business plan, and record your thoughts about both.
- Evaluate your business as of today. There are a lot of potential details to cover, so start with a general assessment of your strengths and weaknesses.
- Set goals for the New Year. What do you want to concentrate on going forward? This sounds like an essay question, but it should be a series of broad categories you can flesh out (and revise) later.
- Prioritize your goals. Try arranging them by quarter. That way you can begin to formulate a performance timeline that will move you from goal to goal. It will also help when evaluating the resources you have and will need to accomplish each goal on your list.
- Expect setbacks. They happen in all businesses large and small. The trick is to find workarounds when you can, and accept the occasional defeat without it shaking your resolve to pursue the dream of small business success.