Many business owners are ready to say goodbye to 2010 and are eager to embrace the New Year, hoping for opportunities to grow and rebound from a damaged economy. Every New Year is met with a list of resolutions, and small business owners should be no exception. Here is a guide for small business owners to setting goals for the New Year.

New Year’s Resolutions

Every year as the current year approaches its end, we all vow to try harder to do those things we know we should do, such as improve our relationships, health, finances, and community service. For those who own a business, the New Year is a time to make resolutions that improve the company. To avoid the same pitfalls that so many resolution-makers face, small business owners should instead heed the following advice to help make their resolutions a reality.

Setting Goals

The key to successfully making your resolution a reality is creating a plan that helps you measure your progress and meet your goals. Many people do not realize their New Year’s goals by the end of a New Year because they do not get past making the resolutions. Just saying that you have a New Year resolution to lose weight, for example, is not going to make you drop 15 pounds and make your zipper on those old pair of jeans reach the top. Instead, you have to come up with a plan that involves setting specific, measurable goals.

1. What do you want? – Decide on what changes you most want to achieve in the New Year – sales growth, strong workforce, new product line, reaching a larger target audience, improved marketing plan, etc. Naming your goals is the easy part. The tough part, making a plan for your goals, comes next.

2. Set Specific Goals – The more specific you make your goals, the more likely you are to meet them. For example, instead of saying that you want to increase your sales, be specific about how much of an increase you would like to achieve. Also, set a date for achieving that increase. (The company will increase profits by 35% before the second board meeting of the year, for example.) Think of your resolutions as targets you are aiming at, rather than general ideas of what you want in your life.

3. Make Measurable Goals – If you set measurable goals, it will be easier to know how you are progressing. If your goal is to increase sales, set smaller, measurable goals to help you reach your destination step-by-step. For example, look at your sales team and determine how you could make them stronger and most effective. If you are hoping to increase your sales in the New Year, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you need to hire a new sales manager?
  • Do you need to re-evaluate your business model?
  • Do you need to conduct a market study, such as a focus group, to have current information about your target audience?
  • Do you need to change your price points to increase sales?

Take a close look at your operations and determine the small changes that will be needed to help you reach your overall goal. Keep in mind, you are not finished once you reach your goal. Reaching one goal only means that it is time to push yourself even farther and set new, higher goals.

4. Make Your Goals Visible – The best way to keep your goals in sight is to, well, put them in sight. Post your goals in an area where everyone, especially you, will see them. Have checkpoints throughout your plan – weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc. – to measure your progress. Use inspirational images and sayings on your post to keep you motivated. Publicly announcing what your goals are and when you plan to achieve them will help you stay motivated – and garner much-needed support.

5. Be Realistic – Do not set goals that are too high or unattainable; you will only feel defeated when you are not able to reach those goals. Instead, be realistic about the kind of changes you are able to implement now.

Making a New Year’s resolution means setting goals and creating a plan – not just a statement – you can stick with. Embrace 2011 as an opportunity for growth and change. If you take the time to set clear goals and track your progress, you will be a success in your business. In fact, start imagining your business the way you want it to look this time next year – and get it there!