Can you believe that we are already at the end of 2016? I know I can’t! If your life is anything like mine, this year has been busy! As we move forward into the new year, now is a great opportunity to set new goals. A lot of people set personal goals like, “I want to lose weight,” or “I want to stop smoking,” or even “I want to save more money,” but as a business owner, I want to challenge you to set professional goals as well.
This time last year, Stephanie, an associate attorney at my office, wrote a blog entry about setting New Year’s Resolutions for your small business. In September, I challenged you to check in on your goals for 2016. But in this blog post, I want to take the opportunity to set out a couple of ways that you can work to make 2017 the best year yet!
One of the things I absolutely love about my job is that I get to help my clients achieve their own personal business goals. For a lot of people, owning your own business is a life-long dream. It takes a certain level of passion, drive, and determination to step out onto your own path towards small business ownership. But if you are like me, you’ll most likely find contentment when you go from dreaming about owning your own business, to building that business from the ground-up, and, eventually, growing that business outward.
With this in mind, let’s look at a few ways you can start 2017 on the right foot!
Look for the Right Opportunity
In the business world, there are an unlimited number of opportunities available. This number gets larger every day as entrepreneurs, just like you and I, continue to develop new and innovative solutions. A lot of times, people find the vast number of opportunities to be intimidating. How will you ever figure out the right opportunity for you?
Finding the right opportunity really depends on a variety of factors, including where you are on your journey to becoming a business owner. If you don’t currently own your own business, maybe 2017 will be the year that you start to develop a business plan. Maybe this will be the year that you work with an attorney to figure out which type of business entity will work best for you. Maybe you will begin with researching the market demand for the products or services you would like to offer. Or, maybe this will be the year where you take the opportunity to speak with other small business owners to get an idea about how they started out, so that you can be better prepared when you are ready to create your own business. The opportunities are endless, but the key will be identifying the next steps, and using the upcoming months to really work towards those goals.
Of course, if you don’t currently own your own business but dream of owning one someday, it is possible that a franchise opportunity may be right for you! There is an endless supply of franchise opportunities, all of which offer different pros and cons. When sorting through these opportunities, keep in mind things like the overall costs, financing options, level of control the franchisor asserts over the franchisees, scale and successfulness of the franchise system, and the time commitment you will be expected to put into the business both before and after you open the franchise location to find a combination that best works with your lifestyle and skillset. As always, it is also important to have knowledgeable and experienced attorneys and accountants look over the franchise disclosure documents and franchise agreements prior to signing on the dotted line.
On the other hand, if you already own and operate your own business, there are still plenty of opportunities for growth that you can seek out during 2017. The key opportunity to look for is one that will help you build a strong foundation for future business growth for years to come. So, look for areas within your business where you see potential. Maybe there is a market sector that most current businesses in your industry have failed to fully serve. Maybe there is a way that you can offer additional value or convenience to your current customer base. Or, maybe there is an area of your business that is not as profitable as you would like and you’ll use 2017 to focus more resources on other, more profitable aspects of your business instead.
Of course, if you already own your own business, two of the most popular ways to grow your business are through the franchise or license models. Both options offer the right businesses (and the right business owners) the opportunity to create a strong foundation for outward expansion. Maybe 2017 will be the year you help your business grow through either of these popular models!
Make a Plan
The next way to start 2017 out on the right foot is to make a plan. Now, this might seem obvious to some people, but ask yourself whether you made a plan for your business in 2016. I suspect that a lot of small business owners would say “no.” You might say, “well, I meant to have a plan and I had ideas in my head, but I was so busy in 2016 that I didn’t get around to putting anything into action.” This thought process is completely understandable. As entrepreneurs, we are always busy and this means it is incredibly easy to spend a lot of time just working on day-to-day issues. After all, every year seems like it is busier than the previous!
In order to bring an end to this cycle in 2017, keep in mind that your plan doesn’t have to be overly complex, but it should be multi-faceted. It is easy to get so bogged down in all of the details of your plan that you aren’t able to actually make any forward progress. For this reason, it might be easier to start with what goals you want to accomplish for the year and then build steps to help you attain each goal.
For example, let’s say you have a goal to increase your yearly sales revenue. What steps can you take to make this happen?
Well, one way to increase your sales revenue is to develop a more robust marketing strategy to appeal to your target market. If you don’t have any experience with marketing, maybe the first step in that process is to begin researching independent marketing firms or consultants. From there, try to set up meetings with these professionals early in the year to see how they are better able to assist you in reaching your goals. Then, based off what you have learned, make an informed decision regarding how to invest in your marketing future.
In a multi-faceted approach, you are going to want to look for other ways to achieve the goal of increasing your sales revenue, too. For example, another solution might be to better train your employees. If your employees are responsible for selling products to consumers, try to build up resources and training material to help your employees become more familiar with the products and services you are selling. You might choose to do this through one-on-one training sessions, or through free product samples, or even by setting up your own training curriculum online. Once you’ve chosen the method that works best for you, break down each aspect of your plan into smaller pieces. Then, handle each piece one at a time until you’ve got a finished product that helps your employees increase sales revenue.
While making a plan is an important first step, don’t let the growth process stop there. Once you make a plan and break down all of the steps, you still need to hold yourself accountable for accomplishing each task. Then, after you’ve completed each task and filled out your entire plan, don’t forget to implement it! For example, an awesome new employee training program will do you very little good if you never take the time to introduce your employees to the program. The bottom line is that strong and steady growth takes time, but if you start 2017 out right by making a plan, you know you will at least be heading in the right direction for years to come.
Finally, my last tip to start the new year off right is that, as entrepreneurs, we should keep innovating. If you are like me, you probably love overcoming a challenge with hard work, determination, and innovation. This is most certainly one of the most rewarding parts of being an entrepreneur, but I’m often shocked at how consistently many business owners use the phrase “we’ve always done it this way.”
Often times, the “we’ve-always-done-it-this-way” attitude is an immediate response to a suggestion for any type of change. Unfortunately, this attitude is a death knell to many small businesses. The logic behind this response can be alluring. If you run a business that has achieved some level of success, you might be tempted to think that everything you’ve done or every decision you’ve made was correct. Truthfully, maybe it was correct at the time. But, what you might fail to notice is that the surrounding circumstances could have changed and you may get left behind if you don’t change, too. If you think about it, the “we’ve-always-done-it-this-way” attitude is the exact opposite of “innovation.”
After all, where would we be if entrepreneurs always took the “we’ve-always-done-it-this-way” attitude? Would our city streets be filled with cars, or would we still be using horse drawn carriages? Would things like the Internet, e-mail, or word processing programs even exist? How about electricity, GPS systems, laptops, or cell phones? Each of these items was created through the hard work, determination, and innovation of individuals who rejected the “we’ve-always-done-it-this-way” mindset.
Now, I’m not saying that you have to go out and invent the next greatest technological advancement. I’m not even saying that you need to invent a new product. What I am saying is that our job as entrepreneurs is to keep coming up with innovative new ways to better serve our customers. The scale of the innovation you’ll undertake in 2017 is completely up to you, but I would strongly encourage you to pause the next time you find yourself saying, “we’ve-always-done-it-this-way,” and instead say, “is there a way we can make this better?”
As always, I hope you found this article helpful. I am optimistic that you will join me in making 2017 the best year yet by looking for the right opportunity, making a plan, and developing new ideas through innovation. If you are ready for assistance in achieving your business goals, feel free to Contact Us to get in touch with our office. We offer a wide range of legal services to small business owners, including franchisee and franchisor assistance. From all of us at The Law Office of Josh F. Brown, have a happy and safe New Year!