As a sucker for New Year’s resolutions, it’s not surprising that I also advocate using January 1 as an inspirational start point for business change. However, just as a list of five or ten personal resolutions is hard to remember, let alone to achieve, let’s agree that in business, too, less may be more.
Start with one important change you want to make. Make it the challenge, concern or irritant that A) keeps you awake nights, B) makes Monday mornings tough to face or C) drives you to drink… or whatever. For some business owners, cash flow or profitability rises to the top. For others, it may be the long hours they consistently work, or an employee that is a perpetual challenge. Maybe you need to write an employee handbook, or promote or reassign a key staff member. Whatever it is, you’ve been putting it off.
Once you’ve identified your #1 trigger, the real work begins.
Let’s take a complex example first. Cash flow and profitability is a big issue. What is the first and most important step you can take to improve your company’s financial situation? Write it down. Write down subsequent or supplemental steps as well. Don’t know what the first step is? Do some research, or get some help. This blog and many books on the topic will help. Try Six Steps to Creating Profit for starters. Your accountant may have recommendations for improving your numbers as well. Then, get to work.
In some cases, the change you need to make is less complex but difficult for other reasons. Take the example of working overly long hours. You’ve probably developed the habit over years. Again, break the problem down. Figure out why you are working too much, and what you can do about it. Do one thing to reduce the hours you work on a regular basis. For example, leave work an hour earlier one or two days every week. Or delegate a few additional tasks to staff members.
When you have addressed your most important single change, or at least have set the desired change in motion, you can move on to a second challenge.
While this approach may sound overly simple, it works well. Small business owners have a raft of everyday responsibilities, so big changes tend to get pushed back. By focusing on one important change at a time, you can make it happen faster and more surely than if it remains one item on a long list.
Here’s to a happy, productive and successful new year.
Michelle van Schouwen is president of van Schouwen Associates, LLC (vSA), a B2B marketing company based in Longmeadow, MA. The company is known for vSALaunch, its proprietary, modular and scalable system for B2B marketing launches, as well as its expertise in integrated marketing for B2B.