Defining success for your small business

As we approach the New Year, we’ll see a variety of news stories on “The Best of 2012,” “2012 in Review” and New Year’s predictions and resolutions.

It’s not a bad time to take stock of your business, review the past year, and look ahead, perhaps with some resolutions on how to improve the business in the New Year. There’s nothing like a fresh start and a second chance to balance and build.

Everyone measures “the bottom line.” In black and white (or maybe black and red), you either made money or you didn’t. But, there are other barometers for measuring success. Did you gain a client who made you happy? Did you participate in a project that fueled your creativity? Did you add some new, interesting people to your networks?

For my company, 2010 ended on a bad note. A project we’d been producing had tanked, and we felt the financial loss through almost all of 2011. A year ago, I questioned whether it was time to move on to something new or to revamp. I was able to find satisfaction in some non-financial aspects of our business, and decided to try to ramp up the areas of my business that were successful.

We dropped a couple of clients; one a late payer who made too many last minute demands; the other one disorganized about follow-through. We networked more, and ended up picking up several new clients, which have helped us end up the year in the black at the same level we were before the problems of 2010. I’ve been able to hire people again.

I don’t always review/revamp at the traditional New Years period. Sometimes, taking stock works just as well under a tree by the pool, on the train to New York, or sitting on the patio. I’ve learned that for me, success is: engaging clients who are committed to quality and community; interacting with creative people and visionaries; and being among people who can see the coffee mug as both half-empty and half-full and either way, good coffee.

Some of my colleagues (and clients and pals) have similar ways of taking stock. David Pakman, managing editor of The Vivid Edge Media Group and host of “The David Pakman Show” says, “For us, success is measured not only by the bottom line at the end of the year, but at how many more people we reached, how many more times we influenced the political discussion, and by how many conversations we started.” Pakman added, “Idon’t really do resolutions, but I guess broadly, the 2013 resolution is to focus on subscriber growth, podcast downloads and youtube views,and to convert our production to 100% high definition.”

Douglas C. Evans, founding partner, International Broadway Productions, measures successes by opening nights. “I look at whether or not I have projects that are considered to be ‘alive’ (the definition of which is that they move forward or are making progress towards production or are getting closer to fruition).” He doesn’t make resolutions. “I try to approach each day as a fresh new canvas of which to work from.”

Victor Acquista, MD, syndicated columnist, author and founder of Pathways Integral Health and Wellness, published an e-book this year and looks forward to its publication in traditional print form by year’s end. He measures his success by his numbers of book sales, speaking engagements and book signings. “New Year’s resolutions? Absolutely! But, not pegged for the New Year as much as to goals set for the business near term,” he says.

Michael Sande manages the LAPC Theatre in Los Angeles. “By nature of being part of an educational institution, we have several ways of measuring success,” he says. Sande sets his goals at the beginning of the traditional new theatre season (September). “I have made, on occasion, personal New Year’s resolutions that involve my professional life — usually involving things like making more efficient use of my time, or to get more organized. I am not, by nature, a detail-oriented person, so I need to challenge myself toward that end.”

Some thoughts on year-end resolutions.

Don’t make resolutions you’ve no chance of attaining, and don’t make too many overall. You know the people who plan to quit smoking, lose weight, learn a foreign language, become vegan, and go the gym on January 2nd. By January 9th, most resolutions fade into history.

Here are some worth considering, all attainable.

1. Buy local. When you support local vendors and purveyors, they get to know you. You’re both doing good for your local economy. Maybe your sources will refer you to new opportunities.

2. Network more efficiently. Build traditional and social media networking time into your schedule. Plug yourself into a local network, from volunteering in a community-driven event, to mentoring, or hitting one of the local “meet-ups.”

3. Streamline your operation. Use downtime to increase productivity. Organize your files; update your mailing lists. There are people who help other people organize. Use their services, so you have more time to accomplish more things.

4. Think of success as little accomplishments leading to bigger ones. A new project may lead to a bigger one, which leads to a bigger one. The key is getting the new project.

Happy New Year !

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Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn.

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