It’s that time of year again … and I’m not talking about the season of good cheer and gift giving. I’m talking about the time you take stock of how your business has performed over the past year, and strategize a plan for 2016.
For many business owners, 2015 has been an intense year. The instability of global markets and the increasing rush of new technology have left many companies treading water. But 2016 looms ahead with all the possibility of tomorrow. Will this be the year that you really push your company to the next level?
Here are five crucial questions to ask yourself as you plan for the year ahead.
1. What parts of your business aren’t profitable?
Let’s dive straight into this. No warming up with simple questions. We’re getting real here.
I want to know what isn’t working. Where are you putting energy in but getting nothing in return? Be honest here. Where is all your money going? Is this the most efficient use of these funds?
When I used to run my own agency, I asked myself this question after a particularly stressful year. It led me to cutting out my smallest copywriting package, and it was the best business decision I ever made.
2. What is making you anxious?
Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that there’s nothing obviously wrong with your business. Things are trucking along nicely and you’re making a decent profit. So why do you feel a crushing sensation in the pit of your stomach every time you think about it?
It could be that you’re having problems with a particular employee? It could be that you’re doing something you know you shouldn’t, or not doing something you know you should. One of the things I know to be true is that you should always trust your gut, so if something doesn’t feel right, it’s time to fix it or banish it forever.
3. How satisfied are your clients?
This can be a very hard question to ask. Sometimes we don’t actually know, because we might never hear from a client again. Sometimes we know we should ask, but we’re afraid of the answer.
If you don’t know how your clients feel about your service/business, then how can you make things better for them? Make it your goal to survey or question as many customers as possible, and then use that data to inform improvements in product and service for the year ahead.
Check out our articles The Clint Eastwood Guide to Dealing with Difficult Clients and How These Agencies Tackle Onboarding to learn more about setting client expectations and keeping them happy.
4. What are your business goals?
Sometimes we can get so caught up in the everyday routine of keeping the business running, we forget to focus on the bigger picture. Well, this question is all about getting you to focus.
What did you hope to achieve in the business in 2015? Did you do it? If not, why not? Where do you see the company in five years time? You need to start with that end-goal in mind and work backwards in small stages to figure out what you need to do to get there.
For more help on setting business goals, check out some of our previous articles on creating powerful vision and mission statements, and Expert Interview – why your business needs more than project management to grow.
5. Where do new customers come from?
This may seem like an unimportant question – who cares where customers come from, as long as they come? But knowing how customers find you is the key to effective marketing – getting more customers through the door.
Ideally, you want to be spending the least amount of money as possible to attract the right kind of customers. Use analytics tools, surveys, and other methods to find out which of your marketing tactics are pulling in the clients: Is it your email list, or your networking breakfast? Your Facebook ads or your storefront? Learn where you should focus your marketing budget in the coming year and you could be on your way to superstardom.
Of course, there are many other questions you should be thinking about as your business moves into another year. But these five should get you thinking about what you need to improve and how you should think about allocating resources. Here’s to another excellent year in business!