What a year 2016 has been. I hope this year has been a thriving one for your business. Regardless of whether this was a growth year or a stagnant year for you, I think it’s vital to an entrepreneur’s long-term success to spend intentional time reflecting on the past and planning for the future.
Here are 12 steps I think every entrepreneur should take to start this year off strong.
1. Quit thinking short term
One of the biggest mistakes I see entrepreneurs make is to run so fast that they never stop to reflect on their wins and losses from the previous year. They spend so much time doing what has to be done tomorrow that they don’t think long-term.
This is something I have to make myself do every year, because my nature is not to slow down. This year, I went away with my family to the mountains for a week before Christmas to reflect on this year and plan for next year. It was really helpful to get away from the office and think creatively about how to solve new challenges and how to inspire my team in 2017.
Put at least one day on the calendar in the next two weeks to get away by yourself or with someone you trust to reflect on your year and make a long-term plan for the upcoming year.
2. Write down 90-day goals, every 3 months (and write down the results)
Entrepreneurs are dreamers. If you’re like me, you likely have more ideas floating around in your head than you could ever execute. As you start your new year, write down 90-day goals in January, and revisit them every three months.
I’m a big fan of making a plan on a page. This is a great exercise for A.D.D. entrepreneurs who like to chase shiny objects (squirrel!). A plan on a page is literally one page, so the hope is that you will focus in on the most important goals you want to achieve and get everything else out of the way. On the top half of the page, draw three columns, one for one month goals, one for three month goals, and one for six month goals. On the bottom half of the page, write action items that need to happen in order to achieve each goal as well as who is going to take responsibility for that action item and by what date. I think you’ll find a simple strategy that fits on a page will help you focus and iterate every few months as opposed to making a few daunting goals that never get fully shaped.
3. Drop the excuses
Are you living on the solution side or the victim side of life? Solution oriented people don’t make excuses, they solve problems. People with victim mentalities tend to make excuses and think everything is stacked against them.
In a recent Business Insider article, Tony Robbins said that in order to stop making excuses for failure, one must, “Divorce your story of your past and marry the truth of what you do today is all that matters. If you marry the truth and act on the truth, your life will change.”
I’ve never met a successful entrepreneur that was on the victim side of life. So stop making excuses and make things happen in 2017.
4. Write out a budget
Effective budgeting is key to the long-term health of your business. Do you know how much you’re spending on overhead? Do you know what your profit margin is? If you don’t know how to budget effectively, get help. Invest early in a helpful accounting software or a knowledgeable bookkeeper that can allow you to do what only you can do. You might even consider a virtual bookkeeper like MAG Bookkeeping that will free you up to focus on growing the business while an expert keeps your books in order.
5. Write out a health budget
Many entrepreneurs spend so much time on the health of their business that they forget about their own health. Are you allowing margin in your life to workout regularly? Do you know what food you’re putting in your body? Are you running on fumes or are you healthy? Don’t forget about your physical, emotional, spiritual health. It all works together, and it’s all really important. Write out a health budget to keep you on track.
6. Keep moving forward
Don’t stop. No matter how 2016 ended up for you, keep moving forward. If you’re feeling down about your business this year, listen to the NPR podcast How I Built This and be inspired by successful entrepreneurs like the founders of AirBnB, Instagram, Clif Bar, Spanx, and more. Each of them talks about the years of their business where they thought, “Is this ever going to take off?” The one thing they all have in common is that no one believed in their business more than they did. They kept moving forward, and so should you.
7. Find a few Yodas for your life
Who is your Yoda? Who is your guide through life’s curveballs? Who do you go to when you don’t know what the right next move for your business is. Find a Yoda. Get a coach. The most effective entrepreneurs I know have a coach that helps guide them through the good days and the bad.
8. Read intentionally
I’ve interviewed thousands of people over the last eight years of doing executive search for faith-based organizations. One of the characteristics that life-long learners have in common is that they are always reading. They are reading the news each morning. They are reading a novel to keep their imagination working. They are reading a business book to help them be a better leader. Make an intentional reading list this year, and stick to it.
9. Spend more time asking questions than giving answers
The older I get, the more I realize I don’t know what I don’t know. Ask questions this year. As James 1:19 reminds us, be slow to speak and quick to listen. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll learn if you ask questions before spewing answers.
10. Develop some 2am friends
It’s lonely at the top. The more successful you become, the less friends you will have. This is something I hear consistently from my successful friends in business. They often feel alone and isolated once they reach their career goals. Be intentional about fostering 2am friendships. These are the folks you can call anytime, and they’ll be there for you. Treasure those friendships, and don’t take them for granted.
11. Consider how you want to be remembered
I spend the majority of my days helping pastors plan for succession. One of the beautiful things about those conversations is when I ask them how they want to be remembered. Legacy is something we all think about but spend little time considering how to create. How do you want to remembered? Live every day with the end in mind.
12. Leave things better than you found them
When a Girl Scout is Brownie, she learns that part of the Girl Scout Way is to leave a place better than when she found it, and I think this is a good lesson for everyone to learn. Whether it’s your office, your home, your street, your community, or the world, what are you doing to leave it better than when you found it? Are you actively seeking to improve what’s come before you or just slide by with the bare minimum each day? One of my favorite company values at Vanderbloemen Search Group is “constant improvement.” It’s one of my favorites because it helps remind our team that we should always be thinking about how we can improve ourselves, our systems, and our processes so that we can better serve our clients.
These are 12 things I think every leader should do to have their best year yet. What would you add to the list?
Article and Photo by: William Vanderbloemen | Forbes