Posted on Dec 15, 2017

New Year’s Resolutions for Your Business

The start of the new year is a great time to take stock and re-evaluate whether or not your business is moving in the right direction. Are you on track to meet your 2017 goals? Are you happy with the number of customer you’ve served? Do you need to make changes to your products or services in 2018?

As you plan for the year to come, keep in mind that 80% of those who make New Year’s Resolutions abandon them by February. To make goals that stick, you need to know where you’re coming from, where you’re going and how you’ll get there.

Create business-focused New Year’s Resolutions you’ll actually stick with using the following process:

Start with a 2017 Audit

Before you can come up with a plan for success in 2018, take a close look at what has – and hasn’t worked – in your business in 2017.

You’ll need a few things to begin:

  • A list of the goals you set for yourself for 2017
  • Your business’s financial records to date
  • Current metrics for any key performance indicators (KPIs) your business tracks

The KPIs your business measures will vary, depending on your circumstances, but may include any of the following:

  • Total number of customers or sales
  • Customer acquisition cost (CAC)
  • Average lifetime value of a customer (LTV)
  • Average transaction size
  • Number of repeat purchases per customer
  • Amount of referral business
  • Amount of recurring revenue
  • Email list size
  • Social following size
  • Number of returns or complaints

Look at all the information you’ve gathered and compare it to your 2017 goals.

If you’re on track to meet your goals – as evidenced by your financial records and KPI data – how can you stretch yourself to grow even further in 2018? For instance, if you grew average LTV by 10% in 2017, could you aim for 20% growth in 2018?

If you aren’t going to hit your targets, take some time to assess what’s happening. You aren’t a failure for not reaching your goals. It could be that any of the following factors are at play:

  • Your 2017 goals weren’t reasonable
  • A change in your industry made your goals unreachable
  • A change in your personal circumstances made your goals unreachable
  • You didn’t follow through on the plans you set for yourself
  • You were lacking key skills needed to reach your goals

Ask yourself what happened, and whether or not those factors are likely to recur in 2018. For instance, if a chronic illness limited your productivity in 2017, that may still influence the goals you should set for yourself in 2018. Alternatively, if the lack of a key skill held you back in 2017, that can be remedied with education early on in the new year.

Finally, don’t discount the importance of your personal feelings on your business’s performance. If you aren’t feeling happy or fulfilled with your business, all the metrics in the world don’t matter. Whether or not your business has been successful, take some time to identify you how feel about it and what changes you could make if you aren’t currently satisfied?

A few good questions to ask yourself include:

  • Am I passionate about my business?
  • Am I excited to start my work every day?
  • What projects do I keep putting off, and why am I skipping them?
  • Would my family and friends describe me as satisfied with my work?
  • Am I using my best skills, talents and perspectives in my business?

As anyone who owns a business knows, every day isn’t a magical miracle of entrepreneurship. However, if you’re constantly feeling unfulfilled or underutilized in your business, the start of the new year is a perfect time to make a change.

empty soccer field with goal

Set Your Goals for 2018

There are plenty of schools of thought when it comes to goal-setting. You’re probably familiar with a few, including the SMART system (which involves setting goals that are “specific,” “measurable,” “achievable,” “results-focused” and “time-bound”) and BHAGs (which stands for “big, hairy, audacious goals”).

If one of these systems is working for you, that’s great. Stick with it, and use it to create appropriate goals using the insight gleaned from your audit.

They aren’t, however, right for everyone. SMART goals tend to focus on the minutiae of business, leaving big-picture thinkers uninspired. BHAGs, on the other hand, set such high standards that failure is almost inevitable (which isn’t a bad thing, but can be demoralizing for some).

If you’ve tried one of these schemes in the past and still failed to follow through on your goals, you may need a new system that encompasses both big- and small-scale thinking, while also addressing the different aspects of motivation controlling us all. Here’s how to do it:

Step #1: Start with your “HBD”

Inspired by Tim Ferriss’s 4 Hour Workweek, pull out a blank sheet of paper and draw three columns, labeled as follows:

  • What I want my business to have
  • What I want my business to be
  • What I want my business to do

Try to add at least five ideas to each column. “Having” might entail a new equipment purchase or a customer base of a certain size. “Being” might mean changing the perception of your company relative to its competitors or branding your business based on customer experience. “Doing” could involve selling a certain number of products or advocating for larger change in the world.

For fun, you might also try the inverse. Identify things your business won’t have, be or do to find opportunities to clarify your purpose, delegate tasks that don’t require your involvement or stay focused on your mission.

Step #2: Choose one major theme for the year

As you complete your lists, look for the common threads running through the three columns and set that as your major theme for 2018. Possible themes might include: increasing revenue, expanding brand recognition, improving brand sentiment or building a personal brand beyond your business.

Though it might be tempting to choose more than one priority, there’s value in keeping things simple. According to Kevin Kruse, Forbes contributor:

“The key to your productivity all comes down to understanding what is most important to you—and what activity will provide the greatest leverage to getting there—right now.”

Setting one major theme allows you to direct all of your resources, energy and focus towards achieving it. You’ll reach your goals much faster than if you try to divide your attention across multiple aims.

Step #3: Break your major theme down into action-packed sprints

Your yearly theme will likely be vague by design. But since vague doesn’t get the job done, you’ll need to break it down into shorter-term, more tactical actions.Test different lengths between two weeks and three months, filling your to-do list by working backwards from your desired outcome.

Let’s walk through an example together…

Suppose your major theme for the year 2018 is to expand awareness of your new company. Now, let’s break that down into bite-sized actions you can schedule across shorter time-tables:

  • You determine that your best routes for building awareness include: setting up social media profiles for your company, getting interviews on podcasts in your industry and offering guest articles to other publications.
  • You decide to focus on each route exclusively for three months
  • You set a smaller goal for each, and then work backwards to come up with a monthly action plan that will help you achieve it

goal mapping spreadsheet

Your specific timeframes, goals or steps might look totally different than this. Some stages might overlap, and you may take on more or less than what’s shown here. You don’t even have to plan multiple sprints at once. You may decide instead to plan each sequentially so that you can base decisions off your actual data.

What’s important is that you end this process with:

  • An understanding of your main objective for the year
  • A short-term planning approach that breaks it down into reasonable chunks
  • Ideas for the specific action items that’ll help you reach your short-term and long-term goals

This is also a great place to make your goals quantifiable by setting milestones that’ll ensure you’re on track. Quarterly (or more frequently-assessed) goals will tell you whether or not you’re on the right track sooner – no more reaching the end of the year and wondering what happened.

Hold Yourself Accountable

The final piece of the planning puzzle is accountability.

Having goals isn’t enough to provoke change. We all have goals; we all know there are better versions of ourselves we could be. Yet, year after year, we fail to meet them. The secret to ending this cycle may be as simple as getting our goals out of our own heads and enlisting the help of others.

Accountability from a goal-setting perspective may take many forms:

  • Paid accountability through services like StickK
  • Participation in a mastermind group (local or online)
  • One-on-one partnerships with “accountability buddies”

Pay attention to data shared by Thomas Oppong on Medium that:

“The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) did a study on accountability and found that you have a 65% of completing a goal if you commit to someone. And if you have a specific accountability appointment with a person you’ve committed, you will increase your chance of success by up to 95%.”

Whichever approach you decide to take, take a few moments to write down on a notecard:

My New Year’s Resolution for my business in 2018 is to focus on [my major theme]. I will do that by executing action plans in [sprint length] intervals, and I’ll know I’ve been successful if I [reach my sprint goal].

Share your card with your accountability partner or group, and revisit it regularly yourself. If you stick to your plan, you’ll easily make 2018 your best year yet!


What are you working towards in 2018? Share your business’s New Year’s Resolutions with us in the comments below: