Written by: Guest | Best Company Editorial Team
Last Updated: February 24th, 2020
Guest Post from Lendio
It finally happened – 2018 has closed, and now we’re standing at the beginning of the first quarter of a whole new year. If you are a small business owner, pat yourself on the back – you made it to another year, which is no small feat.
Now that the glow from New Year’s Day has faded, it’s time to plan for 2019. You can take action right now to find success by the time the next New Year’s Eve rolls around.
Compare unit sales from 2018
One major Q1 goal for any small business is to compile and understand your earnings data for the previous year. Armed with this information, you can create revenue goals for the entire year. Look at how many sales were completed in the first quarter of last year as well as the final quarter. What is a reasonable growth goal considering where you were last year and where you were a few weeks ago?
Take on a big challenge in Q1
There is an aphorism beloved in leadership coaching circles – “slay dragons before breakfast.” For your business, that means to take on big challenges sooner rather than later. If you know you will face some big projects in 2019, try to tackle one of them this quarter. If you schedule it for later in the year, you can fall into a cycle of pushing it out further and further until you run out of year. Depending on your business, Q1 is probably relatively slow, so it is a good time to put on your armor and slay a menacing dragon or two.
Think realistically about growth possibilities
When comparing your company’s potential to its past quarters, it is important to be realistic about what sort of growth is possible. If your company is only a few years old, the data can be all over the place because there just isn’t enough of it yet. If your revenue grew 60 percent over the course of 2018, is it realistic that you would grow another 60 percent or more this year? In most cases, growth isn’t that exponential. There is a powerful psychological reason to keep your goals reasonable. If you set the bar out of reach, it’s likely that, at best, you won’t pay attention to your unrealistic goals. At worst, you’ll feel like a failure and get discouraged.
Create a Q1 theme
This year, come up with a theme or focus for each quarter. Preferably, these will be actionable – think beyond buzzwords like “productivity.” Since Q1 is often a slow period, maybe you want to focus on bringing in new customers. Your theme could also be getting former customers to buy again or improving the B2B side of your company. The goal is to keep you and your employees engaged and excited throughout the year.
Imagine a 2019 content strategy
How do you want potential customers to understand your brand this year? The dreary days of January are a fantastic time to figure out your content and branding strategy for the entire year. You could resolve to start a brand new content marketing plan like an email newsletter or a blog (this could be one of your big projects tackled in Q1). Even if you’ve never done much content creation, you could find a whole new market or build a new bridge to your existing customers.
Research the 2019 forecasts for your industry
Take them with a grain of salt, but you should take some time this quarter to understand what analysts believe is down the road this year for your field. Most of these reports are published between November and January. Even if you don’t put much stock in the predictions, these reports can point to upcoming events or trends you weren’t thinking of. How could the price of oil impact your business? What is going on with NAFTA? How could low unemployment rates affect your future hiring plans?
Drill down into monthly action plans
The quarter is an ideal unit of time measurement for business because it is long enough to accomplish serious goals but short enough you can easily envision how much time you have to overcome these challenges. The quarter links your long-term 2- or 5-year planning and your weekly or daily tasks. Once you’ve come up with your quarterly goals and theme, drill down further into monthly tasks and deadlines. This approach will bring your idealized vision into reality. Make 1-page monthly action plans for your entire firm and each employee, including yourself. Include your quarterly focus, how you will measure progress toward a goal, and specific action steps with deadlines.
Barry Eitel has written about business and technology for eight years, including working as a staff writer for Intuit's Small Business Center and as the Business Editor for the Piedmont Post, a weekly newspaper covering the city of Piedmont, California.