Every year, we turn to those fancy year-end lists and retrospective reviews of all that happened in the year.
It’s an irresistible deep-dive into those memories you cherish and some you may have forgotten. Did you marvel over the wedding of Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle? Did you wonder if North Korea’s vow to denuclearize was real? Did you root for the brave rescuers to free the 12 boys trapped in the Thailand cave? Who didn’t?
From Bitcoin’s fall from grace to the instability of the stock market to the midterm elections and the controversy over illegal immigration, the year filled with notable news and memorable moments.
And when you turn to pop culture, it’s a reflective look that leads to a responsive debate. Wait, Vanity Fair called NBC’s The Good Life the top show on television? While we’re at it, how come Paddington 2 keeps popping up on best-of lists? And why didn’t Ella Mai’s Boo’d Up make Billboard’s year-end top 10?
But after you read all the articles and watch all the shows that capture the good and bad of 2018, or maybe before you do that, you need to produce a show about your own 2018. Don’t leave it up to Facebook to put together one of those animated collections of top photos.
If you really want to develop a clear image of your 2018 business venture and create a strategic vision for 2019, you’ll have to do it yourself. Yes, every business consultant stresses planning, but if you do it correctly, it can be fun.
Here are five steps you can take to help you land on one of those “Best of” lists in December 2019. (Okay, maybe not, but at least your own, personal, “Best Year Ever” list.
Review Your History
Remove the rear-view and side-view mirrors from your car, and then try to drive somewhere. You may arrive at your destination, but if the journey is of a considerable distance, you’ll find it difficult to make the trek.
The point is you can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’re coming from. How can you build a plan without a review of what you achieved in 2018?
Professional development specialist Ellen Huxtable says look closely at the successes you enjoyed: “(Look at) the clients you especially pleased, the marketing channels and messages that worked, the processes which were efficient and effective, and anything else which was a winner, and which propelled your business forward.”
This is a process that needs to be empirical, not emotional.
Of course, just as those big-event lists contain highs and lows, so too may your business year. The question is what are you going to do about the bumps in the road that made your path more difficult?
Everyone makes errors. Don’t ignore them, but don’t obsess over them.
“Take the lessons you learned last year and apply them to the next,” said Louis Mosca, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of American Management Services. “Don’t dwell on your mistakes. It’s how you perform versus your plan, not versus last year.”
Check Out the Trends
Once you’ve figured out where you’ve been, turn your focus to where you want to go.
There’s probably some market data and research that prompted you to launch your business. As you focus on 2019, it’s important to revisit the data, trends and inclinations that first inspired you to become a startup entrepreneur. What’s changed? What’s expected in the New Year?
Crafting a plan and preparing for another year means embracing a life-long learning approach. Continuing education matters, from sales to technology to the rising importance of remote working and cowork spaces, it’s critical to read, watch and learn. Here’s one article from Business News Daily forecasting 20 business trends and predictions for 2019: https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/7605-business-trend-predictions.html.
It’s equally important to continue developing specific expertise about your business. Consult with those who operate in your industry. What were their highs and lows?
You also can benefit from developing relationships with mentors and those with more expertise. Let them help shape your plans for the future. Also involved key stakeholders, even assistants.
As Mosca notes, if key people “aid in the development of your plan, they’ll be more invested in the plan.”
If you don’t have someone who serves as a font of advice and information, identify two or three people and work to develop a relationship with them in 2019.
Set The Business GPS
To plot a course for continued success in 2019, you have to program your destination. Where do you want to take your business in the new year and what is it going to take to traverse the pitfalls and obstacles to get there.
Setting the GPS must involve both the short- and long-term goals you want to reach. Maybe you need to address some pressing issues that created detours in 2018. Or, perhaps you need to make a U-Turn and steer your business in a completely different direction. Most business consultants will tell you goals need to be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely).
Berry, founder of Palo Alto Software, advised dividing the goals into three distinct categories:
- The Obvious: sales, costs, expenses, savings.
- The Business Specific: repeat customers, renewals, leads.
- The Milestones: Opening a new location, refreshing the website, reaching a specific number of customers.
Berry added that it’s important not to over-complicate your plan.
“Start with a simple plan that just covers your main goals or what you focus on first,” Berry wrote. “Don’t sweat making it perfect. Just get it started.”
This is all about prioritizing. Some goals can be achieved in a relatively short time, others take longer. Targeting an estimated time of arrival for each goal heightens the possibility you’ll show up on time.
Deadlines also will help you determine what goals can be achieved first and what goals need to be set aside for the future. It’ll also help you determine if you’re trying to move in too many different directions. Your business can’t be all things to all other people, especially if it’s still in upstart stage.
Huxtable says it’s a matter of being realistic.
“One or two specific tasks with deadlines you meet are far more effective than ten great ideas which you never implement,” Huxtable said.
On the road to a successful 2019, you might hit a pothole. Or you could get a flat. Chances are something will go awry. Boxer Mike Tyson once famously said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
A solid plan for 2019, however, will allow you to get off the canvas and keep fighting. If (or when) something goes wrong, don’t look at the plan as a list of failures, see it as a motivational roadmap. Pat yourself on the back for realizing it’s better to dig a well before you are thirsty.
Most of all, be flexible. Maybe the plan will need an adjustment. Maybe the deadlines can be set back. But the most important thing is to keep going.
“There is no such thing as a perfect business plan, and the closest anybody comes is a plan that helps you manage by laying out goals, tracking results, and highlighting the progress and problems along the way,” Berry says.
If you’re not in the right environment to build a success plan for 2019, if you’re uncertain about the support you have for your business, consider joining the Rising Tide Innovation Center. We’re all about maintaining a community that can help you create the right course in 2019.
As Drake would say, perhaps it’s God’s Plan.
And in case you’re wondering, yes, that was the No. 1 song for 2018.