Now that January is almost history, it’s time for a quick reflection. The first month of the year can be a little overwhelming. You’re recovering from holiday break, looking back on the prior year, and thinking of the million goals you have for the current year . . . all while you’re in quicksand!
As we prepare to celebrate 33 years of Stafford Printing, I know how time can become a blur. I don’t know exactly where I picked up these “eight practices for effectiveness,” but I want to share them here because I think they can be helpful when you’re trying to get organized and move forward on your plans for the year.
- Ask yourself, what needs to be done now? Choose just one big task, or two maximum. Most people don’t have the capacity to focus on multiple major projects simultaneously, so it’s better to work on one thing at a time and give it your full attention.
- Another question: what is right for your business? Be brutally honest with yourself about this one. Chasing silver objects is great in fiction, but not so much in real life.
- Develop an action plan for each project, or what some call a “statement of intent.” This should be a written plan detailing exactly what steps you intend to take to accomplish your goal, and in what time frame.
- Take personal responsibility for decisions. Don’t just raise the flag – make sure there is buy-in, direction, accountability, and follow-up.
- You also need to take responsibility for communicating. Though technology has taken us to outer space and back, it hasn’t come up with a way to transmit the information in our brains and hearts to interested parties.
- Focus on opportunities rather than problems. This goes back to accountability – problem-solving does not produce results. Exploiting opportunities does.
- Run productive meetings. Kill the PowerPoint. The end.
- That old saying “there is no I in team” may be trite and overused, but it’s also true. You have to think in terms of “we,” and make decisions through that lens.
The first two practices give you knowledge; the next four convert knowledge into effective action; the last two ensure that the organization feels responsible and accountable. This is a great recipe not only for getting projects done, but also for staying true to your company values and taking care of your team in the process.
Finally, I’ll leave you with a bonus tip that comes from personal experience: listen first, speak last.
It’s amazing how quickly the holiday season is flying by. New Year’s Day will be here before we know it! With 2020 closing in, so is all the advice from experts, overflowing with recommendations for everything that you need to do and change to make your business more successful. They’ll tell you that you “should” overhaul your marketing strategy, that you “have to” start preparing for changes in search engine optimization, or that you “absolutely must” learn to navigate new developments in social media. The suggestions are endless, and they all follow a common theme: throw out everything you did in 2019 to make room for 2020.
Is it necessary to take such a drastic approach, though? Is running a successful business in 2020 really going to be that much different from 2019? Does it make any sense to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch?
The truth is, how much you need to change your business in the new year depends on how well things have been going for you up to this point. It’s certainly important to identify problem areas, and if your system for doing things is not helping you connect with and serve your clients in the best possible way, then of course that needs to be addressed. There is no one-size-fits-all solution; you simply have to look at what is working and what isn’t, and make your adjustments accordingly. Throwing everything out and starting over is rarely necessary, but occasionally certain aspects of your business will need a more major overhaul.
There’s one thing that definitely doesn’t change from year to year, though, and that’s the importance of keeping your clients at the center of your business strategy. The whole point of being in business is to provide services and products that make life easier for the people you’re serving. Without that as your number one priority, all the marketing advice in the world won’t matter.
In reality, when we’re back at work in January, how we bring value to our clients won’t change all that much. It will still be about relationships, service, innovation, and erasing friction so that interactions are as seamless as possible. Sure, there will be adjustments to the process along the way. There may be some new tools that come in handy, or a new type of software that helps streamline the work. But at the end of the day . . . your fingers will still have to do the walking, your mouth the talking, and your actions delivering on your promises!
Who wants to think about the new year in September? It may seem a bit premature, but for business owners, the end of 2019 will be upon us before we know it. If you don’t start preparing soon, you’ll take your business into 2020 without a clear sense of direction for what you want to accomplish. The best time to start getting your ducks in a row is right now, but what are the most productive ways to set yourself up for strong growth as we finish one year and start a new one?
One last marketing push. There’s still time for 2019 to shine, so take advantage by pulling out all the stops. Email may be the easiest place to start, but don’t forget the power of printed promotions.
A holiday card that means something. So many businesses send out a generic, cheap-looking card that was clearly a last-minute afterthought. No one wants to receive that; it’ll go straight in the trash. If you start now, you have plenty of time to make a statement by creating a card that is interesting, personal, and well-designed. Don’t wait until the first week of December to start thinking about this! Show your customers that you care about the little details.
An end-of-the-year customer survey. Were your customers happy with your business this year? Is there any service or product they wish you would start offering? Are they even familiar with all the services you currently provide? A year-end survey with carefully-constructed questions can provide you with both clarity and direction. Doing this may feel a lot like the dreaded performance review, but that’s a good thing – it’ll give you the information you need to start making adjustments to any plans you have for the next year.
A look ahead to the 2020 trade shows. Be honest: how long has it been since you freshened up your booth and marketing materials? At the very least, you probably need to have a few things reprinted, but while you’re at it, this is a good opportunity to look over everything you have and assess the need for editing and rewriting, updates to your designs, or even a complete rebranding.
With the holidays just around the corner, we’re heading into a great time of year full of parties and customer events. Don’t forget, though, that it’s also a time to reflect on what you’ve accomplished this year, and start making plans and taking action to get ready for 2020.