3 Important Actions That Can Have a Big Impact on Your Business

Big changes in results don’t always require equally big changes in operations, approaches, strategies, tactics or business models. More often than you may think, comparatively small alterations in operating practices, processes or methods produce disproportionately large improvements in results. Here are three things that can bring big results for you in 2015—and every year after that:

  1. Set, measure and monitor your “move the needle” 2015 business goals
  2. Create and use a written business operating plan to achieve your 2015 business goals
  3. Commit to and use an active process to make friends with your numbers

Set, Measure and Monitor Your “Move the Needle” Goals

Successful people run their businesses on purpose. They have a clear destination in mind at the start of each year.

Do they always achieve their goals? Of course not. Unforeseen and unplanned events and conditions can create challenging obstacles. When these occur successful business leaders modify their goals, tactics and actions, and they keep going.

If you already use a proven business goal-setting process, congratulations! You are in rarified company.

For everyone else, this is what we mean by “move the needle” business goals:

To shift the situation, performance or result in some area, activity, sphere or function to a noticeable and measurable degree that would not otherwise occur in the normal course of business events

If you don’t yet do annual goal setting, consider this a full-throated request to start. Use goals to manage and run your business on purpose. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Consider this. If it were now December 31 of next year, what specific business results and outcomes would lead you to say, “This was a very successful year”?
  • When writing your goal statements, ask, “How will we know we achieved this or made appreciable progress towards it?” If you can give a relatively clear and simple answer, you have an actionable goal.
  • Don’t have more than three major “move the needle” business goals in a year. Don’t try to fix, change or improve everything at once. You can’t. And it could be damaging to try to do too much in one year.
  • Remember and use this fundamental truth:

“The more specific and measurable your goals, the more quickly you will be able to identify, locate, create and implement the use of the necessary resources for their achievement.” Charles J. Givens

  • A useful tool for crafting clear, actionable business goal statements is the SMART formula: SpecificMeasurableActionableRealisticTime-based.

Write Your 2015 Business Operating Plan

Creating a business operating plan without a set of clear and measurable objectives or goals is an exercise in futility. Likewise, clear and measurable objectives or goals without a thoughtful plan to achieve them are equally meaningless.

With your “move the needle” goals for next year, you’re in the right place to build your business operating plan. This is the roadmap for how to get to your intended results destination.

A great way to begin building your operating plan is to implement the New Year’s Eve Retrospective (NYER) approach discussed in Don’t Run Your Company Without These.

When you write the NYER narrative, start with your business goals. The rest of the NYER is your discussion of how you and your business accomplished it.

Guess what? The key steps and sections of your NYER narrative become the key points of your operating plans for next year. It’s like magic!

The last step in constructing your written business operating plan is to break it down into specific actions and steps by each quarter. Don’t try to do everything in January or February. Many actions need to precede others, and some action seeds need time to grow and mature before harvesting.

If you haven’t done this kind of business planning before, start with the full knowledge that as you keep doing this, you’ll get better at it. It’s worth the effort.

For your business operating plan to produce its greatest organizational value, you must engage key managers and trusted advisors in creating, monitoring and assessing it throughout the year. Review progress against the plan at least monthly.

Commit to Making Friends with Your Numbers

If you’ve read the SBOM for a while, you know I am borderline fanatical about small business leaders being fluent in their company’s numbers. This is the one area that can make a huge positive difference in managing your business.

If you know your numbers, and how to use them as decision tools—and have a scheduled, frequent process in place to review and discuss them with your management team and advisors—congratulations. You are exceptional.

Numbers are the language of your business. Begin learning it, so you may have frequent conversations with your business. Include your key managers and advisors in this process.

Key Ideas

  1. To produce big changes in your business results often requires relatively few changes in your management practices, processes and methods.
  2. Really “move the needle” this coming year in how you run your business and the results it generates by setting your goals, developing a written operating plan, and learning and monitoring your numbers.
  3. If you already use all three things in this section, then keep it up—and forward this to your fellow small business owners who aren’t yet breathing your rarified air.
  4. If you aren’t doing any of them, commit to taking action now. Don’t worry about being perfect in any or all of them. You won’t be. Just make a start, and keep on going.