Here we are approximately halfway through the year for those businesses that adhere to a calendar year for business planning. The summer is upon us and for some businesses, this is the time when they take stock of where they are versus where they expected (hoped?) to be by now. Sadly, a good number of entrepreneurs will shake their head and wonder, “where did the first half of the year go?” And, then, they will ruefully admit to themselves that they are nowhere close to accomplishing what they had established as their objectives for the year.
All is Not Lost
Of course, while half of the year may be gone, that does not mean that the entire year can be dismissed or that business owners need to wait until next year to execute what they had planned to do this year. Below are some recommendations that can help entrepreneurs salvage a poor start to the year, or help extend the strong beginning to the year that may be showing signs of waning:
- Prioritize Goals – rather than chase numerous outcomes, only to fail to reach any of them or maximize results in any one goal – choose a select few goals to focus your attention (three would be the maximum). Choose true business building initiatives that will contribute to success and are worth the effort to pursue.
- Create intermediate goals – it can be rather daunting to try to capture the entire year’s goal in one fell swoop. Rather, break the major goal into components or timed sections (quarter/month/week). That way, you can both track progress, but also feel a sense of accomplishment and reward as you move toward the larger goal.
- Have concrete measurements – rather than just establish as a goal, “increase sales” or “decrease bad debt” or other amorphous target, be very specific in how the goal will be assessed or evaluated (increase margin by 5%, reduce absenteeism by 3% by start of 4th quarter, etc.).
- Collaborate with others – whether it be employees, vendors, customers, or others familiar with the business, rely on others to provide perspective, assistance, ideas, referrals, etc. No one person can have a monopoly on the best ideas or the best practices. Sometimes, stepping out of the conventions common to your business and observing or learning from those in difference businesses can spark an innovative idea or introduce a method that would not have ordinarily occurred to the business owner.
- Manage yourself and your time – many business professionals have fallen prey to the evil email inbox. The email application allows for constant and ongoing communication, but it comes at the expense of distracting the recipient from what may be far more critical. The email system does not distinguish between what is “urgent” and “important” nearly as consistently as one’s own calendar. If you have to choose, rely on the calendar to guide your behavior. What do you want to accomplish? By when? What tasks will be required to initiate that? Who else has to be involved? Etc. Responding to emails as a higher priority than managing one’s pre-selected goals and objectives will rarely lead to success. Allow yourself a block of time to respond to emails (early in the morning, at lunch time, end of day) – and then turn it off. It is far too distracting to have the application open and teasing the recipient to engage with it (the same goes for text messages!).
Lastly, the piece of advice that I would offer to entrepreneurs is this – “exhale – you control you and therefore, you control the business – and not the other way around.” You may feel some discomfort initially, however, you have climbed far steeper hills than this, and done so successfully.