New year, same to-do list. Although we replace our calendars, the concerns of small business owners are very much the same year to year: Make sure your business is cash flow positive, and that you’re generating enough revenue to stay that way. That’s not going to change with the dawn of this new year, sure. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t bring a fresh outlook. That part’s up to you.
This year, consider setting the bar higher for yourself with better goals and a few big-picture changes. Not only will your business targets stay top of mind, but you will also begin setting yourself up for better success down the line.
Set real goals.
This might seem trite, or at least tired. But that’s only if you make it so.
This year, when you’re looking at your numbers and deciding what direction to take, consider putting in place a system of goals like OKRs—“objectives and key results”—that are supposed to be, in part, unattainable.
These highly measurable, methodical goals are supposed to be so challenging that you’re expected to miss about a third of them. If you’re hitting every single one of your goals, then they’re not hard enough. Push yourself for major, quantifiable achievement to see real growth and challenge yourself. Major companies, including Google, use these, and you can, too.
Expand your network.
For female entrepreneurs especially, networking is paramount to success. Women need to support each other in a world in which men dominate the top ranks of companies and organizations. Create an item on your checklist to expand your professional networking circle by doing one—or more!—of the following:
- Join a local trade association
- Join an industry-specific group
- Look for a local female entrepreneur meetup
- Attend a conference or workshop for female entrepreneurship
- Start your own networking coffee group
If you’re unsure of where to start, the SBA offers a number of internal organizations aimed at helping women entrepreneurs. The Office Of Women’s Business Ownership offers training, counseling, and access to credit and funding, especially for economically disadvantaged women.
These are, of course, only ideas to get the wheels turning. If you have your own idea or can think of another opportunity, pursue it!
Advocate for yourself.
Can you think of a situation in either your business or personal life in which you wish you’d spoken up more to get your desired outcome? If you can’t, you’re probably not thinking hard enough. It’s an unfortunate truth that women don’t have nearly the resources that men do in business—and that goes even more for women of color.
If you’d like to apply for a grant but aren’t sure you should, submit your application. If you aren’t sure that you’re qualified for business funding, apply (especially because, statistically, women apply for funding less than men). And if you’d like to find a mentor but you’re shy, push yourself.
You’ll be glad you did, and you will reap the rewards. For instance, women are statistically more likely to see higher returns from mentorship than men so if you haven’t found a mentor, this is the year you should.
Get an outside perspective.
Even the most experienced businesswomen need help seeing things that they simply can’t. Your business is your life, your baby, your everything. There’s nothing wrong with you if you’re too “in” it to see flaws. It’s just the nature of how perspective works.
The savvy choice, however, is making a commitment to having someone help you take the step back that you can’t yourself. This year, ask for outside perspective on a piece of your company—your business plan, your financials, a new product launch—if not the entire thing. Perhaps you’ll be able to miss an obvious oversight or be turned onto a market nuance that only an experienced entrepreneur could add.
Either way, the advice could change the trajectory of your business this year.
As you’ve probably figured out by now, this list is as much about growing your business as it is about growing yourself. And that makes a lot of sense. As a female entrepreneur, your business is you and you are your business (within reason, of course—don’t forget to disconnect a little!). The more you know and develop as an individual, the more you’ll be able to strategically do the same to the company that you’re building, no matter the stage you’re in.
With that in mind, when the clock strikes midnight to mark the New Year, kick those business resolutions into high gear. When you look back at all you’ve accomplished, you’ll find much to be proud of—from all angles.
This guest post was authored by Meredith Wood.
Meredith Wood is the Editor-in-Chief at Fundera, an online marketplace for small business loans that matches business owners with the best funding providers for their business. Specializing in financial advice for small business owners, Meredith is a current and past contributor to Yahoo!, Amex OPEN Forum, Fox Business, SCORE, AllBusiness and more.