Now’s the time for reflection, planning

2009 was a tough year for most business. But now is a good time to reflect on your business’s progress over the last year and to plan how you want your business to develop in 2010.

2009 was a tough year for most business.

But now is a good time to reflect on your business’s progress over the last year and to plan how you want your business to develop in 2010.

The following suggestions are designed to help you strike a better work-life balance, so you can achieve success and satisfaction in the new year.

Return to your vision

When was the last time you “day-dreamed” about where your business is heading? Do you have a clear picture of where you’d like it — and you — to be in five years, ten years? Will you be involved at the same level? Or, as owner, will you be as active in the business as you are now? Theses are all very important questions. If you don’t know where you want to be, you’ll never get there. Your vision will fuel your multi-year business planning, and regular reviews will help to keep you on track and on task.

Set realistic goals

It’s critical that you’re honest about where you are now and then carefully plan the steps you’ll take to ensure success. Scheduling the time to set goals takes commitment. Make a New Year’s resolution that the goals you set will be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-oriented, and Time-sensitive). Develop your goals with short incremental mileposts throughout the year. Achieving small successes boosts trust and self-confidence.

Keep what’s working, stop what’s not

Take time to “rate” your clients. A and B clients are keepers; they pay on time, and refer business your way, etc. Cs require training to become Bs and Ds should be “fired.” D clients take more resources than there business is worth. The energy it takes to deal continually with complaints and delays can be directed to As and Bs. These clients will become your “raving fans.”

All suppliers or contractors aren’t going to be ideally suited to your business. If a product or a business alliance isn’t working for you, stop using it. Move on and replace it with something better.

Think opportunity

Problems are a normal part of doing business. Staff issues, customer concerns, cash flow gaps are a normal part of doing business. Re-examine past issues to evaluate which of them were actually hidden opportunities. Staff training and customer satisfaction feedback will help to develop new systems. You may consider an outside agency to do customer surveys.

Set income goals

Create a financial model for your small business. How many clients, appointments, billable hours, or contracts will it take to generate the income you want? How much of your time will be required to do that amount of work and do the marketing required to get it? How much money will it cost you in overhead, marketing costs, and administrative help? Does the model work?

Put time for you on your calendar

Visit” and make sure your large stones are on your calendar. This is probably the most important time management lesson available.

Promote your business regularly and consistently

With all the day-to-day operations, promoting your business often falls to the bottom of the priority list. No one promotion idea will work; the plan must include a combination of strategies that you can afford and implement. Two simple strategies are: a) include your business logo and contact information on everything that leaves the office: all print material, invoices, letters, faxes, email signatures; b) join a new business organization or networking group. There’s nothing like talking to other business people for new ideas, refining old ones, and making contacts.

Learn something new

What you choose to learn may be directly related to your business or completely unrelated. Learning something new will add to your skills and add a new dimension of interest to your life – another important part of achieving a healthy work-life balance. Depending on how you choose to learn, you may meet new and interesting people, who may become customers, colleagues, or friends.

How will you find the time to learn something new? By delegating, remember? There are so many things to do when you’re running a small business; it’s easy to delude ourselves that we need to do all of them. Then we wonder why we’re so tired and frazzled and have no time to do anything else! Delegation is the key to a healthy work-life balance.

Give something back to your community

Make this the year that you serve on a committee, be a mentor, volunteer, or make regular donations to the groups in your community that try to make the place you live a better place. And those that give get.

Achieving a healthy work-life balance is like maintaining a good relationship; you have to keep working on it. But if you apply these New Year’s resolutions throughout the year, you’ll ensure success.

ActionCoach is published on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month in the Business section of the Advocate. It is written by John MacKenzie, whose Red Deer business ActionCoach helps small- to medium-sized organizations in areas like succession planning, systems development, sales and marketing, and building/retaining quality teams. MacKenzie’s blog can be found at and he can be contacted by email at or by phone at 403-340-0880.

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