A New Year, A New Review

Written by: Brady Drake
Wendy Klug, Director

By Wendy Klug, Director of the Veterans Business Outreach Center of the Dakotas (VBOC)

About the VBOC

The Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) program is designed to provide entrepreneurial development services such as business training, counseling and resource partner referrals to transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard and Reserve members and military spouses interested in starting or growing a small business. U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has 22 organizations participating in this cooperative agreement and serving as VBOCs.

Happy New Year. You made it! We hope that it has been a prosperous one for your company and that you are excited about 2023. Looking back at 2022, it was another wild ride for many small businesses. Although the pandemic came with its own challenges like finding and retaining employees, implementing new business methods or battling the supply chain, we want to recognize the resiliency of small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs.

It’s January 2023 and we want to encourage you and your small business to take a brief moment to reflect on the good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between. Business owners often review their financials or pay their taxes and then just continue with their normal schedule. They get into a rhythm of putting their nose to the grindstone, and they often forget to stop and smell the roses! This is your opportunity to see the greatness that your business brings to your customers and the community. I know we are North Dakota nice and don’t like to talk about ourselves, but this is your time to do so. Toot your own horn and take time to celebrate your success!

Many of the challenges we saw in 2022 forced owners to bring on new strategies and styles for their small businesses. As 2023 begins, the small business world is going to look like it never has before. Now is a great time to look at your business and analyze what is working, what isn’t and what you may need to change to keep up in 2023. We are going to touch on the importance of having a business plan and why you should review it at least twice a year. Additionally, we are going to look at other items of your business that are equally important to review. Let’s jump in!

Business plans are integral for success. They help you set clear goals and guidelines for how you will start and manage your business. A business plan is composed of key elements including financial matters, management structure, human resource planning, technology, marketing and more. This is your road map for how to structure, run and grow your business. Hence the importance of reviewing and updating it several times a year. A business plan should never be concrete or left behind. Don’t lose your roadmap to success!

When you revisit your business plan at least a couple of times a year, save the old file and replace it with a new file for that year’s updated plan. This will also allow you to have documentation of financials and best practices from year to year. It can become your business diary. It may just seem like another irrelevant task to add to your to-do list, but you will be thankful when you refer back to it and find information that is up to date and in line with the changing goals of your organization.

If you have never written a business plan, there’s no greater time to get started than right now! Writing a business plan can seem like a daunting experience, but there are people and resources (like VBOC of the Dakotas) that are here to assist you. Contact us today and we will get you started on a plan for entrepreneurial success!

Now that we have covered a little bit about the importance of creating a business plan and why you need to revise it and use it every year, let’s dive into some other items that you should be looking at that are not necessarily outlined in your business plan.

This list isn’t going to include your normal review items such as looking at your bank account statements, prepping for taxes, or reviewing your business plan. While those items are just as important, we would like to talk more about reviewing your business in a way you may have never done before.

We always like to say that change is going to happen no matter what, but growth is optional! Everything that happens within your business is a learning opportunity, and it’s up to you to take the time to reflect on the past failures and successes of your business. Sometimes we are so focused on the everyday grind we forget to take a break and reflect on what’s actually going on in the business. Here is your chance to take a moment to step back and view a snapshot of this past year. Let’s take a look at the five important “other” items to review:

1. Your Biggest Accomplishments: It is very important for business owners to interpret the significance of their achievements. This may seem meaningless to some, but it is an important and valid activity that can boost the confidence in yourself, your business and your employees. What did you achieve this year and what were the strategies you and your team put into place to attain these achievements? Make a list of these successes so that you can look back and see what they were. Before the year runs out, take the time to note your achievements and celebrate these accomplishments with your employees, stakeholders, customers and clients. It is a great way to build team spirit, increase morale, and keep employees engaged and ready to take on the tasks for the coming year. Here is a great question to ask yourself: “What steps can we take to ensure we create similar or enhanced positive experiences for our customers and clients this coming year?”

2. Your Biggest Disappointments: We understand that business ownership isn’t all fun and games. Often, for a business to become successful, it must stumble a few times. The biggest challenge is learning from your mistakes and getting back up on your feet again. Think back…what were some of your biggest disappointments and why didn’t they go as planned? Is there something you can do to ensure that this will not happen again or is the result out of your hands? What steps can we take to avoid the negative experiences our customers had this year? After you identify these obstacles, you can make an action plan for the year 2023.

3. Your Customers: If you don’t have customers you will not generate sales. And if you don’t have sales, your company isn’t going to make money to pay the bills. So, how do you ensure that you are taking care of your customers? In order to tend to your customers properly you should focus on your messaging to them. Instead of talking about your business, try sharing how your product or service will better the customer’s life. What problem are you solving for them? You also need to make sure you are providing them with the best product or service possible. Your competition AND customer base can change every year, so you will need to complete a market analysis to help give your company the best possible chance at making good business decisions. Lastly, make sure it is convenient for the customer to find you and purchase your product or service. This boils down to marketing!

4. Your Year In Review: At this point, you should have reviewed your business plan, accomplishments, disappointments and customers. So, what’s next? We are going to guess that there are a few things sitting on the top of your brain that you are thinking about for your business that we have not listed. This is your chance to write those down. Part of this review process is allowing yourself time to brainstorm, too. Find a whiteboard, sticky note or napkin and scribble those ideas down!

5. Your Goals: Now, look into the future. What goals have you met? What goals have you slipped up on? Where do you want to see growth and improvement? Create goals around these ideas and place them into your business plan for 2023. There are no rules as to which concepts you have to work on. Some can be concrete like increasing sales, but some should also revolve around customers and your employees. It takes a balance of both to keep a business running smoothly.

Now that you understand how to review your business for 2022, what’s next? This is the toughest part of all… EXECUTION! Rip the pages out of this magazine and put them up on your office wall to help you remember to complete this review.

After looking at these items we listed above, along with your business plan, you probably have a thousand ideas running through your head on where to start. Grab some colored sheets of paper or a pack of Post-It notes and start writing down all your ideas. We always suggest using one sticky note per idea and then using these to cover your whiteboard, office wall or mirror. Once you have a ton of notes covering your canvas of choice (or enough that you feel you have all your thoughts on paper), start categorizing them into sections and start prioritizing!

A review can be messy, and it can often feel overwhelming. To some degree, it should. This exercise will give you some extra pep in your step to start the 2023 year off strong!

If you are feeling apprehensive about handling this on your own or would like more personal assistance on this journey, we encourage you to reach out to VBOC of the Dakotas or one of the many other SBA resource partners. Contact us today to get started!

VBOC of the Dakotas

4200 James Ray Dr, Grand Forks, ND 58201

Visit the VBOC website: und.edu/dakotasvboc

Phone: 701-738-4850

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Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.