Now that we’ve rung in the new year and the joy of all the holiday celebrations has settled, we’re now transitioning back to reality. As a startup or small business owner, this “reality” means making sure your company continues to thrive this year. You want to hit the ground running in order to see your most critical plans come to fruition.
While the best-laid plans can sometimes go sideways, you’re trying to avoid pitfalls, inefficiencies and obstacles this year. So, what can fearless leaders do to set their businesses on the right track? Below are some tips to get a head start on what 2024 may have in store.
1. Organize Your To-Do List
When you’re running a business, requests can come in from every direction. Phone calls, project meetings, and short conversations in the hall come to mind. But you probably find the bulk of your to-do list comes from digital sources like emails and texts. Keeping it all organized is some feat, especially if you don’t have someone to help you manage the flood.
Even if you do, managing requests from social media, texts, voicemails and instant messaging platforms remains a challenge. Adding solutions like Thryv Command Center to your tech stack ensures you don’t miss anything in your inbox. You can filter out the spam while streamlining client and internal messages from multiple sources. Yep, that includes asks that have been typed out hastily on Facebook Messenger and webchats.
It’s easy to organize requests by date, so you don’t have to sort through what came in first. You can also centralize transcribed versions of voicemails. That way, you’re not bouncing between channels trying to make sense of it all.
Besides using tools to organize your communications, don’t neglect to track the deliverables themselves. Project management solutions like Asana let you break down projects into discrete tasks, assign them to the right person, and monitor progress. The team-wide visibility such tools offer will enable you to promptly identify and address any obstacles to project goals. You can often find versions of these platforms tailored for small business budgets and needs.
2. Play to Your Strengths
Responses from a YouGov survey reveal small businesses can draw shoppers in with their distinctive qualities. Fifty-four percent of survey respondents said they find small businesses attractive because of their superior customer service, while 44% cited a sense of community. A separate survey from American Express echoed the importance of community, with 80% of participants saying small businesses are essential to theirs. When consumers shop small and local, it’s a way to support their city, town or neighborhood.
You can play to your small business strengths by highlighting how you provide a unique customer experience. This strategy applies whether you have a digital presence, a brick-and-mortar location, or both. Showcase your brand story with tidbits about how your startup gives back to the communities you’re based in.
The MetLife and U.S. Chamber Small Business Index indicates most small businesses do give back. Eight in 10 weave local community support into their defined mission. Emphasizing this part of your mission can heighten your appeal to your audience.
With stories about what sets your startup apart, you’ll also lay the groundwork for establishing long-term customer relationships. When individuals buy from you, they’re not just supporting your business. They’re also investing in a local cause or getting an experience they can’t from big-name alternatives.
3. Assess Your Resources
It’s hard to succeed if your resources aren’t well-matched with your plans. Say your top objective for 2024 is to grow sales by 10%. Do you have the staff to pull it off? More importantly, have you identified why you might have missed your targets in the past? Maybe you need better tools to shorten your sales cycle, enhance leads’ experience, and track why prospects aren’t converting.
If you need to bring in additional salespeople, consider the time it will take to get them up to speed. This includes acclimating your new hires, training them on new software, and experimenting with revamped processes. Implementation won’t be an overnight venture. And it may take several steps back to the drawing board to find the best strategic mix.
When you assess your resources, account for contingencies, budgets, goals, and timing. Say you’ve identified the need to onboard three new staff members. If you anticipate hiring delays, can you rely on contractors and temps until you fill the gaps? Perhaps you want to stagger your growth plans to allow for the delays. Aim for 2.5% sales growth each quarter instead of thinking you have to hit the 10% mark by March.
4. Reflect on Last Year’s Results
If you want to hit the ground running in 2024, you need to know where you’ve been. Goals and action plans come from reflection. Examine the lessons you learned last year from your struggles and achievements. And look a bit further back as well. Are there insights you gained from putting together your business strategy?
Some founders find the planning stage takes longer than anticipated. Maybe there were hurdles with ironing out the details, including the legalities. If 2023 was your first year in operation, what went as planned and what didn’t? You probably have new knowledge as a result of your experiences. So do your team members and any outside experts you consulted with.
Taking a reflective approach together will help you brainstorm potential solutions to the problems you encountered. On the flip side, you also want to acknowledge what went well and determine why it was a success. You might be able to replicate the same ideas or practices across other processes. Reflection also helps you analyze what direction you now want to go and whether the timing makes sense.
Getting Ready for 2024
Planning well for the rest of 2024 is imperative so your small business can start off on the right foot. You don’t want to find yourself halfway into the year wondering whether you’ll meet your goals. While accomplishing everything at once isn’t a realistic target, you can pull ahead with solid resources and strategies.
Centralized tools for tackling your to-do lists, marketing initiatives that emphasize small business strengths, and planning based on reflective assessments are a few examples. Know where you could stand to improve and where you’re already enjoying winning results. While a new year is bound to bring challenges you may not have seen before, you can prep your company for success. It all starts with a sensible plan to align assets with aspirations.