Small Business Rewind: Reflect and Refocus During the Holidays

The holidays offer a great opportunity to reflect on the past year’s success with your small business, and look forward so that you can refocus on the key issues that will help turn your small business startup into an even bigger success next year.

If you’re in the retailing business, or otherwise connected to satisfying customers during the feverish winter-holiday scene – get back to work! You don’t have time for dropping in on us.

But, everyone else, pull up a cozy chair, pour a cup of cocoa, and let’s talk about how to make the most of that rare season of the year, the holidays. If you’re a consultant, for instance, or you’re in a small business mid-startup, the end-of-the-year break in the pace of business can offer the single best opportunity for you to tend to what’s really important.

We’re only going to ask you to do one big thing up front, and that is that you take it seriously. Cherish this period and use it wisely, or you’ll come back from the break – and back to the grind – with nothing changed and nothing gained. Make a decision about what kind of break it’s going to be.

If what you most need is to recharge your personal batteries, that’s the right thing to do. If all you can think about is driving up into the mountains, or building that piece of furniture, or rolling around with your kids on the family-room floor, you’ve got to make constructive relaxation your priority. Your small business can just wait.

If you can’t decide quite what kind of vacation you want the holidays to be, you might want to refer to the six steps we outline for a Life Planning process to help you figure out where taking advantage of the break might fit into your overall personal goals.

If you’ve definitely been looking forward to the holiday break as a time for you to reflect on your small business, gather your thoughts, and marshal your forces for the next year, here are some ways to do that:

Ways to reflect and refocus on your small business

Take a step back: At StartupNation, we get more e-mails at the end of the year than any other time, many of them from people who are assessing themselves and their businesses. It is a great time, perhaps one of the few, for some serious consideration of where you’re headed, whether you’re in business or just hoping to be. Did you come as far as you wanted to with your company or your business idea this year? Why or why not? What should you be doing proactively now to make the year ahead better?

Choose now to strike: If you’ve been thinking about launching your own new business for what seems like forever, resolve to come to some sort of firm decision – and take your first steps – immediately. For help, check out our 10 Steps to Open for Business.

And if you own a company, the down time can be an ideal occasion for launching something new while everyone else gorges themselves on egg nog and cookies.

Make a list, check it twice: Figure out the two or three things that you and your small business did during the year that were the naughtiest, and plot to avoid them in the year ahead. And then make a similar list of the two or three of the best things you did, and scheme and determine how to make sure that you do more of them in the year ahead.

Or you can get really specific about some of the things that you must do just to keep the wheels oiled. Those might include establishing a formal tax plan, cleaning out your client list, collecting old receivables, even giving yourself a raise.

Recharge for next year: Some entrepreneurs unabashedly surge into this period all fired up to tinker or re-tool for the year ahead. And if that’s your mindset, you can really accomplish great things in just a few days. That’s the approach that Katie Delahaye Paine takes. The head of a marketing-research and software company in Durham, N.H., Katie takes an annual “re-charge time-out” between Christmas and New Year’s. She basically shuts the office down, goes “somewhere near a beach where I can run every morning,” thinks “big thoughts” and just enjoys being “entirely alone.” She reports that she goes away “totally burnt out” and returns “totally psyched and full of ideas.”

Communicate effectively: Do you receive holiday greeting letters from people that make you frown instead of grin – we surely do? The kind that have maybe no signature and no personal note and that make it absolutely clear, in case you had any doubt, that you actually aren’t very important to the sender? Don’t make the same mistake yourself. Make a fresh list of the most important people you’re working with, in any relationship, and let them know where they stand with you. During this reflective climax to the year, you might be surprised what it means to them.

Our bottom line

When you’re running or starting a business, there are just too few occasions for reflecting on your life and for deliberately acting on your small business. So don’t squander the winter holidays!

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