Whether it’s saving more money, eating healthier or spending more time with family, now is a time for making changes to improve upon our happiness. This applies to businesses too.
As we settle into 2015, it’s the perfect time for small-business owners to reevalute old processes and implement new ideas for a happier and more productive year ahead. Here are four goals that every small business owner should set this year:
1. Focus on your employees
Focus on taking better care of your employees for the year ahead. Keeping employees happy at your company is not only important financially, but it also influences overall office morale. If your employees enjoy coming to work, they’ll be more productive, and that attitude is contagious.
Ask your employees where they see themselves several years down the road and do what you can to accommodate their desires and goals. Maybe you need to rearrange job titles or project assignments. Additionally, reevalute your office culture. Look into offering occasional happy hours or team-building activities so your employees can get to know each other better on a personal level.
If you have working parents at your company, consider offering more flexible hours or bring-your-child-to-work policies. Lastly, consider offering or increasing other benefits such as health insurance, 401k plans or even gym memberships.
At Palo Alto Software, we subsidize gym memberships and pay more of the monthly fee if the employee goes more often. We want to encourage our employees to take advantage of the benefit, and work out so that they stay healthy and happy. Try to think outside the box and offer employee perks that really make a difference to the health and happiness of your employees.
2. Talk to your customers more
Customer needs and wants continuously change over time. Your company’s product or service might be on target right now in terms of customer demand, but don’t get too comfortable. This year, make it a goal to talk to more customers. Whether it’s one-on-one conversations, focus groups or surveys, try to get a better understanding of where the customer mindset will be in the next year.
Once you’ve taken the time to understand your customers better, reevalute your product or service. Maybe it’s time to make a few small changes to stay ahead of your customer demand. Consider testing new products or services in addition to those that are already working. Maybe offer discounts to get customers to try something new.
Don’t make extreme pivots that will take your business off track. Make sure you’re still able to focus on your core offerings that make your business successful.
Think about exposing more of your employees to customer interactions. At Palo Alto Software we have our executive team and marketing teams periodically jump in and answer customer calls and emails. By interacting with customers on a service level we learn first hand about problems, as well as understand customer concerns and objections to buying our products and services. We can then change how we market and sell, as well as how we support customers in ways that help our customer-service team, and also benefit all of our customers.
3. Evaluate your stress levels
As business owners, we’re always on the go. We rarely work “regular” nine to five hours, and have poured our heart and soul into our companies. But, this constant work mindset can have a negative effect on your personal well-being over time. Evaluate your stress level and consider personal initiatives to make sure that you’ll still enjoy running your business several years down the road.
It’s easy to want to please everyone, but sometimes it’s important to take some time to yourself. Mark off one to two hours a day on your calendar for “planned work time” and stick to it. Don’t schedule any meetings or calls during this time. This gives you a few hours a day to clear your mind and focus on tasks you may have put off in order to help others. Other routines such as lunchtime walks, morning workouts or completely disconnecting for several hours each night can also help you rejuvenate.
As a business owner, even when you are “not working” your mind is still working. By taking time to work out, spend time with your family and making sure you do not burn out, you will start to notice that sometimes you solve your toughest problems on that morning run, or while lying in bed with your 2-year-old as she falls asleep at night.
4. Plan ahead financially
Of course, it’s always important to plan financially for the year ahead. Without a solid plan that includes a budget, forecast and goals, it’s difficult to increase sales and revenue over time. Determine where you see your business in six months, one year and three years down the road, and set benchmarks along the way that you need to meet in order to achieve these goals.
Once you have a plan in place, be sure to constantly track your progress. Monitoring key performance indicators daily will help you understand if your financials are on track. If you’re consistently meeting your goals, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that everything is working well. If you’re not meeting goals, constant tracking will help you catch it soon enough to make changes or pivots before your business heads too far off course.
As a business owner, it’s easy to get caught up in the daily operations and tasks that keep your company running. Take some time to reevaluate your processes and consider changing the status quo. Make resolutions that you can keep and are right for you. A few small changes can really go a long way when it comes to happiness and productivity in the year ahead.