By Kayleen Cohen
As the confetti clears, the stress of a new year usually isn’t far behind. Another year of bookkeeping, marketing, manufacturing, fundraising, and logistical challenges stands before you, the small business owner—yay? And perhaps in the rush of the holiday season you didn’t manage to make a shiny list of New Year’s resolutions. That’s OK, because it’s not too late to set some 2022 goals.
I’ve been a small business owner for nine years, but I’ve been a to-do list, goal setting, planner junkie my entire life. Setting goals has always given me a sense of direction. For more than 15 years, my number one goal was to move to Colorado. (Consider that mission accomplished!) From there I explored a series of personal and professional development goals that eventually led to the creation of my small business. Here I hope you’ll catch some of my contagious joy for goal setting and use some of these ideas to reduce your stress as an entrepreneur and increase the profit margin of your startup.
Improve Your Professional Calendar & Scheduling System
How much work is your calendar doing for you? If it isn’t dynamically managing your daily tasks and appointments, it should be! Make 2022 the year that you put your calendar and scheduling system to work for you! Tools like Calendly make it easy to provide online scheduling functionality that consider multiple personal and professional calendars, saving you the hassle of the “when are you available?” back and forth scheduling game. In my personal experience, using Calendly removed approximately 3-5+ hours a week of scheduling related correspondence.
Commit to Call-Free Days or Blocks of Time
While we’re getting your schedule dialed for the new year, decide now to commit to specific call-free days or blocks of time throughout your week. These “focus” windows can allow you to get flow-state work done without interruptions. Map your call-free times out on your calendar so you can build your task and appointment schedule accordingly.
Make an Annual Budget for Each of Your Expense Categories
This might seem so simple, but many small business owners skip this important step in managing their finances. Start by printing your 2021 Profit & Loss Report and your 2021 Expenses by Vendor summary. This will help you get a sense of where your funds are going now. Identify categories in which you would like to reduce your expenses and make a list of action items for doing so. This could include canceling obsolete technology subscriptions or reconsidering vendors.
Properly Review & Categorize All of Your Expenses
Let me guess… You pulled the financial reports mentioned above and 10-20% of your expenses were labeled “uncategorized” or “no vendor”? Uh oh! This year, make it a goal to properly label and categorize all of your expenses. Taking these few extra seconds during the bookkeeping process will help you optimize your expense budget and provide better detailed financial reports for your review.
Create an Incentive For Yourself & Other Employees
Go ahead! You deserve it! Create a new reward or incentive system for yourself and your other employees. This could be a quarterly or annual bonus based on a percentage of your earnings or could be a celebration of a significant sales milestone or achievement. Even simple practices, like every new deal merits a pizza party, can foster employee satisfaction in the workplace.
Invest in Professional Development
Make “Professional Development” an expense category in your budget and determine how much you would like to invest in yourself and your team this year. These funds can be spent on coaching, continued education, conferences, etc. If your startup is still in the bootstrap phase, find other professionals who are willing to trade services with you.
Increase or Maximize Retirement Contributions
How much does your business contribute to employee retirement accounts? Upon reviewing your annual budget, determine if you can increase or maximize retirement contributions for yourself and your employees. If you are currently not offering any benefits, small monthly contributions are a generous step in the right direction. Bear in mind as an entrepreneur that retirement benefits must be distributed equally among employees, meaning you cannot choose to pay yourself and not others. Create a strategy that can be sustained and grow with your company.
Attend More Networking Events
Make it a goal to attend weekly, monthly, or quarterly networking events throughout Colorado. These events can be in person, online, or both. Attending these events helps expose your business to more regional entrepreneurs where you can make vital connections for sales, support, and more. Visit the Startup Colorado events calendar to find events coming up in your area. Stock up on business cards for in person networking events and follow up online with LinkedIn.
Provide Mentorship for Someone in Your Community
If you aren’t already, open yourself up to the possibility of mentoring someone in your community. Even if you are just at the beginning stages of launching your business, there is someone who could benefit from your opinions and expertise. Use resources like the Startup Colorado Network or in-person networking events to find a good mentoring match.
Do At Least One Pro Bono Project
Similarly, finding at least one opportunity to contribute a pro bono project to your community. This could be for a member of the arts, a nonprofit, or any other up and coming do-gooder that stands out. Your services will be greatly appreciated and could expose you to other members of the community who could convert into paying customers.
OK – Accountability Time!
Set a calendar reminder that repeats monthly for your 2022 business goals. Review and reward your progress and keep yourself on track for a productive and positive 2022. Do you have more ideas for goals or tips for other small business owners? Share them on the Startup Colorado Network for input from other regional entrepreneurs.
Kayleen Cohen is the founder of Mtn. Dog Media, a digital marketing agency based out of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Her passions include content creation, planners, and color-coded organizational systems. Connect on LinkedIn.