While the holiday season is a hectic time for small business owners, I find momentary comfort in the proximity of the new year. The opportunity for a fresh start helps propel me through the hustle and bustle of holiday markets and family events. If I keep my eye on the faint glimmer of 2019 on the horizon, I can survive the last few weeks of retail madness.

Perhaps not everyone shares the same affinity for the start of a new calendar year, though. I’m sure for many the additional tally mark of another trip around the sun is dread-inducing. But personally, I find it as satisfying as checking an item off my to-do list.

As a holiday gift, I’d like to share my excitement for the new year and some tips for stepping into 2019 on the right foot. It’s the perfect time to reflect, dream, and strategize. Take advantage of the opportunity for a fresh start – it only comes around every 12 months!

Hindsight is 20/20

Before you start your 2019 vision board, set aside time to look back on the past year. Take stock of your accomplishments and areas where you may have fallen short. Ask yourself tough questions and answer honestly.

One way to quantify successes and failures is by looking closely at your financials for the year. What story do the numbers tell? Is your new flavor of jam a hit at the farmers’ market? Are your market days busy enough to require the additional employee you brought on? Is your CSA program worth continuing? Many of your questions can be answered with a look at your P&L sheet.

Though numbers are important, sometimes they don’t show the whole picture. Weekday markets may not be as lucrative, but they’re a great opportunity to see your farmers’ market friends and build those relationships with local shoppers. On the other hand, special events can be profitable, but are they worth the weeks of hard work it takes to prepare? When identifying what worked and what didn’t, you should also consider what aspects of your business dealings you enjoy.

Lastly, reflect on areas of your business that you may not have hit the mark on this year, but can master next year. Maybe it’s time to try something new, or just try a little harder. Focus on areas where you can implement incremental change. Small shifts can deliver big improvements.

Dream big and small

Once you have an objective view of the year you just completed, it’s time to look towards the future. Make a list of goals for the next year. Set an intention for what you’d like to accomplish, no aspiration is too ambitious or too trivial.

I like to organize my annual goals in order of complexity. I start with little things I know I can accomplish. One of my simple goals for 2019 is finding a new table cloth for my farmers’ market display. I can easily accomplish this goal in a single afternoon! Other small goals may be cleaning out your work truck, answering those lingering emails in your inbox, or finally updating the contact information on your website.

Next, I add bigger goals that may take more brain power or dedication. This year I aim to keep better financial records. This goal isn’t hard per se, but it will require ongoing work and establishing better bookkeeping habits. Other mid-sized goals might include revving up your social media presence, launching a monthly e-newsletter, or actively pursuing new wholesale accounts.

I finish my list with the most ambitious goals for the year. These goals require more time, capital, and strategy. Whether you want to hire a new employee, add another market to your weekly schedule, launch a new product, or (*gasp!*) go on a vacation, you can do it if you set your mind to it and plan ahead!

Plan to succeed

The final step to prepare for the new year is to develop a strategy for accomplishing your goals. For most small businesses, goals are often linked to profits and retained earnings. If this is the case, your strategy may come in the form of a budget, reducing your food costs, or re-bidding services like insurance and utilities. No one plans to fail, they simply fail to plan!

As you develop your strategy for accomplishing your 2019 goals, don’t be shy to ask for help if you need it. There are numerous affordable resources that can assist you in writing a business plan or creating a realistic budget. Check out your local Small Business Development Center, register for an educational conference, or invest in an online course from an expert. You don’t have to do it alone.

New Year’s Resolutions are trite, but setting goals for your business isn’t. Don’t let the year end without pausing for a moment to revel in your successes and dream about the future. Now’s your chance to ensure that 2019 is your best year yet!

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