It’s that time of year again: Time for new year’s resolutions. Personal resolutions can be tough to keep — lose those pounds or quit smoking — but those of the small business variety can be a whole lot easier and bring you greater satisfaction and success by year’s end.
Seven resolutions to help you succeed in 2018:
1. Find — and then actually speak with! — a good accountant. With the new tax bill just passed, your business finances just got a whole lot more complicated. Most rules went into effect Jan. 1, so you need to know about them now. One feature of the tax bill is the new deduction for a portion of “pass-through” income. Since small businesses overwhelmingly operate on a “pass-through” basis, this may apply to you. But the pass-through rules have more contortions than a Cirque de Soleil performer, so you need professional help. While you’re talking to an accountant, ask for advice to start preparing for your retirement, too.
Ask your lawyer, banker, or another small business owner for a referral to a CPA (not just a tax preparer) who specializes in small businesses, ideally ones like yours.
2. Focus. As a small business owner, you’re pulled in many different directions in the course of an hour, let alone a day, week or year. To make headway on a project — and to think clearly and deeply about your business — you need some dedicated time to focus on just one important thing. Carve out time in your day, or your week, where you focus on dealing with just that one thing. No email. No texts. No social media. No interruptions. Just that one thing. Focus.
3. Contain clutter. Focus is hard when you’re surrounded by piles of paper and junk. Go through your piles of stuff. As you pick up each item, ask yourself: “Is this something I truly need?” If it is, decide where to put it, and put it there. If not, toss it immediately. Consolidate and organize those folders and files cluttering your computer’s desktop as well. And make sure they’re backed up or stored in the cloud. Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive are all good storage options.
4. Go on a digital diet. I promise this is the only diet I’ll recommend in this list. Of course, you can’t work without a computer, tablet and smartphone. But do unplug on a regular basis and look up from screens to gain a fresh perspective. You’ll accomplish more — and feel less scattered — if you’re not checking your email every 15 minutes. Use website-blocking apps like Self Control and Freedom if your willpower could use a little boost.
5. Automate what you can. Stop doing payroll by hand and switch to an online payroll service, like Intuit Online Payroll, Square Payroll, or Wave Payroll. Logging onto Twitter every time you tweet? Manage and schedule your social media with Buffer or Hootsuite. Use an email newsletter platform like MailChimp or ConstantContact or Emma to create automated campaigns that send out a welcome email to new subscribers, thank customers for purchases or notify them when they abandon their online shopping cart.
6. Get out of launch mode and actually launch. Have you been thinking about launching a new product or service? Are you always talking about starting your small business but haven’t gotten off the ground? Let’s make it happen in 2018. Develop a plan for your “MVP” — minimal viable product — the least you have to do to give it a meaningful try. Want to open a restaurant? Start with a popup food stall, perhaps at a street fair, or even try doing a bit of personal catering. Just do it.
7. Develop a business plan. In many ways, this is the most important. You don’t need a polished, written document, but you do need to sit down and develop a plan for 2018. Examine what’s going on in your business, in your industry, with your market. What do you need to change? To jettison? To embrace? The new year is the perfect time to do this.