3 Steps to Prepare Your Business for a Stellar 2013

As we embark on 2013, I have an important question for you:

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Is your business better off today than it was a year ago?

Whether the answer is yes or no, the new year provides a fresh chapter for you to reflect on your results, mission and vision ? and what you most want to create.

With technology and market conditions changing so rapidly, it’s critical to take a deep look at your business and the results you are, or aren’t, getting. This can allow for clearer focus and refined business planning.

Here are three things to help prepare your business for a great 2013:

Review 2012

The new year is a great time to review your business’s main areas of focus. This allows you to identify opportunities for growth and make the most of them.

To do this, “Take time at the end of this year and write a list of 100 to 200 things you can remember doing [to improve your business],” said executive coach Jason Womack and the author of “Your Best Just Got Better.” “Big or little, the process of writing that many things will let you see how far you have come.”

Next, the key is not keeping your lessons learned to yourself. Share these accomplishments with others, especially seasoned business owners, to get new perspectives. This is also a great way to reconnect with your network.

“What do entrepreneurs get wrong?” Womack asked. “They forget to widen their network as their experience grows.”

When reviewing what you achieved in 2012 with other business owners in your network, ask them what they thought your biggest accomplishments of the year were as well as what they thought you could do better. Based on your discussions, pinpoint the opportunities you’d most like to spend more (or less) time on in the coming year.

Be inspired Most business owners started their company with a clear purpose. Of course, during the day-to-day of running a business, it’s easy to lose some of that passion. Although common, this can be detrimental to the long-term health of your company.

“Those late nights, those long flights and those difficult conversations with your spouse or significant other have got to matter," said Womack. “You need to constantly remember why you're in the game in the first place.”

Staying inspired is essential. It will keep you going when times get tough.

“One of the biggest threats to small-business success is an owner who gets sidetracked and loses focus and discipline,” said Barbara Findlay Schenck, author of “Small Business Marketing Kit for Dummies.” “Another threat is an owner who takes too long to notice and respond to a customer base that is losing interest and enthusiasm.”

In other words, an uninspired owner leads to an uninspired business ─ and as a result, uninspired customers. It’s critical to check in with your motivation and purpose to get reenergized and committed. This is for the good of your business and your customers. Further, if you aren’t running a business by yourself, buy-in from your team is imperative.

“Whatever vision you might have for your company, it’s important to articulate that vision and the reasoning behind it with your team,” said entrepreneur coach Bassam Tarazi and the author of “The Accountability Effect.” “You could ask each member how they might be a part of making your vision a reality.” Because an empowered staff is an inspired one ─ and that translates to employee loyalty and a better bottom line.

Let your cash register be the guide

Sometimes your best evidence of success (or failure) is in dollars and cents. But to draw the right conclusions, you have to ask the right questions and identify the appropriate metrics.

Here are some questions you can ask: What products or services sold well last year? Who were your best customers? What kind of offers or requests prompted the best results? What did you get wrong?

“Market response is the easiest way to gauge marketing effectiveness,” said Schenck. “Determine what drove last year's results and plan to do more of what worked and less of what didn't.”

If some products or services didn't do well last year, work on new ways to package those offerings differently so they'll sync with consumer interests this year.

Of course, it’s easy to let a new year slip by doing exactly what you did before, only harder and faster. However, if you don’t take a deep look at what’s working and what’s not, you could find yourself in a place next year where you’d rather not be.

In a year from now, when you look back, what do you want to see?

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