Second Sunday Series – Editor’s Note: This is the fifth of 12 columns on Starting a Business – one every second Sunday of the month, September through August. Last month’s column outlined key steps in the start-up process, while the previous months discussed burnout, the entrepreneur’s personal strengths and weaknesses, and self-employment as a career choice.
Welcome to the New Year! New year, new business? That sounds good.
If you’ve been following this series of second Sunday chronicles, you know that the conversation so far has been about mentally situating yourself. Now is the time to start building the business on your own. And what better task for January than setting goals for the year?
Let’s start with a quick glossary of terms:
Resolution: Something you decide to change or improve. By the way, that’s not what’s happening here, unless you decide to go from employee to freelance. You need something more powerful.
Goal: An end point, status, or achievement that you intend to achieve. This is the tool you need to start your business. But wait, there is more.
Plan: The process by which you intend to achieve your goal. Without a plan, your goal turns into a wish or even a pipe dream. It is the plan that sets the stage for achieving the goal.
Not: The actual tasks you complete as part of the plan you set out to achieve your goal. Without steps, the plan is like a plan rolled up and tucked away in a corner – interesting, but not turning into a house on its own.
Calendar: The tool you use to assign your steps to a date so that you can hold yourself accountable or troubleshoot when something stalls.
Phew. Now that we’ve covered the basics, we can take a look at the goals themselves. If you’re starting with the big one – opening a business in 2022 – you’ll want to use a backward planning process. That is, start by identifying your launch date so that you can work from there to plan the necessary steps.
One of the benefits of this process is the sense of urgency it creates. Instead of starting in January by saying, “This is the year I’m going to start a business,” and then letting the months go by, you can say, “I plan to open on July 1, so here’s what I do. must do before that date. . “
The other benefit of a backward planning process is that it helps you see your “pinch points” – those points on the calendar where you might set unrealistic expectations for your productivity. For example, if you want to open on July 1 but your daughter’s wedding is on June 15, are you really going to focus on the business start-up stages in early June? With that clarity, you can either double down earlier in the year or move the opening by a month.
If you are already halfway through your launch process, or have actually started your business, you may find that a forward-looking quarterly planning system works well for you.
In this case, the first quarter of the year could be spent confirming or fine-tuning your initial products or services, including any competitive research or material sourcing that might entail. As you gain more confidence in what you will be able to offer your customers, you can use the second quarter of the year to develop your marketing and improve your accounting systems, etc.
For either process, it helps to have a master list of general business milestones that you can edit for your own situation before you assign them to the schedule. For quick reference, you can find a basic list in the article from the second Sunday of last month (“Key Steps in the Process of Starting Your Business”).
You’ll also find dozens of startup business listings online, although you’ll also find that the content varies depending on the list provider. Those compiled by funders lean towards financial milestones, while marketing groups want to make sure you’ve done market research.
And of course, at some point you’ll want to add metrics to your annual goals, like in “Sell 100 products by August” or “$ 1,500 gross per week by September”. By the way, these metrics don’t come out of a hat – confirming if a number can be met is part of your planning process as well.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed at this point, so here’s a set of basic steps for January: choose a paper or online calendar; review general lists of trade milestones; assign two milestones or goals per month for the year, even if they are very basic.
That’s all you need to do to keep your momentum going (although it’s always good to work ahead). Then check back next month for the next second Sunday episode on Starting a Business and we’ll dive into more steps.
Amy Lindgren owns a career consulting firm in St. Paul. She can be reached at [email protected]