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3 Key Milestones to Try to Hit in Your Business This Year

3 Key Milestones to Try to Hit in Your Business This Year

There’s a saying in martial arts training: “Every day you’re either one step closer to black belt, or one step closer to quitting.” It’s the same in small business ownership. Every day you’re either one step closer to your next big goal, or you’re one step closer to shutting your doors forever.

Milestones, goals and benchmarks are vital to business success because they keep things growing and dynamic. Less measurably but equally important, they also keep you and your staff excited about what’s happening in the company. That said, it can be easy to become so caught up in the day-to-day operations and drama of a successful business that you forget about goals and focus only on what’s actually happening. Here are three important milestones you should keep your eye on in the coming year:

#1: Corner Your Next Big Opportunity

Instead of making great things happen, many small business owners are stuck in an “if only” mode. Combat this by identifying the One Big Thing that would move your company to its next level of success. This might be a single goal, or part of a process that will take years to complete. Whichever it is, focus on a goal that you can complete within a year. To help find your next big opportunity, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is there a liability or commitment that is preventing forward progress?
  • Does your company need new equipment, new online resources or a new space to compete at the next level?
  • Is there a market you want to break into?
  • Would adding a new line of products or services set you up for success?
  • Do you need to make serious changes to your company culture?

Use those questions to identify exactly what must change, then express that change in terms of a goal with a timeline and monthly benchmarks. All that’s left after that is to make a plan to achieve those benchmarks.

#2: Double Your Budget Surplus

Businesses are only successful when they make a profit. This is true even if your company is more focused on making a living for your employees and serving the local community. Making a profit means bringing in more money than you spend. Aim to double the size of that budget surplus by the end of the year by attaching specific goals and benchmarks to:

  • Cutting unnecessary expenses
  • Streamlining operations to reduce wasted time and materials
  • Increasing income from each sale or client
  • Expanding into new opportunities or markets
  • Improving your lead-to-sales metrics
  • Generating more referral business and repeat customers

Most small businesses run with a fairly small budget surplus – one you can double with only moderate improvements across a couple of these metrics. If your budget surplus is larger, say in five figures or more, congratulations! You’re doing well, but still aim to add 50 percent to that surplus over the next year.

#3:  Kill Your Top Time Waster

Almost every small business owner lists “time” as her most precious, and most frequently short, resource. Wrangling your own time is a huge project that you’ll never perfect 100 percent, but this year aim to identify and eliminate the factor in your life that takes up the most time and results in the least return. Set up the following benchmarks this year in order to meet your milestone by November and celebrate during the holidays:

  • Track your time for a week, noting what you did and what you accomplished every 30 minutes or so.
  • Tally your tracking in categories by task, for example marketing work, admin duties, cleaning, employee training, employee problems, client service, business growth.
  • Break down your top three time-consuming tasks into subcategories. For example, employee problems would get broken down by employee name. Business growth would get broken down by individual project.
  • Rank the subcategories in order, from most time-consuming to least time-consuming.
  • Look at the top ten subcategories from all categories. Cross out any that represented a one-time emergency, and any that inarguably provide enough profit that the effort is worth it.
  • Of the top three subcategories remaining, choose the one you hate doing the most. Even if it takes less time than the others, the fact that you hate it means it saps extra energy as well as time.
  • Develop a plan to eliminate or delegate everything related to that subcategory.
  • Work that plan.

It might help to do the same thing with factors in your personal life that drain your energy. Work-life balance is all well and good, but pretending one doesn’t affect the other does neither part of your life any good.

All this said, there’s nothing wrong with maintaining the status quo in a business you’re happy with. Even in those cases, though, you can tweak these benchmarks to focus on the quality of your operations, customer service and personal lifestyle rather than upping the quantity.

What are your biggest goals for the coming year? What do you see as the chief obstacles to accomplishing them? Tell the community about what’s on your mind, or speak your mind to support your fellow members of the Kabbage community.

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Kabbage Team

Kabbage is here not only to provide access to the small business funding you need, but to also help you grow your business through free marketing tips, webinars, tools and more. Is there something you'd like us to cover or want to get your small business featured on our blog? Send us a note at content@kabbage.com.