January - the first month of a new year and the time to create targets and resolutions - this year let's try to make them work and not end up being ones that are forgotten or have lost focus before week 3! I'm sure the majority of you have been there - "this year is different", "we're gonna focus and get there", "set targets and stick to them". If you are going to start this year as you mean to go on then it is time to get serious and set out your aims. To help, we have produced the following suggestions to help you focus and launch in to 2013!

So, what are you going to do this year? It will help by defining a starting point to focus our plan:

  • define who we are
  • define what we do
  • define what we don't do
  • define what we're good at (see bullet 2 above)
  • identify how we can keep delivering what we're good at (to new and existing customers)
  • determine whether we want/need to get good at something we are not good at
  • set targets - realistic targets based on experience not pie in the sky
  • set review dates and monitor

Let's take these one by one:

Who We Are - it is essential to know and define who you are as a business/company/provider as this will help you understand and more importantly, focus your thoughts for the remaining items. For example, we are:

  • Steve Johnson - online business provider, web designer/developer, business owner, project manager, business experience and knowledge
  • Adobe Business Catalyst (BC) Partner
  • we have experts to support:
    • Social Media
    • Graphic Design
    • Larger website projects

What We Do - again it is essential to remind yourself what it is your company/business does to help focus your plan. If you don't, then your plan and targets may wander all over the place and be too wide to monitor let alone meet! Additionally, what you do needs to be something that people actually need and hence will be willing to pay for - fairly straight forward if this is an existing business sector, more work would be needed for unique or totally new services/products. For Graphite Web Solutions:

  • we create online business websites using BC
  • we support our customers who have an online business website with us
  • we help our customers manage their business using both BC and our own knowledge/experience

What Don't We Do - as above, depending upon your company and circumstances, to ensure you set achievable targets, you need to know what it is you do but more importantly, what you don't do so you can keep the focus. Now clearly for this we don't mean listing Everything you don't do, for instance, if you are a plumber, you don't need to list we don't do joinery, brick building, web design etc (ah ha, how many would be business owners think they can do web design? Just remember, whilst you are doing web design, you are not doing your business and hence are not making money). You need to identify what it is in your field that you don't do - eg for plumbing, I am not Corgi Registered hence I don't do Gas Installations.

For Graphite:

  • we don't do non BC websites (unless we have the scope or it's for an existing client - remember our what we do, we support our customers)
  • we don't do on-going SEO (we outsource)
  • we don't do Social Media to any great depth (we outsource)
  • we don't do Drupal nor Joomla websites - we don't know these systems and don't want to learn them otherwise we will lose focus
  • we don't do graphic design of any complexity (we outsource)
  • we don't do cheap web design ;-) , we build effective websites once we understand what it is you do

What We're Good At - to sell your services or products, it is essential to define what you are good at and hence how you can bring added value to your customers so they get good value for money. How do you add value to your customers if you are selling the same items as another shop? The only way is to either sell cheaper and/or provide excellent customer service so you best be good at it. If your business involves you doing things you are not good at, then customers will soon see that and go elsewhere so define what it is you are good at. For us:

  • we are good at looking at a business from the customer's perspective
  • we are good at identifying how businesses operate
  • we are good at translating your business and processes into an online business website that helps you run your business and get paying customers
  • we are good at supporting our customers in keeping the above in mind
  • we are good at organising, reminding and keeping on top of things
  • we are loyal, reliable, open and honest

How to Keep Delivering - having defined what you are good at and hence what you should be able to make money from, you now need to ensure you have a process to keep delivering this to your customers. This process needs to cover the whole customer journey from how they first find you right through to your after care services which may simply be keeping in touch. This process needs continual monitoring to ensure every customer receives the attention you intend them to have and to monitor what you are doing so you can continue to refine, learn and adjust. And if things don't go as planned, determine what went wrong, rectify it and learn from it and watch to make sure it doesn't occur again.

Do You Need to Add to Your Skills - if at any time you identify a gap in your skills, knowledge or service provision, you need to determine whether this is essential, desireable or a nice to have. Our biggest lesson when we started in the web design business was trying to do absolutely everything ourselves - after all if we do it all we get the full payment. However, individually, you only have the scope to be an expert in a limited area as you don't want to be a 'jack of all trades, master of none' otherwise your customers will expect too much and then complain when you can't deliver. Once you identify a gap that you need to fill, plan how you will achieve it - training course, online learning, qualification, practice etc then set a date to complete it and put it in your calendar.

Set Realistic Targets - there is no point setting a target of making your first million in 6 months if you are starting out in business unless the market you are in allows it. Additionally, setting a target of earning as much as you can is pointless too as you will achieve it easily, it isn't a target as by the end of the year you will have earned as much as you could - because you did! Before you set your target there are a few areas to consider:

  • your business costs - how much it costs you to run your business
  • your living costs - how much you need to earn to continue to survive
  • your profit - add the 2 above and then multiply by a suitable profit margin to cover emergencies, grow your business and make your life better
  • divide your total by 4 to set quarterly targets

Now take what you do and how you earn from it to determine a plan of how to achieve your targets. This plan needs to be broken down into number of customers, products sold, services sold, new customers, existing contracts and mapped into your annual plan. If there is a gap from what you need to what you plan to achieve something needs to change or you will go out of business unless you are on the right side of the calculation!

Set Review Dates and Monitor - now your hard work is done, the final thing you need to do is set review dates and monitor them - Set Reminders! When you do this, rather than write 'review targets' each month on your calendar, write 'review Feb targets - see file febtargets.xls'. Having worked out your targets in the above process, take the time to write them down and produce an easy way to monitor them so in 6 months time, it is easy to look at what you have achieved against what you planned rather than try to remember what the targets were and where you saved them!

We hope the above is helpful to you in some way and that 2013 is a bumper year for you!



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