We’re now one month into 2019. How well are your resolutions holding up?

A new year brings opportunities to improve our businesses as much ourselves. At Caber Hill, we came up with a list of 19 items every business owner should consider checking off their list in 2019. These apply equally to the $100M business as they do the $2M business. 

1. Set Specific 1, 3, and 5-year goals

As you review last year and set the course for the year ahead, set specific, measurable objectives for your company and then break them down by business unit, manager, and/or individual contributor. Establish a longer-term vision with goals to match. Any timeframe can work, but we recommend 3- and 5-year goals.

2. Involve your team in goal setting

Give somebody a target and they’ll find a way to call it unfair. Ask them to create it, and many will be more aggressive than you’d ever expect. Your team will feel a stronger sense of ownership of the company goals that they help set.

3. Seek CFO-level guidance and implement a more strategic financial plan

Not every business needs, or can afford, a full-time CFO, but most need help with finance. There are plenty of options for engaging CFO’s on a part-time, temporary, or project basis that can help with budgets, forecasts, cost savings, growth projections, lending relationships, and general management of the increasing complexity of your growing business. Two specific areas to focus on this year:

4. Review your charts of accounts

Review how you categorize revenue and expenses to ensure they are consistent with industry best practices and allow you to quickly measure critical KPI’s. If you are going to run personal expenses through your business, make sure you can clearly separate them from legitimate business expenses when asked (e.g. by a lender, investor, or potential buyer).

5. Review any loans, credit lines, and lender relationships

As you grow, different and potentially more attractive financing options become available. At least once each year, review your existing financing sources and uses and explore more efficient alternatives.

6. Make sure you align your business life and your personal life

Entrepreneurs never truly stop thinking about work, but if work intrudes on family time shouldn’t we let our family in on what’s going on at work? Make a promise to be more open with your spouse, significant other, and/or children about your business, and consider doing the following:

7. Have your business valued and incorporate it into your financial plan

You probably have a significant percentage of your net worth tied up in your business, but do you actually know what it is worth? Pay for a business valuation performed by a disinterested third party with knowledge of your specific industry and/or company size. Then, share the valuation with your wealth advisor and any family members involved in your financial planning so that retirement and legacy decisions can incorporate your company’s worth.

8. Involve your family in long-term strategic planning

You will eventually exit your business. Do you know when and how? Do your kids want to work with you and eventually take it over? How would your spouse feel if you sold it tomorrow and retired? Have these conversations. 

9. Automate something new

Technology is advancing at a more rapid rate than most businesses. So why do we insist on doing certain things manually. Identify an inefficiency in a process and automate it. Example: do you or your employees fill out paperwork manually and then later enter it into “the system”? If the answer is yes, ask why. It’s probably not because it’s your only option. Whether you are a doctor or a landscaper, technology exists to make this a paperless process.

10. Try a new software

How do you know that your CRM, ERP, or data provider is really the best for what you do? Shop around. Worst case, you confirm that your existing software is best. Not sure you have the time or ability to do this? See below.

11. Delegate 3 tasks that you don’t need to personally handle

The only way to keep growing your business while preserving your sanity is to continually delegate responsibility to your team. Whether it is a daily task, special project, or management function, you can’t be a great CEO and they can’t grow if you don’t shift activities from you to them. Before the end of this quarter, identify three things that you don’t need to do and figure out who can handle them – even if it means an external hire.

12. Create a roadmap for key employees

Your company is only as good as your team, and your A Players will always want to take on more. Develop a roadmap with your key people, not for them, so they understand the promise offered by staying with you.

13. Develop a plan for your succession

Who will take over your business when you exit? What characteristics does your company need for this to be maximally successful? It’s never too early to develop this plan.

14. Educate your employees

Your employees want to learn but may not feel encouraged to pursue outside education. Facilitate their learning and development of new capabilities. Both you and they will be better for it.

15. Talk to a competitor

Not all competitors are evil, and business doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. Don’t agree? Fine. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Regardless of your perspective, you can learn from your competitors. You might even find that you can collaborate for mutual gain.

16. Visit more customers

In the age of chat bots, net promoter scores, and 24/7 connectivity, it’s easy to forget the value of meeting someone in person. What your customer says in a survey or email probably doesn’t tell the full story. Spending an hour at their place of work tells you more than hundreds of hours of online research ever will.

17. Meet with more suppliers

Sales reps and senior management at your vendors know more about your industry than most. Even if you’ll never buy from a certain company, you may gain valuable insights simply from meeting with them. If all they want to do is push their product, end the meeting after 10 or 15 minutes. If the conversation takes a bigger picture perspective, give them all the time you can.

18. Talk to an investment banker and a private equity investor with experience in your industry

One more perspective, this time from the people responsible for investing in your customers, suppliers, and competitors. Find out what trends they see, what businesses they value most, and if/where consolidation is occurring. These insights can help you run a better business today while making you better prepared for tomorrow.

19. Make time for you

Travel somewhere new. Explore a new hobby or reconnect with an old one. You need a break, too, and you may find that after you pour your mind into another pursuit you return to work sharper, fresher, and more productive.

And that’s our list of 19 things to do in 2019. Thanks for reading, and happy new year!

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