6 New Years Resolutions to Get Your Business & Brand Ready for 2018

New Year's resolutions are nothing new. From the Babylonians who began their new year with the returning of borrowed items to the Knights of Medieval Europe reaffirming their vows of chivalry, many cultures have an annual period of atonement, reflection, and emotional rebirth. 

Today, people tend to make resolutions to improve their personal relationships, their physical condition, and their career prospects/finances. And while the vow of "this year I'm finally going to_____________" statistically lasts only a few weeks (US News reported that 80% of resolutions are abandoned by the second week of February) there are some changes that you can make that will dramatically increase your odds of success.

Businesses and brands need times of reflection and course correction too. A time to reexamine past successes and failures. A time to reevaluate goals. A time to put new plans into action. 


1# Review the Mission Statement

The day-to-day events that effect our business make us all reactionary. Rapid growth, downsizing, personnel changes, advances in technology, crisis, and unexpected successes all alter our plans. It can be easy to be blown completely off course. This can be a bad thing, resulting in a loss of passion for our brand, a lack of direction, and damage to our business. It can also be a good thing, we may grow in ways that we never considered, our brand evolving, our business changing to meet new challenges. But without review, it can be difficult to assess the changes and either update our mission statement and continue on the new direction or course correct to get back on track.


2# Review Your Daily Activities

A lot of our day is spent on unproductive, even bad, habits. New Year's is a great time to consider how we spend our day and eliminate and/or replace the activities that aren't beneficial or enjoyable. 

In my mind, my daily schedule is efficient, minimal, and practical. The reality though is that I get distracted, bogged down with the minutia, and sometimes feel like I'm behind before my day even starts. So, its a good idea to occasionally sit down and make a list of how I actually spend my day. Then I can cut out wasted activities, better prioritize, and reorder my schedule for efficiency. 


3# Review Your Finances

Business success typically depends on the fiscal health of the company. But, especially for solo brands and small businesses, personal and business finances can become entwined making your finances murky. Businesses of all sizes might struggle with evaluating advertising and marketing returns on the investment. And of course, what you charge customers and clients can change dramatically with advances in technology, access to larger markets, and changing tastes. Are you wasting money in some areas? Have your marketing efforts been effective? Are you charging too much or to little for your services or products?

New Year's is also a great time start better book keeping. There are a lot of different programs, QuikBooks, Wave, etc. that make accounting simple. If you don't currently have a great system, its time to take control over your finances.


4# Review Your Role in Employee and Freelancer Relationships

Annual reviews of employees should be a part of your corporate policy. It allows you to have frank discussions with staff that can lead to better working relationships and clarification of expectations. However, it is also a great idea to review your role in employee relationships.  Would members of staff be better prepared for the changing economy if they had additional training or education? Would more flexible working hours be beneficial for productivity? Could your company benefit from some of the programs that subsidize the hiring of veterans, special needs people, the elderly, or those post incarceration? Reviewing employees is important, but reviewing what you, as an employer, as an executive, or as a business owner offer to employees is equally important.

Accounting, graphics, web design, public relations, IT services, legal, even sales; many companies outsource certain aspects of their business. If you are currently outsourcing, you should occasionally review both the quality of the work and the financial realities. If you aren't outsourcing, hiring freelancers to handle some aspects of your business can help you to expand and grow. By the same token, you can outgrow freelancing and consider taking some of those roles in house by hiring new employees or training existing employees for larger roles. 

A lot of people fall into the "better the devil you know" frame of mind trap, keeping unsatisfactory employees or freelancers because it seems easier then confronting the situation, terminating the relationship, and searching for someone new. But the new year is a terrific time to really think about the people with whom you essentially entrust your business and financial future. 


5# Review Your Policies

2017 has been a year of revelations. Bullying, harassment, and sexual abuse, perpetrated by those in power against their underlings, co-workers, and staff have dominated the news with high profile executives, personalities, and politicians finding their behavior under scrutiny.  Aside from the unacceptable and illegal behavior, one of the chief revelations has been just how few companies have effective (or existent) policies to protect their employees. 

Companies should review their employee manual and add or update their policies to include reporting procedures for bullying, harassment, abuse, and any other objectionable behavior. Employees feel safer (and are more productive) when there is a clear, step-by-step procedure to reporting and an understanding of how their employer is going to protect them. 

If you don't have a policy or if your current policy doesn't address what happens after reporting harassment, you should understand that failing to protect and assist an employee who is being victimized can result in a law suit against you and the company. 

You can get more information about and assistance with creating an effective employee bullying and harassment policy here.


6# Review Your Public Interactions and Perceptions

The new year is a great time to think about how you have represented your brand over the past twelve months and how you want to be perceived in the future. Have you promoted yourself effectively through the media? Has your social media been consistent, targeted, and engaging? Have you created a blog that provides information and value to readers? Have you linked positive press and videos to your website so that 3rd party info about your brand is easy to find? If you haven't promoted yourself well in 2017, now is the time to start. 

You should also review your social media and remove posts, photos, and videos that aren't in keeping with your brand.  Political, sexual, religious, or otherwise objectionable material should also be removed. Generally speaking these types of posts, unless your brand is directly related to politics, sex, etc should be avoided. No matter how passionate you are in your personal life, those types of posts are problematic for a brand, make you look unprofessional, and can result in charges of a hostile work environment. 

If your business involves dealing with the general public, this might be a great time to review your interaction protocol. Do you have a script or set of rules for staff dealing with unhappy customers? If not, it's a great time to create a script. With bad interactions, especially chat interactions going viral quickly, it simply isn't smart to leave employees without instruction for these types of situations. This can be extremely damaging to the public's perception of your brand. 

January is a great time for business reflection and planning for the year ahead. What are you going to focus on for 2018?