Robyn Robertson from Robertson Fox Coaching LtdWe’re getting to that time of year when people typically start to reflect on how the past 12 months have gone. Many businesses have their year-end in December. Others have until March to spend any surplus budget and start to focus on ways they might do that. And then there are those of us who simply feel that the Christmas holiday is a good time to take stock.

How far ahead do you typically plan? Is it three months, three years, seven years or even ten? If you’re required to submit business plans, then the need for long-term planning is greater. Personally though, I don’t plan much beyond the next twelve months. Why, because circumstances change; the environment in which we operate shifts and often what we want from the business changes too.

Change is happening constantly and if you want to make progress as a business owner then you will need to become change-ready so that you can respond appropriately to the evolving needs of your clients and the fluid environment we’re operating within.

To do that you need to know where this year has fallen short of your expectations and how to plug those gaps in 2014. Use the following 5 pointers as benchmarks to help you do this:

#1 – Challenge the factors that have led to your success to date: what worked initially may no longer be relevant, particularly with fluctuating market demands and changing times

#2 – Identify what you’re best at: endeavour to deliver that to the same high standard, time and time again. Find a way to delegate or simplify the rest

#3 – Develop a clear picture of success: once you know what the destination goal looks like, set your long-term goals in support of this

#4 – Understand and effectively communicate what you’re selling: this is work in progress and that’s okay. Use customer feedback to recognise whether your target audience is connecting with what you’re saying

#5 – Run a tight ship: To serve your customers well, you have to focus on quality, delivery, follow through, and follow-up. Determine how many you can service whilst maintaining your standards – and their expectations – and don’t step over that threshold.

Measuring your progress as a business owner needs to be a regular exercise and reviewing these 5 core areas, year-on-year will help your business to grow and improve. Even better, you could choose one item quarterly and take stock of your progress in that area to date. That would enable you to nip any oversights in the bud and steer you back on track if you find yourself wandering.

To grow your business means actively working on it and that includes staying prepared for change. When you master that you’ll find you can meet new business challenges head-on, reassured in the knowledge you are doing the right thing.