If you are anything like me, you spend the final month of the year hunched over spreadsheets and calculators planning and forecasting for the year ahead. Business planning and setting goals are a crucial part of running a successful business in the new year. Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered! Below are 9 must-have activities for a successful business in 2024 designed to help you tackle all the planning and preparation for the upcoming year. We recommend working through one activity a day to keep you inspired with a fresh perspective. By the end of the year, you’ll be ready to conquer 2024 like a boss!
Activity 1: Build out a monthly budget:
This is a MUST to get yourself set up properly for the coming year. It takes some work, but trust me, knowing what you need to make each month and how many clients you need to book is a powerful thing. Pull all your household expenses together- everything from groceries to gas, mortgage to utilities- and add them together to get your total monthly expenses. Then, deduct any income (spousal income, child support, etc.) that you receive each month from the total. This will give you a target sales number for what you need to make with your business each month. Having this information is powerful and helps you understand how to price yourself and how many clients you need to book each month.
Activity 2: Review the lessons you learned in 2023
Take a look back at 2023 and complete a lessons-learned exercise. This isn’t hard to do and is great for building the foundation for your upcoming year’s goals. Ask yourselves the following questions:
- What went really well in 2023?
- What do you feel your biggest successes were?
- What are your clear strengths in running your business?
- What did you provide your clients this year that was unique?
- What didn’t go well in 2023?
- Where did you struggle and feel like you underperformed?
- What gaps do you have in your skill set that you need help with in 2024?
- What are the areas you want to improve on with the service you provide your clients?
The rules of doing a lessons-learned exercise are simple. The first is to be honest with yourself. It’s okay to “toot your own horn” and boast a bit about what you do really well. It’s also okay to admit when you are in over your head or lack skills. Only your eyes need to see this, so make sure you write down everything. You will quickly see some patterns of where you want to stretch and grow next year and where you need some help. Compile your answers together with similar “themes” to keep your thoughts organized.
Activity 3: Define your 2024 business goals
After the lessons-learned exercise, you probably see some pretty obvious things that you want to focus on in 2024. When it comes to reviewing your strengths, let these be your guide on where you want to take your business in the future. These areas where you thrive are the foundational pieces that should drive the next generation of your business. Set 3-4 Business Goals that will help you grow and drive your business to where you want to take it.
Now on the flip side, you probably had some pain points last year that you want to address as well. The areas where you struggled last year set the foundation for the areas you want to improve. Set goals on how you plan to fix these areas to help you thrive in your business or perhaps let go of the tasks that bog you down- even if it’s just 2-3 things.
Activity 4: Create a high-level marketing plan:
Marketing is a hot topic and as a business owner, this is one of the most important areas where I focus my time. Take a look at 3 months at a time and start to brainstorm ideas and activities that you plan on doing to drive clients to your business. Remember, your February plan should be feeding March and April (not February). If you are trying to market for activities in the current month you are behind the ball.
Activity 5: Update your website
Websites are a “must” tool for showcasing your services AND communicating your brand. Websites give you the opportunity to engage your potential clients and share what is unique about you. Make sure you take the time to update your website on a regular basis. Add fresh photos, place fresh content on the front page, and make sure all your pricing and information are current and relative.
Activity 6: Define your ideal client
In order for you to run a successful business, you must know who is your ideal client. Below are several characteristics you can use to drill down and define your ideal client. Thinking through each of these will give you valuable insight on how to reach and market to the clients you want to attract to your business.
Demographic characteristics: These are identifying factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, marital status, family size, and stage of life. Identifying these demographic characteristics can help you more specifically address the needs of your target market and help you understand their issues, priorities, preferences, and usage patterns.
Socioeconomic characteristics: Household income and related variables, such as level of education, social status and occupation, can also influence potential clients in terms of the way they make decisions about your services, what type of information they want, and how they evaluate their options. They can also shape whether people select your business based on cost, value or quality and whether or not they can afford your services.
Geographic characteristics: Knowing where your potential clients live, work, shop, attend school and engage in recreational activities can help you identify effective ways to reach them. Defining the geographic area (e.g., county, city, neighborhood, zip code) allows you to identify the marketing opportunities and communication channels available and focus your promotional efforts in those areas.
Psychographic characteristics: How people perceive you and the services you offer and the people who seek those services has an important bearing on how you market your business. What your target clientele values (e.g., positive relationships, achievement, independence, personal growth and development, status) will influence the type of communications they attend to and the way they respond to your marketing efforts.
Service-related characteristics: Understanding when and under what circumstances prospective clients are looking to you for your services will inform your marketing efforts. Similarly, factors such as how your target clientele finds out about available services, how well informed they are, who influences their decisions and choices, and who the typical referral sources are also have important implications for how you communicate with them.
Understanding each of these characteristics will help make your marketing efforts more effective and help you drive business to the right clients. Take the time to define this for your business- you’ll thank me in the long run!
Activity 7: Update your pricing
Pricing is by far the toughest part of being a business owner. We fuss over pricing all the time and it’s so hard to know exactly where you should be. In my experience pricing is a journey- one every entrepreneur needs to make, learn from, and understand. Pricing is a combination of experience level, cost of goods, target/market clients, confidence, and what you need to make. There are several data points that can take the guess work out of pricing and help you land at a number that you know will be profitable for your business.
Refer back to your monthly budget: The only way you understand how to price yourself is to know how much you need to make. When updating your pricing, take into consideration your monthly income needs to ensure you have enough to cover your cost of living.
Know your Cost of Goods: It’s important to know the cost of running a business when pricing your services. Review all your business expenses and make sure your pricing covers all your business costs.
Activity 8: Create a Morning Routine
Let’s talk about something that will make your life much easier; a morning routine. I am talking about a 15-minute morning routine that you can set up to keep yourself organized and tracking to your plan. Each morning before the crazy starts, take 15 minutes to track your expenses from the day before. Track mileage, log/file receipts, return emails and set up your social media posts for the day. If you do these things daily, they will never get overwhelming and you will always know where you stand. Imagine getting to the end of the year and having all your expenses logged and ready for your taxes. Imagine having a year’s worth of expense tracking going into next year to build your 2025 budget. 15 minutes a day can make your whole life SO much easier. So whatever those tasks are for you, write them down, put them next to your computer, and do them EVERY morning.
Activity 8: Designate a workspace
This activity is pretty basic, yet very important- designating a workspace for your business. When you work from home, it is very easy to get distracted or better yet- never fully STOP working. You’ll say something like “I am going to just check my emails” and then the next thing you know you have put in another hour of work and your family is wondering what happened to you. Does this sound familiar? Designating a workspace that is quiet and separate from the chaos of your day-to-day is important when setting boundaries with your working hours. Keep your workspace out of the way of high-traffic areas, such as children’s playrooms or your bedroom. If possible, have a space with a door that you can shut when you need privacy, but also shut when you are done working to prevent you from being tempted to sneak back to your desk to “check those emails.” Finally, if you can designate a full room or larger, make it inspiring. Put up some of your favorite images, decorate with your favorite colors, and make it a cheerful space. When you work from home, you deserve a professional, inspiring, and quiet space to work.
Activity 9: Block your work schedule on your calendar:
So, how many of you take appointments whenever you and your clients have available time? How many of you feel like you have no work/life balance during the busy season? The answer to that is to block time on your calendar. It’s a simple concept, really, but SO hard for us to stick to, right? Define your work days based off the days that have the least impact to what your family has going on. If your kid has basketball every Monday and Wednesday night, then perhaps your client days are Tuesday and Thursday. Whichever are the best days for you to work with clients, block them on your calendar. You can be the master of your schedule and create boundaries around your work hours. Do you want to work weekends? If not then DON’T. The point is to come up with set dates, times and boundaries now for a healthy work/life balance and STICK to it. You can always adjust your work days later if needed.
2024 will be here before we know it, so take the time now to build out your plan for success in the new year. By taking action on these 9 must-have activities for a successful business, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running and make 2024 your best year ever.