Questions Every Home-Based Business Owner Should Ask Themselves Annually
For at least 4,000 years, an impending new year has compelled people around the world to list the things they plan to accomplish over the next 12 months. In the United States, up to half of the nation’s population makes New Year’s resolutions, most of which involve improving their health, finances, or relationships. If you own a home-based business, there are a few questions you should ask yourself at the end of every year before you consider making any new resolutions.
What Resolutions Did I Make Last Year?
Locate your list of resolutions from last year, then review it to see how many of them you kept. If there are still items on your list that you have not yet accomplished, you might consider adding them to your new list of resolutions but take a minute to analyze them first. Why were you unable to keep a resolution? Was it unrealistic, one resolution too many, or lacking in specifics? Comparing what you wanted to do last year with what you accomplished can help you prioritize your goals for the coming year.
What Did I Do Right Last Year?
No one does everything wrong, so you will probably find many examples of things that you did right. Your prior year’s resolutions may help you remember your successes, but you should also take the time to think of examples that were not on that list, including spontaneous actions that led to a successful outcome, actions you took to improve employee morale or steps you took to become proactive about networking. Perhaps your mentoring helped a mediocre employee transform into a superstar, or maybe you refused to extend additional credit to a potential customer who turned out to be a scammer. Make a list of specific things you did that resulted in a positive outcome. Give yourself a quick pat on the back for your good work, then move on.
What Did I Do Wrong Last Year?
Every successful business owner has made plenty of mistakes, and some have even had multiple businesses fail. You should never be too hard on yourself for making a mistake, and you should not dwell on it. However, you need to understand why and how it happened so that you can avoid repeating the same mistake in the future. Prepare a list of your missteps, then review it carefully. Have you rectified the issues that might have contributed to your error? What consequences did your company suffer? How would you approach the issue differently today?
Is My Business Affecting My Health?
Healthy businesses need healthy owners. Unfortunately, one of the first things that many home-based business owners abandon is their personal care. They stop going to the gym, or they stop their in-home exercise program. They snack more, and they often find that frozen dinners, sandwiches, and pizza are what passes for the meals that they frequently consume while working. They may cancel appointments with their dentists, physicians, or opticians. Furthermore, they often short themselves on sleep by working too many hours, or they may carry their business worries with them when they turn in for the night, making it difficult to fall or stay asleep. If any of this sounds familiar, perhaps you should resolve to take better care of your health in the future.
What Have I Learned During the Last Year?
Most entrepreneurs who have achieved spectacular success will tell you that it is critical to never stop learning. Learning can be acquired through your life experiences, formal coursework, high-quality documentaries, books, one-day seminars, self-study courses you take online, or any number of other sources. It is not even necessary to limit yourself to just business-related topics. For example, learning about an ancient civilization might trigger an idea for a modern product, or a self-help book might help identify the ways that a person’s hidden insecurities could affect his or her ability to manage employees effectively.
When Was the Last Time I Went Shopping?
This is not about your weekly grocery trips or other personal shopping expeditions. Instead, it is about shopping around to find the best deals on insurance, the best prices for the raw materials you need, and the right service providers for your business. Many companies have prices that fluctuate as frequently as every six months. If you have been with the same insurance company for more than two years, you might find that another company can provide with identical coverage at a lower rate. You should also do some comparison shopping for your raw materials, internet provider, packaging materials, and employee perks.
What Do I Want From My Business?
There are numerous ways to define success. Given a profit of $100,000 a year, some entrepreneurs would be bitterly disappointed, but other home-based business owners would be ecstatic. To some entrepreneurs, it is more about the people they help than the money they make, but others find it extremely satisfying to merely flex their creative muscles. Think about your reasons for launching your business. Were you looking to bulk up your retirement savings, help a child pay for college, or save up to buy a new home? Did you want to supplement your earnings from a traditional job, or were you expecting your business to provide enough income to quit? Thinking about your expectations can help you define them in a way that is conducive to creating a workable plan to achieve your goals.
What Do I Want for Myself?
Your wants and needs should be addressed. Draw a line down the center of a blank page. On one side, list everything about your business that you personally dislike, and list everything you like about it on the opposite side of the page. Everyone’s list will be different, but here are some examples.
• My business takes too much time away from my family, and I am often forced to choose between keeping an appointment with a client and attending a family function.
• I am not earning enough from my business to make it worth my efforts.
• My customers tend to be rude, arrogant, or dismissive.
• I cannot find competent employees to assist me.
• There are too many regulations that cost me time and money.
• No one takes my business seriously, even my friends and relatives.
• My earnings are too unpredictable.
• I have almost unlimited freedom to set my own work hours.
• I can do things my way.
• I offer a valuable service or product that can help many people.
• I am building something for myself as well as my children, parents, or significant other.
• I am my company’s hiring manager, so I can choose my coworkers.
• I can handle some household chores when I take a break from my home office.
• If necessary, I can drive my children to and from school, or I can be home when the school bus drops them off.
This exercise allows you to focus on the details that may be impacting the enjoyment you gain from being an entrepreneur. You can then take the appropriate steps to eliminate the things you dislike and bolster the things that you like.
What Do I Need to Succeed?
Just as people can have different interpretations of what constitutes success, they can also have different things that they perceive as necessary to achieving success. Predictably, most entrepreneurs will state that all they need is more customers, and they hope the new customers will become loyal, repeat buyers. Other business owners decry the price of raw materials, shipping, or insurance. General statements can help generate ideas, but you need to get specific about exactly what you need.
• If you need to attract new customers, you need to drill down to the specifics of your marketing strategy. Where are your potential customers likely to see your ads and promotional content? What can you offer them that your competitors cannot provide?
• If you need more help from the other people living in your home, you need to identify what type of help you need and from whom. Do you just need everyone to clean up after themselves, or do you need your roommate to empty the dishwasher every morning? Do you need fewer interruptions, a quieter environment, or a better way to keep track of everyone’s schedule?
• If you need to trim expenses, trim the waste first. For example, are you paying a monthly subscription for a service that you do not use? Are you choosing a shipping method out of convenience or habit, or are you comparing rates from multiple shippers? Do you really need to include a thick user’s manual, or could you just include a single page that directs users to an online copy?
• Do you need better skills? Whether you need to learn more about the digital world, want to improve your ability to delegate properly, or learn an entirely new technique, there are many ways to gain the knowledge that you need. Take advantage of the numerous texts, courses, videos, and blogs that are available online for free. Find a way to practice your newly acquired skills until you have mastered them.
There are many different reasons for launching a home-based business, and there are also many different reasons to fight for its success. Whatever your motivations were or are, the time you spend reflecting on the previous year can help you make the coming year your best one yet.