It’s August – the schools are out and for many small business owners it’s time for a much deserved break. We should all be taking the chance for some time out, but this traditionally quieter period is also a useful time for celebrating successes and reflecting. Here are 5 questions I have been asking myself that I hope are useful to other small business owners:
1. What is my vision for the next 3-5 years?
When you are running a small business it is so easy to focus on short term goals; the things that are right in front of us, the orders you have to make, the deadlines, the next thing. (There never seem enough hours in the day!) But every business owner should have a long-term vision to make sure we are taking the steps now to get there.
This vision will undoubtedly include your target turnover, but should also include the longer term big things you want to achieve. For example, are you aiming for your business to be a certain size, do you want to be able to make certain lifestyle changes or do you want to be stocked in a particular shop? Define your vision, keep it close and every now and again ask yourself whether what you are doing right now is helping you get there.
2. Where are my sales coming from?
It’s very easy to look at the total amount of money coming into a business without breaking it down and working out what this really means. This could be breaking it down by channel e.g. your website versus a shop versus a marketplace you sell on. But, this could also be about breaking it down by type of product, which I find really useful.
You may be surprised to find that whilst you are doing lots of things, one avenue or product range is responsible for significantly more of your turnover. This could represent an opportunity or give you cause to reflect on activities that take a lot of time / effort, but aren’t actually that productive.
3. What am I spending my money on?
If you’re anything like me, you will enjoy the financial side of things less! But all businesses need to make sure they are reviewing the numbers regularly, so you need to make yourself do this. How much money are you spending e.g. on materials, overheads, people? How much by type of product? Is there anything you are spending lots of money on that is unexpected or not useful? How profitable are you? This may flag things that you need to change or be aware of. If doing these sort of sums is overwhelming find someone who can help you and who enjoys it!
4. What are you good / not so good at?
Ask yourself what are your strengths as a business or an individual. Perhaps you have a unique product range, a skill that others don’t have, a great team, high sales in a particular area or have built up a strong relationship with a retailer. Capture these things.
Then ask yourself, what are you less good at? Is there one aspect of your business you feel exposed in, something you enjoy doing less or a range that is really not selling? Capture these as well, then ask yourself…
5. Is anything changing in the environment that could affect you?
Outside of your business has anything changed, or is anything going to change? These could be changes in a retailer you sell with that could affect you, changes in customer interest in what you are doing, a new market trend etc.
The things that could affect you positively are ‘opportunities’, the things that could affect you negatively are ‘threats’. And together with the what you are good / not so good at, make something called a ‘SWOT’ (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats).
All these questions and analysis helped me pull together a list of big opportunities, things I need to start doing and things I need to stop doing. This will help me tweak my plan for the rest of this year, and pull together my plan for next year. If you find this useful, I’ll tell you more about that in a future blog post!
Have I missed anything? Are there any questions you have been asking yourself that you think would be useful to me or others? Do let me know by leaving a comment below.