The ugly truth is that most businesses fail before they reach their second anniversary. Try not to let that nasty thought nip at your entrepreneurial heels as you work vigilantly to do everything right. Create a list of short-term goals to help you stay focused and on track as you begin to build brand awareness, establish smart relationships and prepare for financial bumps. Crossing key achievements off your list early on gives your business a fighting chance at not just making the 24-month mark, but surpassing it and achieving your long-term goals ahead.
Businesses vary greatly, and therefore, so do their short-term goals. To figure out which objectives you need to reach before year two (or even year one, for that matter), takes focus. Start by answering a few thought-provoking questions, such as:
- What three (or more) areas is my company active in now? What areas will it be active in four years from now? Answering these questions can help you plan your short- and-long-term hiring schedule and its associated budget, for starters. Bookkeepers and assistant managers can add value if they allow more time for you to grow your business and bottom line.
- Is my product or service evergreen or will it go out of style? For example, if you've created a nutritious drink, using the latest health-food product as the main ingredient, anticipate creating a new drink recipe as soon as the next "superfood" hits the health-food news feed.
- What areas do I have to work on and who do I network with to stay aligned with my mission statement? Maybe you're in the organic-produce industry, for instance, and you've vowed to support local farmers. In this case, a short-term goal may be to network with neighboring competitors. Together, you could come up with (and combine funds for) trendy seasonal marketing ideas, holiday events, industry promotions and shop-local advertisements.
When you realize that your company is going broke, well, it might already too late to recover. Funding, (or at least funding ideas and options) should top your list of short-term goals. To prepare, come up with ways to infuse more money into your company. Crowdfunding or raising money by asking for a little bit of financial help from a lot of people is one way to keep the lights on and your employees working. Diversify for the greatest gain, by looking into government grants, small-business bank loans, angel investors and love money (from family and friends). And don't discount helpful mentorship from business incubators or accelerators who might provide financial aid or share their premises and resources.
Are you in a competitive retail space? If so, it may be beneficial to add at least one new product to your inventory each season or as needed, starting from day one. Not just any product will do; Go with a trendy item (think of the fidget-toy craze, for example). A product that you can price high, and then discount or bundle with a less popular product to generate interest can provide brand recognition and a heap of growth-boosting cash.
Build a Savvy Online Presence
For many businesses today, an online home means survival. Sure, you'll find plenty of do-it-yourself website templates to choose from, and using one is a fine start. But do you have time to learn about search engine optimization (SEO), how to generate online sales, website analysis, mobile application and how to stay current with traffic trends? If not, an immediate goal might be to hire a website consultant, even just for a month, to work with your existing site, improve its efficiency and boost SEO. A professionally tended website is more likely to show up in search results, increase sales and more importantly is ready to roll if you have to take your business totally online to stay afloat.