How to make 2017 your best year yet

Whether you heaved a sigh of relief when 2016 ended, or said goodbye to the year with sadness, we have some tips to ensure 2017 is your best year yet…

1. Instead of setting resolutions, set reflections

We so often spend January looking forward, however this year why not spend some time looking back? What were your successes in 2017? What were your failures? How could you have improved your performance in the last twelve months? Research published by the Harvard Business School backed up the quote ‘We don’t learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience’. This article has a great process for taking stock on the year, as well as setting the wheels in motion for the coming 12 months. It’s aimed at entrepreneurs, but the learnings are appropriate for businesses of all sizes.  

2. Shadow different business areas

Make like ‘The Secret Millionaire’ and spend time in other areas of your business. For example, you could shadow your sales or front of house staff to gain a new insight into their daily challenges. If shadowing employees isn’t possible for you, use other ways to change your perspective: take a business course, embark on some coaching sessions or spend more time with your customers.

3. Grow your network

Business networking should be a no-brainer, but it’s something many of us put off. Benefits of a large network include increased referrals, access to potential opportunities and having peers to use as sounding boards for ideas and frustrations.

It can be intimidating to enter a roomful of people and strike up a conversation with a stranger, so try these networking tips to ease the pain:

  • Run the event yourself

By setting up the event yourself you’ll be in control, and you’ll have a ready made reason to talk to people.  What’s more, by booking speakers and talking to attendees prior to the event, you’ll already know a number of people by the time the big day rolls around. Running a networking event may seem like an impossible task if you aren’t already connected within the industry, so make some initial online connections through social media groups, such as those on Linkedin, and use those to build your invite list.

  • Be the connector

If running the event yourself isn’t an option, then at least get there early. Whilst this might sound heart-stoppingly awkward, arriving early to an event means that you will automatically end up talking to other early arrivals. From that point, you can act as a connector – ensuring that new arrivals are welcomed into the conversation, and introducing people to each other.

  • Know what you need from the event

Nothing is worse than rocking up to an event with little knowledge of what you want to get out of it, or who you want to talk to. By defining your aim – be that to increase the number of email contacts you have or to find a mentor – you’ll be going into the event with a plan, and will have more of an idea about how to make it a success.

  • Schedule in a debriefing session

So, you’ve been to your event, networked like a mad thing, and the whole thing has been a great success. However, if you let your contacts go cold, they’ll be essentially useless. Schedule in some time after the event to go over who you met, jot down a few facts about them and any specific actions that arose from the meeting. Also ensure that you send a ‘nice to meet you’ email to everybody whose details you gold hold of.

  • Hold off on the vino

This can be a tricky one, as so many of us tend to find refuge in flowing wine when faced with potentially awkward social situations. However, overdoing it on the tipple can make you less on-point:  less likely to make productive connections and more likely to end up with a selection of business cards from people you only vaguely remember.

4. Say no to office gossip

It’s all too easy to get caught up with the minutiae of office politics. However spending your time keeping up with gossip is a profound waste of energy. What’s more, a culture of office gossip can lead to distrust and low morale. Set an example by rising above it all. Remember that a lot of office gossip is caused by a lack of clarity around business decisions. Keep rumours to a minimum by communicating effectively and providing an open door for staff concerns. Be honest about business pressures and your staff with thank you for it.

5. Say thank you

Want to improve employee productivity, supplier relationships and customer retention in one fell swoop? Just saying thank you can make a world of difference. People need to feel appreciated, and are more likely to go the extra mile for somebody who shows gratitude for what they do. What’s more, 68% of businesses have lost a customer because the customer feels the company is indifferent to them, as opposed to just 6% who have left because of what a competitor was offering [source].

6. Work in a bubble

It’s so easy to get caught up in what your competitors, or the markets in general, are doing. But if you pay too much attention to other people’s strategies you can end up neglecting the most important thing – your own business. What’s more, constantly eyeing up the competition can lead us to fall into the mindset of playing catch up, rather than innovating. You also never know how well your competitor’s strategies are working – yes they may have a glitzy new website, but that’s an expensive drain on finance if they aren’t converting more customers because of it.

7. Try lean thinking

Lean thinking encourages businesses to focus on increasing efficiency, and minimising waste in all its guises. A lean enterprise is also nimble – able to react quickly to changing customer demands. Whilst lean thinking began with manufacturers, such as Toyota, it has found recent popularity in startup culture, where businesses often combine it with agile methodology to create a culture of constant innovation. Find out more about how to get started with lean thinking here and here.

8. Do less

This may be counter-intuitive, but doing less could be the key to making 2017 your year. Stop doing things that don’t add value to your business, stop taking on meetings that waste your time, stop checking your emails at midnight and stop saying you’re ‘too busy’ for a holiday. You’ll perform better once you’re well rested. Plus, who knows what brilliant ideas will occur to you when you step back and relax a bit!

Not convinced that working less can pay off? Maybe these facts will help to convince you:

  • One story showed that pursuing a hobby can actually increase creativity [source]
  • Working over 55 hours a week has been shown to increase the risk of stroke by a third [source]
  • Overwork can affect your sleep, potentially leading to increased risk of diabetes, memory and obesity. [source]
  • Research by the Business Roundtable found that increasing the working week from 40-60 hours did not result in an increase in productivity. [source]

9. Welcome threats

It can be easy to become overwhelmed by market threats – whether that’s from economic issues, regulation or a new competitor in the marketplace. However try changing your perspective and view threats as opportunities. If you’re already implementing lean thinking you’ll be able to respond quickly to threats, and if you’re working less you’ll have more time to reflect on the bigger picture.

10. Measure like your business depended on it

In 12 months, when you come to reflect on 2017, it will be much easier to draw conclusions if you have measured the ROI of all of your activities. Of course, some areas – such as building brand awareness – can take time, and benefits may not be immediately apparent. If you want to really get into this measurement business, you may want to read ‘how to measure anything’ by Douglas W. Hubbard.

11. Drop your bias

Let 2017 be the year that you drop your preconceived notions about your business and your customers. Subconscious biases could be affecting your business decisions without you even knowing it. Some common biases include:

  • Overconfidence

For example overestimating your own, or your company’s productivity. Avoid overconfidence by taking your time when creating business plans, or promising results. Confirm your instincts by discussing things with trusted colleagues or peers.

  • Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias occurs when you only accept evidence that confirms your instincts. For example, perhaps you feel that you know what your customers want, despite evidence to the contrary. Avoid confirmation bias by playing devil’s advocate and seeking out data to confirm, or disprove, any hypotheses you have.

  • Bandwagon Affect

AKA groupthink. Adopting a belief simply because other people have that belief. Remember our point about not following your competitors? Sometimes, just because everybody else is using a certain strategy, we feel that we should too. However, it can be the people who stand out from the crowd who see real benefits.

Further examples of common biases can be found in this infographic. How many can you spot in yourself?

So, those are our tips. What other ways are you going to make 2017 your best year ever? Let us know on Twitter @switchmybiz 

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