How to Set Your Goals & Plan to Achieve Them in the New Year

Setting goals is the first step when you want to make big changes, and it’s an easy task when you follow a few basic steps. Effective goal setting begins with knowing what you want to end up with and comparing it to your current state. Make an honest assessment of where you are compared to where you want to be as an ideal way to get started.

Choose Goals That Really Matter to You

Anyone can set a great goal, but if it isn’t meaningful on an individual level, it’s likely to fall by the wayside. As an example, it’s easy to set a goal to lose a lot of weight, but if you aren’t driven by a “why” that’s important to you, it may never go beyond the wish to lose weight.

Sticking with the weight loss goal example, add the “why” behind each goal to make it personal and meaningful. Instead of setting a generic goal to lose weight, set a goal to lose 20 pounds so you’ll be healthier and live longer.

Make it Easy to Succeed in Your Goals

Be realistic about how quickly each goal may be reached, and break goals into long-term and short-term goals. Think of each step necessary for reaching a big goal as a short-term goal. Put a specific timeline on reaching each goal.

This gives you a guideline to compare to your results when you evaluate your progress. It also gives you an opportunity to feel great about each smaller goal you reach. Building positive feelings into the process of reaching your goals increases your chance of succeeding in your biggest goals.

Set an Objective and Make an Action Plan

Make a commitment to achieving your goals by putting your objectives in writing. Setting an objective is a key part of making an action plan because when you prepare an objective statement, you include the details and steps you need to follow to succeed.

SMART is an acronym that’s commonly associated with goal-setting objectives. It stands for specific, measurable, audience-specific or attainable, realistic and time-bound, and those are the details needed to set successful goals.

No matter what your goals are, the best time to create an action plan and start working toward them is now.

How To Stay Motivated After the Holidays

Time off with family and friends for the holidays can provide a wealth of benefits, including helping you gain a better work and life balance, and can help you reset yourself mentally. However, the parties, food and relaxation may make you feel less than motivated to go back. To help you get back into the swing of things, consider these tips.

Prioritize Your Tasks

Map out your workday by creating a to-do list. Instead of focusing on the hardest tasks first, start with a few simple projects to help you ease back into the daily hustle. Marking items off your to-do list will help motivate you to keep going, even if the tasks are small. Break down very large projects into several smaller ones to help you complete the task in steps.

Take Frequent Breaks

If possible, stop every hour or every two hours for a short break. Stretch your legs by taking a short walk, drink some water or simply stand up at your desk and stretch. Get your body moving to help fight fatigue and to keep you alert and focused. Regular breaks can reduce stress and create a more positive work environment, according to the Canada QuickBooks team.

Socialize with Coworkers

Friendly chatter with coworkers can help make your day pass quickly and can create a more positive environment to work in. Make a point to stop and chat with close colleagues, and ask about their holidays. If you took time off while others worked, ask if you missed anything while you were gone. A simple conversation with friends at work can make your entire day better. Friends at work can also make you motivated to do more and can help boost your overall job satisfaction.

Clean Up Your Inbox

An office inbox can fill up quickly while you are on vacation and answering everyone at once can seem overwhelming. The Daily Muse suggests creating three separate folders in your email: one for emails that must be addressed immediately, one for emails that can wait and a third for those that can potentially be deleted. Read through the subject line, and sort your emails into three folders. Address your priority emails and save the others for another day.

Going back to work after the holidays doesn’t have to be a stressful time. By easing your way into your work and the work environment, you can be productive without feeling overwhelmed.

5 Ideal New Year’s Resolutions for Small Business Success

The beginning of a new year is a perfect time to look back on what worked or didn’t go well with your business over the past year. Growing and maintaining a vibrant, profitable organization calls for reflection and a determination to drive and adjust to change. Take on the new year with these tips for your business and personal life.

1. Delegate More

Delegation is essential to maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Thorough training and open communication can equip employees with the knowledge and power to handle some of your responsibilities. People often rise up to what is expected of them. Outline goals and deadlines clearly and dedicate more of your time to work on high-level tasks.

2. Keep Wooing Current Customers

An existing customer base could be a huge catalyst for sales growth. Ongoing relationships with clients can generate consistent revenue in the thousands or even millions over time. Resolve to appreciate and listen to current patrons, always looking for ways to meet their needs and surpass their expectations.

3. Get a Tighter Grip on Cash Flow

Over 60% of small businesses worldwide have serious cash flow concerns, and about 40% of Canadian small companies miss out on significant revenue-generating opportunities because of insufficient cash flow. Since profits often don’t equate to available funds, it’s important to know how much working capital will keep your business going. Make projections, and automate receivables and payables with a software program.

4. Charge What You’re Worth

If you feel that you deserve more for your product or service, now may be the time to raise your prices to reflect the value you provide. Author Dorie Clark wrote in the Harvard Business Review: “Charging a fair price … allows you to create long-term value.” This may cost you some business, but there are many clients out there who are willing and able to pay what you want for top-quality solutions to their needs.

5. Learn a New Skill

Pick up a new skill this year, whether or not it is related to your business or industry. This is an important investment in yourself that will yield returns of greater personal fulfillment and broadened perspective in your business life. You may also meet and cultivate relationships with new people who may turn into friends, clients, potential employees or vendors.

4 Great Ways to Get the Most Out Your Holiday Post-Mortem

The holiday season is over. Before you get too far into the new year, you need to carry out a holiday post-mortem to review your performance over the holiday and uncover areas that require improvement. A good post-mortem takes a comprehensive look at your business operations during the holiday to gain useful insights for holiday spending as Canadians spend up to $2.781 billion exchanging gifts. Below are four steps to performing a proper post-mortem.

1. Involve Everyone Who Contributed

An effective post-mortem involves everyone who participated in creating the results. So, in addition to your marketing team, you need to include your web design team, for example, if you believe that your web interface affected your sales. Or, if you worked with an agency to create the marketing campaign, someone from the agency’s team needs to be present at the post-mortem.

2. Use Reports to Gain a Clear, Broad Picture

Comprehensive data should inform your post-mortem. Departments involved in the post-mortem should provide detailed reports that help you determine what the business did right and what it did wrong. These reports will help you figure out how to tune up your holiday marketing campaign’s strengths and work around its weaknesses for improved performance.

For example, the reports may reveal that some of your promotions were ineffective or that a drastic uptick in online sales resulted in frequent cases of understocking. You avoid repeating the same mistakes by using these insights to inform your marketing campaigns in the next holiday season.

3. Review Fulfillment and Shipping to Identify Friction Points

Fulfilling and shipping deliver on your brand promise so be sure to pay attention to these areas. Some of the aspects of fulfillment and shipping that you need to review include delivery times, return rates, customer complaints and the effect that shipping prices had on sales.

Determine friction points, which tend to become increasingly obvious during the holidays as increasing orders overwhelm merchants. Use your analysis to identify business processes that require optimizing or outsourcing for improved efficiency. As the influential management consultant (Peter Drucker) noted, nothing is as useless as optimizing a process that doesn’t serve your objective.

4. Do the Post-Mortem Immediately After the Holiday Season

Devise a detailed plan to improve your performance next year. You need to carry out the post-mortem as soon as possible after the holiday season is over and promptly create a plan while the analysis is fresh in your mind. Doing so gives you enough time to incorporate the plan into your preparations for the next season.

4 Common Holiday Marketing Mistakes to Avoid Next Year

The holiday season offers one of the best marketing opportunities but taking full advantage of this chance can be tricky. Sales go up during the holiday season in Canada, especially after Black Friday. However, many businesses make common marketing mistakes that prevent them from maximizing their holiday sales.

Here are four important holiday marketing mistakes your post-mortem might uncover.

1. Your Marketing Content Lacked Value

You bombarded your customers with promotional messages about your offers but the marketing content sent the customers little to no value. Just because people permit themselves to spend a little more during the festive season doesn’t mean that their not looking to get the most out of every shopping dollar

Next year, send marketing material that adds value to your customers in creative ways. For example, your newsletter can include a brief post titled “How to Make Sure the Gift You Get Your Loved One Matches Their Personality” and include a link to your offers in a call to action at the end.

2. You Didn’t Cash In Early Shopping

You waited too long to start your holiday season marketing. Savvy shoppers know to avoid the last-minute holiday shopping craze. Seasoned marketers are aware that the excited anticipation of the festive season begins early and they start their Christmas season marketing as early as October, or even the end of August. Don’t join the party late next year.

3. You Failed to Do Competitor Analysis

You were too focused on your business’s marketing strategies that you forgot to monitor the competition. Maybe if you kept an eye on what successful businesses in your industry were doing, you would have noticed that they started their holiday marketing campaigns early and avoided the mistake above.

Avoid this mistake next year by monitoring your competition. Doing so helps you identify marketing opportunities you might have missed, cross-promoting opportunities with other businesses and targeting options for your ads. Top competitor analysis tools include Pi Datametrics, Brandwatch Audiences and Spyfu.

4. Your Central Marketing Campaign Was Too Generic

Competition for customers’ attention skyrocketed during the holiday season but you didn’t come up with unique marketing ideas to boost sales. You failed to take advantage of powerful marketing channels such as interactive Instagram posts or lookbooks that feature shoppable images. Next year, engage your customers on a personal level by experimenting with innovative campaigns.

3 Delicious Recipes for Your Office’s Holiday Potluck

Start the holiday season on a positive note at the office potluck by preparing something simple and delicious. The tasty food you bring to the party adds to the relaxed, friendly holiday mood. Keep the preparation time short with easy dishes like warm cheese dip, cheesy potatoes, and fruit salad.

Warm Cheddar Dip With Tortilla Chips

Warm cheddar dip is an office-friendly potluck idea that’s easy to prepare. Toss the ingredients in a slow cooker, and turn it on low about two hours before time to eat. The ingredients you need are an 8-ounce (225-gram) block of cream cheese, 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese and a 20-ounce (500 millilitre) jar of your favourite salsa. If you prefer a milder flavour, swap the salsa for a can of any flavour of cream soup. Stir everything together thoroughly before serving the warm dip with a tray of tortilla chips.

Cheesy Slow Cooker Potatoes

Power up the slow cooker, set it on high heat and put the ingredients in it to cook while you work. The ingredients you need are a 16-ounce (450-gram) bag of either shredded or cubed potatoes, a cubed 8-ounce (225-gram) block of cream cheese, 18 ounces (500 grams) of either cheddar or Colby cheese, a can of your favourite type of cream soup, and 9 ounces (250 millilitres) of milk. If you want to add meat to make this dish heartier, consider diced ham or crumbled bacon bits.

Salad and Dessert in One

Fresh fruit salad serves double-duty as a salad and a healthy dessert for an office potluck. Use a large, clear bowl so the colours of the fruit show, and pick fruits in a variety of colours. This recipe is easy to adapt based on seasonal offerings at your local market and your favourite type of fruit. Cut the fruit into bite-sized chunks, then coat it with a light syrup made with a squeeze of lemon juice, a small scoop of sugar, and half a pint (250 millilitres) of water.

Keep everything organized by putting your name on your bowls and utensils with a dry-erase marker or labels from staples, so your things don’t get mixed up with the dishes and utensils belonging to others in your office.

4 Great Decorating Tips to Boost Holiday Sales

The festive season uplifts people’s moods and sets the stage for them to relax and have fun. The holidays are also a special time for your business because they give you an opportunity to boost your bottom line by using holiday decorations to create an environment that encourages people to buy your products.

Here we share four top tips for driving up sales by being smart about the way you use holiday decorations.

1. Let the holiday theme guide your selection of decorations

Using decorations that are relevant to the holiday stirs your customers’ and employees’ holiday spirits. This feel-good environment that the festive season evokes can drive up sales when you use decorations to make your customers associate your brand with positive emotions.

For instance, you can tap into your customer’s holiday spirit during the Christmas season by injecting your brand personality into classic Christmas decorations such as Christmas lights, red-and-green decor, snow-themed decor and Christmas folklore characters such as Santa and his elves.

2. Pick and use the Christmas tree wisely

A Christmas tree gives you a unique opportunity to boost sales by sharing giveaways with your customers and presenting smaller merchandise as gifts. Position one of your salespeople as Santa to encourage your customers to interact with your merchandise.

Consider using an artificial tree. It offers more value than a real Christmas tree in the long run because you can use it multiple times before it needs replacement. Even better, an artificial Christmas tree eliminates the need to clean up shedding needles, so your salespeople can focus on selling your products.

3. Using flashy outdoor decor to draw in customers

Capture the attention of passersby by decorating outdoor spaces like rooftops or sidewalks. Attach a wreath with suction cups to your door and replace your regular doormats with Christmas-themed doormats. Use bright displays to draw customers would have otherwise overlooked your business.

Once your flashy outdoor decorations attract customers into the business, use your waiting area to set the scene with equally flamboyant decor such as a lifesize Santa, elves, holiday soldiers or a polar bear.

4. Think about next Christmas

Give preference to holiday decorations that provide lasting value. Invest in a high-quality artificial Christmas tree that you can use for years to come. Buy sturdy and sealable storage containers that maintain the shape of your wreaths, Christmas tree and other reusable holiday decorations.