It’s the turn of the new calendar year, and much like the inundation of posts clogging up your feeds proclaiming “new year, new me,” your fast-growing startup should be taking the time to do a little reflection. It’s commonplace for most startups to think about the good, the bad, and the ugly from the previous year, and use those takeaways to plan for a fresh start in 2016.
We have all heard the SMART methodology for goal-setting, which I love and have always adopted, but in the years I’ve spent working for and with startups, I’ve learned that taking it a step further by increasing accountability will ensure that you’re hitting the mark this year.
Adding a new product line, opening up a new office, investing more in R&D…. there’s a laundry list of cliches we could throw at this, but regardless of what your main initiatives are for the new year, here are a few ways you can best set your fast-growing business up for success in 2016:
1. Start with the WHY, write it down, and socialize it
A close mentor of mine once told me that goals that aren’t written down are just wishes. That’s always stuck with me over the years. In running and managing a small business, there are always competing priorities (if I’m digging in the cliché book, see “wearing many hats”), and it’s very easy to find yourself getting off track very early on.
Take a long hard look at what you want the business to look like in 12 months, write it down, and share it. There is true power in building a community of accountability. Be it friends and/or family members, it’s important to share what you’re looking to accomplish with people outside of your organization. Think of it as how useless a GPS would be if there was no destination entered.
2. Get uncomfortable
If success was easy, everyone would do it. (Have I mentioned my passion for quote sharing?) Last year, one of my VPs introduced me to the concept of a BHAG: A big hairy audacious goal. Think about what you’re looking to accomplish this year. If it doesn’t make your stomach turn, or make you immediately feel queasy at the thought of potentially missing that target, the goal isn’t big enough. Or audacious enough. Or… hairy enough? (Stick with me, people.)
Make a goal that’s big enough where you do see a path to it, but also know that it’s going to take everything you’ve got to get there.
3. Empower your team around you
We all know that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and we can also assume that it wasn’t built by a single person. As you begin to scope out what you’re looking to achieve, assign tasks and projects to specific people based on their talents and passions. As an executive, this will help you become more in tune with the day-to-day operations of the business, and will have a strong positive impact on the connection your employees feel to the success of the business.
I’m a firm believer that everyone has some creative genius inside them, and it’s up to you as a leader to help them recognize and unlock their potential.
4. You can’t manage what you can’t measure
One of the most common mistakes people make with their new year’s resolutions is that they don’t come up with milestones or checkpoints along the way. The same holds true for your business.
Have a rolling weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly check-in on the calendar in which each project owner shares milestone updates with the team. I’ve often found that having these meetings too frequently can lead to a decrease in productivity, while having them not frequently enough leads to a decrease in focus on the specific tasks. Find the happy medium for your business, and don’t be afraid to adjust.
5. Celebrate the ride
Forbes magazine tells us that over 90% of startups won’t make it out of infancy. As entrepreneurs, we know that in order to make it into that 10%, it will not be easy. It will take a level of commitment that even exceeds what you expected, BUT (there’s always a but…) it will be worth it.
When we look at some of the world’s most successful startups — and even some of the ones you know personally that aren’t as widely publicized — one thing is evident: people LOVE working there because they feel connected to the task(s) at hand. In the midst of the all the stress that comes with running a startup, never forget to take some time to reflect on your success and enjoy what you’re going to accomplish.
There’s no easy button when it comes to being successful. As difficult and challenging as the day to day of a startup can be, keep these five pointers in mind as you begin to plan out this year, and you’ll greatly increase the likelihood that you don’t “regret paying for that gym membership all up front.”
Good luck, and cheers to having a great 2016!