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It’s a new year! And if you’re like most of us, you’re starting off this new year with a lot of dreams and plans and goals for making this year better than all the others before it.

I think that’s great, because I’m doing the very same things.

So as I was sitting down to write this article today, I was reflecting on my biggest lessons of the past year, and what I’ve learned that I want to carry forward in this new year, specifically in my business. These are areas I’ve identified that I could further improve in; and I’m sharing them with you in the hopes that they will either confirm your thinking about areas to improve- or even spark some new ideas for how you can make this year better than that last.

Here we go:

  • Make more offers.

This refers to a conscious and consistent process of offering your services and products more frequently. In my case, I’ve built a business that relies on long-term client work. I retain clients for more than 4 years, in most cases, which means that I don’t make that many offers. I have resolved to make more offers this year, and just to see what happens. They might succeed, they might fail, but either way, I think strengthening my “offer making muscle” is a good thing.

When you look at making more offers, remember that you don’t always have to find new groups of people to offer something to. Your existing or past clients may have needs for additional services, or add-on services, or they may need a refresh or update to whatever work you’ve already done together. Just get in the habit of making more offers more regularly. I’ll be doing this too, and we can compare notes as the year moves on.

  • Improve communication with your ongoing clients.

As I mentioned, I tend to retain clients for years. As in any long-term relationship, there can be times where we make assumptions or don’t ask new questions. I’ve committed this year to making sure I have good communication with my long-term clients- I’m going to be contacting them each every few months and make sure that we’re working towards the same goals. This is especially important for the clients for whom I provide “done-for-you” marketing services- we don’t typically have as much regular contact as I do with my coaching and consulting clients.

  • Track what matters and do it better.

Most entrepreneurs fall into one of two categories as far as tracking is concerned. One group doesn’t really track anything; and the other tracks almost too much. The idea with tracking is to find some key metrics and key indicators that you can use as a CEO dashboard- telling you if your company is moving in the right direction.

Personally, I’ve simplified my tracking systems- and am tracking just these areas as I go forward:

  • Total visitors generated
  • Total leads generated
  • Total customers acquired
  • Total revenue generated
  • Total profit

Just these 5 metrics will give me a good pulse on the state of my business and where it’s going.

  • Work less.

In reflecting upon my work style over the past couple of years, I notice that I’m very good at putting in long days. However, not always does this hard work translate into meaningful results in my business. And, truthfully, my productive work seems to be about 6 hours per day; anything more than this and I’m just biding time. So I’m trying out the idea of working less this year. I’m currently on my first day of doing this, and, so far, I’m feeling motivated and efficient and productive. I’ll let you know how this goes as the month unfolds, but for today, it’s feeling really good. Given that I’m also trying to make more time for my jewelry making; working more efficiently in my main business seems to make even more sense. If we follow the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule)- it says that 80% of your success comes from 20% of your efforts. I’m curious to find the exact 20% that will give me the biggest boost to my business and its growth. I think the other benefit to working less is that it moves you to focus on what’s most important to get done in the time you have.

  • Simplify.

Practically, simplification ties into the idea of working less; but I’m also referring to simplification as a mental schema or stance as well. Most of our confusion and overwhelm shows up when we’ve got too many choices, and when we’ve lost track of what’s key to the outcome we desire. When we don’t have clarity, we can go in hundreds of directions trying to reach our goal. So I’m getting in the habit of asking myself, “What do I want from this [project]?” and then “What is the easiest way to get that result?”. In most cases, this will help simplify and streamline how you proceed. Because if you don’t know what you want, you can’t get it. If you don’t know how to get that result, you can’t get it. If you don’t have that clarity about what you want and how to proceed, you run the risk of putting in a lot of effort without much reward. Sometimes, you need to take action to find your way; I’m not talking about that. What I’m referring to is when you put yourself through a lot of effort and actions without getting greater clarity, or getting the result you want. Remember, being in motion for the sake of motion is not usually better than being in productive motion.

There may be a few more lessons I’m carrying forward into this year, but this list seems to cover most of them. My goal for this next year is to build a more profitable business with better productivity, and less work. How about you? What lessons did you learn last year which will make this year better?