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New Year, New Opportunities

Here we are at the start of a new year. Right now, you’re thinking about and planning all the things that you want to accomplish in your life and business. You might be licking your wounds from last year. Maybe sales didn’t go as you hoped. You might be on the edge -- thinking about whether or not you even want to be an entrepreneur anymore. So now’s a good time to set aside an hour or two, to review and digest, give yourself a clear-headed appraisal of the last twelve months, and leap into the next, armed with a clear and well thought-out plan.

List The Good Things As Well As The Bad

Let’s start with the time-tested pen and paper, and make a list of what was good during the last twelve months. Did you achieve good sales figures? Did you get your name seen and noticed? Are you pleased with your website?

Next is the not-so-good list. Perhaps sales weren’t quite as high as you’d aimed for, or you somehow didn’t manage to get the sort of exposure you were hoping for. Be honest. The plan here is to take what may at first appear to be quite a negative list, and turn it into a strength. Be harsh with yourself!

Next is the more neutral list of factors that have changed this year; both internally and externally. Maybe you acquired a new domain name, set-up a new website, or expanded into new operating systems. Perhaps there’s more (or less) competition within your market, or demand for your software may have changed. Don’t spend any time dwelling on the issues, just get them onto paper.

The penultimate list is that of new opportunities. These could be anything from new sales outlets, advertising, new operating systems, co-branding possibilities and so on. The final list is that of missed opportunities. No need to dwell on these, but it’s important to get them down on paper.

You’ve probably noticed that many of the items in each list overlap with each other. Sales, for example, could easily fall under three or more of the categories. Nothing to worry about there – in fact, far from it. Now that we’ve looked over the past twelve months, the next stage of the game is easy. We start looking ahead.

It’s time to get stronger. 

Self-limiting beliefs cripple entrepreneurs. The feelings of not being good enough. The small voice telling you that you’re a failure because you haven’t reached "Amazon" status yet. Negative entrepreneurs all around you who talk about how slow business is. The critics online who make fun of the way other entrepreneurs are building their business.

Building a successful business is about a lot more than strategy. There are tactics and steps you’ll take but the battle in your mind is where you’ll need to conquer. You have to get stronger mentally and emotionally to handle the tactics and strategy that build a business.

Until you’re stronger, you’ll be triggered into a mental spiral by the slightest thing. Those spirals take up a lot of your valuable time that you could be using to build your business. In those mind spirals, it’s common to make emotional decisions that can have a negative effect on your business.

You have to feel it to heal. Meaning, process everything that you’re feeling. Admit to yourself how to really feel. Then, get logic with yourself. Realize that you’ve probably made things bigger than they are. Our minds do that. After you’ve processed and looked at the situation logically, work yourself back into your peak state.

Listen to a song that gets you pumped. Watch an inspiring video. Write. Dance around. Do whatever it takes to get your mind, body and spirit to the place where you feel like your strongest you. Feel your energy shift and watch your attitude get better. Take yourself out of that spiral. You can use this exercise every time you feel yourself slipping.

Move forward boldly. 

A huge part of embracing the future is leaving the past behind. We are human. We all make mistakes in our lives and businesses. As humans, we tend to punish ourselves for those mistakes long after they are in the past. To have a successful year in business, be more gentle with yourself. Forgive yourself but remember the lesson. 

Use this time at the new year to leave last year behind. Whatever didn’t go as planned is a lesson you can use to grow. Life is our greatest teacher. Right now is your new opportunity to take bold steps toward your biggest business goals. Let go of all the anger, guilt, resentment and regret of last year.

Believe in yourself. You may not have all the answers or know everything about the business you’re building -- and that’s okay. Have confidence that you’ll work hard and learn what you don’t know. Realize that there’s a great opportunity for us as entrepreneurs today because of the internet and social media.

Use this time of year to reset, refresh your mind, get clarity on your goals and get determined. You can’t always control what happens to you but you can control how you respond. You have the power to change your circumstances and build the business of your dreams. It starts now. 

Achieve Your Goals

Begin by setting yourself specific goals. These may be to increase sales by at least 25%, to be more visible, to find new co-branding partners and so on. The important thing is to keep them tightly focused and specific.

Next we need to set a method for achieving each goal. We could increase sales by lowering pricing, by finding more outlets, by being on more sites and/or by offering more flexible payment options. We could improve visibility by spending time on the search engines, by contributing to more newsgroups, by writing an article or two for ASPects and/or by offering discounts to specific groups.

The final stage is the most important of all – that of planning how and when to implement each of these ideas. At this point you need to be as specific as possible, and the critical aspect is scheduling. Some examples might be to explore different pricing possibilities in January, bounce the ideas around the ASP members newsgroups, and have the new prices up and running by February 1st. If you want to hit the search engines, decide to buy WebPosition Gold in January, and to schedule two full hours every Friday for search engine work. Work out exactly what you’re going to do, how you’re going to do it, and write it in your diary.

And you’re certainly not short of free and low-cost opportunities. There are search-engines, link popularity sites, banner swapping, newsgroup announcements, newsgroup participation, advertising, software giveaway, site chasing, local and trade publications, articles, user groups and so on. The list is almost endless.

Try to bear in mind that there are two types of businesses. Those that are run by their owner, and those that run their owner. Changing from the second category to the first is often as simple as imposing a little structure. It starts with a pad, pen and open diary – stop letting those opportunities pass you by!

Map out your goals, how you’re going to achieve them, and most importantly of all, when you’re going to do so. Leave a little room for flexibility, but be strict with yourself. We’ve all played the game of dragging the mundane jobs from day to day in our PIMs and electronic diaries – isn’t that why we use our computers for this sort of thing? But if the job is worth doing, it’s worth doing today. If it isn’t worth doing, delete it right now. But don’t drag them from day to day. This wastes your time and achieves nothing.

We all know that New Year Resolutions are made to be broken, but forgotten and neglected business opportunities will only hurt and deprive you in the long run. Look back, consider and learn, then jump into the new year with a burst of new, well thought-out ideas. And make next year a happy, healthy and successful year. Be seen, be sold!

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