What to do after your first year of business.
In your first year of business you're just going, pushing along, and trying to make it work; learning and making mistakes that are recoverable. In year two, you may have more time to dig into details, assess where you’re lacking, and make a real business plan that spurs you forward.
Use these questions to evaluate where you’re at and what you need to make your second year of business just as successful as the first, if not moreso. You may even uncover new ideas that otherwise may not have occurred to you.
Am I Burning Out?
Business owners have a hard time checking out; in many cases, they don’t even try to unplug and disconnect from their work. A 2017 Xero survey found that 55 percent of small business owners take two weeks or less of vacation each year, while 12 percent take no vacation at all. What’s worse, 83 percent of small business owners experience work-related stress while on vacation.
Small business owners experiencing burnout are poor leaders and decision makers, and you may find yourself more likely to throw in the towel when faced with challenges that you could handle in a better state of mind.
If the answer to the question, “Am I burning out?” is yes, it’s time to consider some solutions for your second year of business, including:
- Delegation: What can you take off your plate and who can take it? Business owners tend to hold onto work, fearing it won’t be done right if they don’t do it. Trust your team.
- Unplugging: How often do you take time for yourself? This is crucial, even if it just means spending 10 minutes reading the morning’s headlines with a cup of coffee before leaving for work.
- Play: If work is no longer fun, you may struggle with burnout—especially if you’re working alone. When work is fun again, you may feel the challenges of burnout fade away.
- Scaling: Maybe it’s time to increase your prices so you can take on less work while making the same amount.
Is My Network Strong Enough?
You may need to rely on your network now more than ever. The second year of business is the time to assess who’s in your corner and where you need guidance, support, or another set of hands. Make networking a priority but be targeted with your approach.
For example, if you’re feeling stuck in your business, this is a great time to network with people who are already running a similar business. These industry professionals likely have been where you are and can provide invaluable insight into getting over your current obstacle or reaching the next level.
To get the most out of this effort, find one-on-one time with these industry veterans. Use a tool like Alignable to find other small business owners in your city or region and then reach out to them. You can do both within the same platform, making it a great tool to use.
Am I Working Smart?
Being efficient and effective requires a delicate balance between working hard and working smart. In this case, you want to ask yourself: “Am I working hard and potentially burning out or working smart, getting a lot done, and still managing my time well?”
If the answer to this question is the former, consider using the lean methodology as you move into your second year of business. Boss Magazine guest author, Jon Terry, Chief Evangelist of Lean-Agile Strategy for LeanKit explains, “Lean organizations optimize processes and reduce waste, making it easier to stay focused on delivering that value to the customer. In doing so, teams and organizations are able to communicate better, increase knowledge, and collaborate more effectively.”
Am I Protected?
This may seem like an odd question, but insurance and security are easy to overlook during your first year of business. Year two is when you need to make sure every last detail is addressed. This includes keeping your business protected from a number of potential dangers, both online and offline.
Start with insurance. Is your business currently insured? Nearly all businesses benefit from some level of liability insurance whether you sell products or clean homes. If you don’t know what your insurance needs are, check out this helpful guide, What Type of Insurance Do I Need? Work with an insurance professional to create a protection plan specific to your business and needs to avoid costly issues.
Next, consider the security of your office, especially if it’s a home office. Do you have proper locks on your doors? If not, do you have a home security system? It may seem unlikely that you’ll be the victim of a home break-in, but losing anything—whether it’s your printer, hard drive, or laptop—will set you back, both in time and money. With the proper office security, you can avoid such setbacks altogether.
Is My Business Plan Solid?
Another detail that’s easy to overlook in year one is a business plan. While it doesn’t need to be an official five page document, having a plan for budgeting, customer acquisition, and growth holds you accountable. It also ensures you’re going into year two with a clear idea of what you hope to achieve and how you plan on accomplishing your goals.
As you dive into business planning, consider the structure of a lean startup business plan:
- Key partnerships
- Key activities
- Key resources
- Value proposition
- Customer relationships
- Customer segments
- Cost structure
- Revenue streams
Dive into each of these sections with the SBA’s business plan guide.
Am I Patient Enough?
With year one behind you, it’s time to dig in. The question is, do you have the patience to weather the storms, find solutions, and press on—even on your hardest days?
“This is what people tend not to talk about. It will certainly take you 3 to 5 years of hard work to start seeing some signs of success. You will have to develop that sense of building the right team, talking and listening to your customers, analyzing the market, nailing your sales process, networking, pitching your idea, and learning from your own mistakes,” suggests Tomas Laurinavicius, lifestyle entrepreneur.
If the answer is, “I don’t know,” now may be a good time to reassess your reasons for starting the business. Are those same reasons still powerful enough to keep you moving forward? Is there a new reason on which you need to focus? Be honest with yourself and be prepared for whatever answer you find.
Get Ready for Year Two
If your answer to question six was yes, then it’s time for you to get ready for year two of running your business. This is an exciting time; you made it through your first set of hurdles and obstacles, and now it’s time to buckle up and get ready for more. Use these questions to make sure you’re heading into year two feeling stronger and more prepared than before. With your business protected, your “me time” penciled in, and new tools purchased, you’ll be ready to work hard and take your business to the next level.
BIO: Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a full-time freelance writer and content marketing consultant. She’s been featured in Forbes and Business Insider and has written for Virgin, Glassdoor, Lifehack and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect LinkedIn.