With a new year underway, every business leader is thinking about what the months ahead will bring and how to plan for success. This might include finding ways to reduce costs, increase profits and expand the business. As I’ve learned during the course of my business career, you always need to plan and be proactive, evaluate, modify, and explore new opportunities. That said, when approached by aspiring entrepreneurs, I’m always glad to share some of the things that work for me. Below is my five-point new year’s checklist.


Evaluate last year’s business.

To continue on a profitable path, it’s necessary to take a thousand-foot look at last year’s business activity and compare it to what was projected in your annual strategic plan. Are you seeing consistency and did you meet or exceed expectations? If you had a successful previous year, now is the time to determine what you’ll do this year to take things to the next level. It’s also helpful to consider how market forces might have changed that make it necessary to modify some of the things you’re doing. For example, have new markets opened up? Are new opportunities on the horizon? By comparing last year’s projections and actuals, you can set reasonable, reachable goals, timelines and profit projections for this year.


Touch base with your employees.

During the holidays you (hopefully) told your company leaders, managers and other employees how much their daily activities contributed to the company’s success. If not, start the new year with a message of appreciation and gratitude, preferably in person, but email works, too. At the same time, invite their input and suggestions about what they believe worked well last year and where improvements can be made in the new year. Because they are likely the people who interact with customers and view operations from a different level than you, their input can be extremely valuable.


In with the new.

Things are rapidly changing in every industry, including yours. In the golf industry, there’s always something new, novel and supposedly better than the previous model, and it’s my job as a leader to be on the cutting edge for the sake of my customers. How are your competitors keeping up with new, improved technology, especially as it relates to the products or services you’re providing? Think about how things are changing and what investments might be necessary in the new year, then commit to doing what you have to do to most effectively serve your customers. Otherwise, your competitors might lure them away.


Update your website.

When company websites became commonplace back in the 1990s, many businesses struggled to simply build a web presence — or be perceived as “not with the times.” How times have changed. Most people today, and that includes your customers — expect to have a satisfying experience online. While intuitive navigation and information are still at the core of every site, we also now live in the age of content, social media, interactivity, and gamification, not to mention artificial intelligence, which is rapidly making its presence felt. There are many things you can be doing to stay ahead of the competition. In the new year, consider producing more video content, writing an ebook, creating a podcast, and blogging strategically. All of these tactics can and will push visitors to your website.


Plan to spend more time with customers.

Without these people, none of us has a business. Reach out to some, or all of them, in the new year, even if it’s just to ask how things are going. At the very least they’ll appreciate you checking in. Beyond that, you might be able to solicit some good suggestions about improving or enhancing what you already do well, and you might even identify some new potential needs that your company can serve.

Wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!