As we begin the new year, you are probably looking back over 2015 and assessing the results for your business: what worked, what didn’t, the challenges and the victories. In a perfect world, each of has a marketing plan in place for 2016 and are in the process now of executing it. That is a perfect world. We don’t live in one.

Most small business owners I know have a tendency to fly by the seat of their pants. Being willing to jump in and facing uncertainty is a necessary characteristic of being an entrepreneur. However, we have to recognize that when it comes to business growth and creating sustainable strategies that strength can become a weakness and a detriment if we don’t put some structures in place for maintaining consistency.

You are wired differently,1 what excites and energizes you will stress out your employees.2 Most people that work for you want a plan laid out for them.3 You want to create your own.4 They want to know what the goal is, what they are working to achieve, and they want to know exactly what is expected of them. If they know what is expected of them and how they are expected to do it, they will have confidence in performing their job and be excited about working toward achieving that goal with you.

But first, you have to have a plan and set a goal before you can communicate that to others.

Setting Goals for 2016

In my college marketing classes, we created marketing plans for businesses. We had a team of people, spent three months on it, researched all of the available advertising options, analyzed the current revenue and sales processes, ran linear regressions and did market studies to formulate a plan. Let’s get real. That just does not happen with the vast majority of small businesses. That works in large corporations who have departments devoted to marketing and people whose job is to go to meetings to tell other people what to do.

Small business owners are busy doing, not talking about what should be done. But we do need to have a plan so that not only can we be consistent, but that we can communicate that plan to others to execute. Over the years I have seen two major causes of a business failing that have nothing to do with revenue.

Biggest Dangers for a Small Business Owner

The first is divorce. If you are married and have a small business you cannot afford to get a divorce. I can’t tell you the number of times I have seen a successful business go down the tubes during or shortly after an owner’s divorce. It didn’t have to do so much with finances, the economy, or the splitting of assets as it was due to the fact that small businesses are usually pretty dependent on the owner for leadership and guidance and no one can be at the top of their game when they are going through emotional upset and turmoil at home. My advice is to guard the health of your marriage as closely as you guard the health of your bank account because the former has a direct impact on the latter.

The other is when the owner has a personal crisis that prevents them from functioning at the same level as they normally do. This may be a health crisis, a family emergency, or some other unforeseen event. One of the most consistent and amazing marketers I have ever met developed a health problem that severely limited their personal involvement in the day to day business. That business eventually closed.

Life can happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter how amazing you are at what you do, if it is all in your head and depends solely on you, your business is at risk. There should not be any aspect of your business that is solely dependent on you, or anyone else for that matter. Every function should have the position spelled out so someone else could step in continue to carry on.

There is one goal I would recommend achieving in 2016 above everything else, and that is defining your exit strategy. We will all exit our businesses one way or another eventually. Have a plan and a process in place for that to happen.

Creating a Marketing Plan for 2016

But as my business is about marketing, I am going to be talking about creating not only a marketing plan, but an overall strategic vision for your company. If you don’t already have a plan in place, follow along and work through each section for your own business each week. Be sure you are subscribed to our newsletter for updates. Some of the areas I will cover are:

  • Business composition
  • Revenue
  • Community
  • Partners
  • Staff
  • Customers
  • Engagement
    • On site events
    • Community events
    • Trade Shows
    • Professional Events
    • Holidays
  • Communications
    • Web site
    • Social media
    • Email
    • Personal contact
    • New Media

References Cited
  1. Peter T. Bryant and Elena Ortiz Teran. “Entrepreneur’s Brains are Wired Differently.” Harvard Business Review. Published December 19, 2013. Accessed January 22, 2016.  []
  2. Anya Kamentz. “MIT Brain Scans Show That Entrepreneurs Really Do Think Different.” Fast Company. Published January 14, 2013. Accessed January 22, 2016.  []
  3. Jayson Demers. “10 Ways Entrepreneurs Think Different.” Entrepreneur. Published September 22, 2014. Accessed January 22, 2016. []
  4. Jeff Haden. “9 Things People Just Don’t Get About Entrepreneurs.” Inc. Published April 14, 2014. Accessed January 22, 2016. []