7 simple steps to plan for the new year as a small business

December 16, 2022

7 simple steps to prepare for the new year as a small business owner 

When we talk about planning for the new year as a small business owner, we often envision a massive task that spans weeks. Our heads start to spin as we picture a hurricane of spreadsheets, spending days on detailed audits, or getting lost in deep financial planning.

These things have their place. But, sometimes, we need something simpler to help us step back, reflect, and nail down a few strategic steps that move the needle. 

Enter: The Right Brain-Left Brain Approach.

One of the tough parts about new year planning is it involves big-picture, visionary thinking plus analytics and logistical strategies—just like marketing. As a proud right brain-left brain duo, we’re all about that sweet, sweet combination. 

In this post, we’re giving you a simple 7-step exercise to prepare for the new year using both sides of your brain. Use it to bring 2022 to a satisfying close while starting 2023 aligned and focused.

Break out your journal, a Word Doc— maybe even some fancy vision board tools—and get started.

Right Brain Planning Steps

The right brain is all about creative, visionary thinking. Before you focus on the details of how you’ll reach your goals, revisit the bigger picture.

1. Reflect, reflect, reflect

Self-reflection in business rarely gets a priority seat. We’re often so concerned about the next step (or putting out fires) that we glaze over all the leaps we already took. 

But reflection is critical. It helps ensure you’re heading in the right direction and gives you time to realign with what really matters. Perhaps most importantly, it gives you a chance to celebrate your hard-earned wins! 

So, before looking forward, take stock of 2022. A simple notebook and pen will do.

Here are 10 questions to guide your business reflection:

  1. What were your goals last year? You can consider revenue goals, new offers, team development, or personal development.
  2. What goals did you reach? Take a moment to acknowledge and celebrate them! Then, consider: What made it possible
  3. What goals didn’t you reach? Remember, zero shame here. What got in the way?
  4. How did you improve your skills?
  5. What lessons did you learn the hard way?
  6. What type of work brought you the most satisfaction?
  7. What caused you the most frustration?
  8. How did your network change or develop?
  9. How did your team change or develop?
  10. How did you feel about your work-life balance?

 2. Check in with your business’s core messaging 

Now we’re going to bring things deeper into the marketing realm. Because here’s the thing: When you brand it like Beyonce, you can keep it consistent. 

By checking in with your brand’s core messaging you can see if everything still feels clear and aligned heading into the new year. 

This is just a reflection, not a full-on brand strategy session. If you find yourself feeling stuck on the answers, don’t stress about it yet. One of your goals for the new year may be to refine them on your own, with a business coach, or with a marketing strategy professional. Simply keep this in mind as you work through the rest of these steps. 

Questions to answer:

  1. Who is your ideal customer?
  2. What is the main problem they’re dealing with as it relates to your business?
  3. What is the big dream/solution they’re after as it relates to your business?
  4. Why are you the one to help them solve that problem and realize that solution?
  5. In the simplest terms possible (think 3-5 steps), how exactly are you going to help them?
  6. How will their life/business change by working with you?
  7. How does this change affect who they are as a person on a deeper level?
  8. How would you describe what you do to someone at your holiday get-together?
  9. What’s your mission statement? (i.e. the reason your business exists and why you do things the way you do.) 
  10. What’s your vision statement (i.e. the long-term goals for your company and/or the impact you want to have on the world)? 
  11. What are your core values and how do they affect the way your business operates?

3. Create a 2023 vision statement

Now it’s time to paint a scene of what you want your business to look like next year. Like a company mission statement, your 2023 vision statement is about inspiring you and your team while providing a concise sense of direction for next year.

The difference?

Instead of looking 5-25 years into the future, this statement’s about looking 12 months or less into the future. The key is to make it aspirational, but realistic. 

Creating a vision statement is always easier said than done. Remember this is an internal exercise so don’t worry about making it perfect. 

The following questions will help you brainstorm goals and provide insight into where you want to go. From there, you can craft a concise vision statement. 

Start by answering these questions: 

  1. What kind of clients do you want to be working with?
  2. What kind of projects do you want at the top of your list? 
  3. What do you want your team to look like? 
  4. What do you want your network to look like? 
  5. What offers do you want to prioritize and why? 
  6. How does your work affect others?
  7. How are you prioritizing and practicing your core values? 
  8. What do you want your company culture and work-life balance to look like?
  9. How do you show up in your marketing?
  10. What do you want to be known for?

Once you have all these reflections and visions on paper, sift through them to identify the most important goals within them. From there, try to write a statement (1-3 sentences) that captures your business vision for 2023. This will serve as a guiding light for the year ahead. 

Left Brain Planning Steps

The left brain is all about analytics and logical thinking.  These next steps turn your big-picture goals into solid steps for the new year. 

4. Review your marketing stats

If you want to set attainable goals for your marketing next year, you need to know what your numbers are first.

Hopefully, you’ve been tracking numbers throughout the year and you just have some final details to flesh out. If not, don’t worry. Do what you can to access your most important channels and record the stats in a central place.

We recommend creating a spreadsheet that captures both monthly and yearly averages.

Marketing stats to review might include: 

  • Total website traffic
  • Website conversion rates for any goals you’ve set  
  • Rankings for any keywords you’re tracking 
  • Reach for social media posts  (for each platform you’re on)
  • Engagement on social media posts (likes, shares, and comments for each platform)
  • Number of email subscribers
  • Email open rates
  • Ad click-through rates

With these benchmarks in place, you’ll be well-equipped to identify room for improvement and establish priorities.

5. Refine your big-picture goals by making them SMART

With your big reflections on paper and marketing benchmarks determined, you can set super tangible, SMART goals. 

SMART stands for:

  • Specific – What exactly needs to be done and who’s responsible for it? Can you break big lofty goals into smaller steps?
  • Measurable – Can you assign numbers to each goal so you can track its progress?
  • Achievable – Are these goals realistic? You don’t want to create unnecessary stress or disappointment with an impossible goal. 
  • Relevant – How does this goal fit into the big picture? Does it serve your business’s why?
  • Time-bound – Boost success by getting clear on the time frame for your goals. You can set quarterly, 6-month, or 12-month goals. 

Refer back to the questions you answered in Step 3 and set at least one SMART goal for each. 

For example, if the big picture goal for your marketing includes showing up on social media more often, your SMART goal might be: “Post on LinkedIn twice a week.” 

Remember to be super intentional about your marketing goals—you don’t need to be everywhere.

Or if the big picture goal for your clientele includes working on more projects in a niche you’re passionate about, your SMART goal might be: “Work on 2 ‘X types of projects’ with ‘X types of clients’ every month for the next 6 months.”  

6. Make a quick-wins list

The end of the year probably isn’t a time to dive deep into massive tasks. But you can set yourself up for success with a list of quick wins to tackle before the holidays or first thing in the new year. Consider the SMART goals you picked and identify the first steps you need to take to achieve them. 

Quick wins could include:

  • Creating a list of leads or past clients to check-in with
  • Organizing your reviews/testimonials and making a plan for where you’ll feature them
  • Brainstorming a list of podcasts you can pitch
  • Getting your site security up to speed
  • Purchasing a solid privacy policy for your website
  • Creating a pre-launch checklist for any new products or services you’re rolling out

You can map out these quick wins in your favorite project management software, a spreadsheet, or a simple Google Doc. This alone will give you a lovely sense of accomplishment! 

Remember: You don’t need to do everything. You need to do the right things.

7. The most important step


In the midst of all this reflecting and planning, don’t lose sight of rest. Rest is important every month, but the end of the year is a particularly good time to remind yourself how much you need and deserve. And practice a little extra. 

The more we can rest now, the fresher we can come back in the new year. That goes for left brains and right brains alike. 

BONUS STEP: Amplify your new year planning with a solid digital marketing plan

If you still feel unclear about where to take your marketing next year, it’s time for a solid digital marketing plan.

We recommend revisiting your marketing plan at least once per year to make sure your objectives, target demographics, market research, and marketing activities still fit your company’s goals.

Use our free guide that walks you through 5 core steps to create a marketing plan that works. It provides more in-depth guidance on how to assess your current marketing efforts and define SMART marketing goals. 

Better yet, cue the collective brain power of Drio. Get in touch about our Digital Marketing Strategy Sessions if you want a customized roadmap that will help you exceed your goals.

You know where you want to go. We’ll help you get there. 


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About the Author: Rachel McFadden

She’s helped build roads in Baltimore, Maryland. Now this civil engineer turned WordPress wizard and graphic designer creates websites and marketing collateral that build bridges between you and your ideal customers. In a nutshell, she makes sure that when a potential client finds you online, there’s a clear, connected, on-brand digital path that leads them straight to your inbox, smartphone, or checkout page.

Ready to strike your perfect balance between head turning and revenue generating?

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