As a counselor for the SBDC I see a lot of small businesses. Just in the last year I held over 180 one on one meetings with small business owners. 2013 must have been a very bad year because I heard about a lot more problems than I did success stories. I had to deal with small business owners that were deep in debt and worried that they were going to lose their houses. I had to deal with owners who were laying off employees for the first time. And in some cases I was helping small business owners decide if they should close the business or try to hang on longer. From a counseling perspective, 2013 was a tough year to be a small business counselor.

When I would ask these small business owners why their business wasn’t thriving I heard things like, “the economy is killing me”, “customers are afraid to buy” or “prices have just eroded so I can’t make any money”. For the most part all of these small business owners believed what they were telling me. But was their belief actually part of the problem? Could it be that because they watched too much local news, national news and cable news their belief that things were going to be bad became a self fulfilling prophecy?

I know 2013 wasn’t a bad year for everyone. There were small business owners who were growing and expanding. There were small business owners who where hiring employees, and there were some small business owners who were having their best year ever. So what made the difference between 2013 being a great year or a lousy year? I have a strong belief that many small business owners believed at the beginning of 2013 that it was going to be a bad year (they listened to too many “experts”) and guess what, that is exactly what they got! I think the attitude of the small business owner going into 2013 made a huge difference on how 2013 actually turned out.

So if, as a small business owner, you realize that you were a contributing factor as to why 2013 wasn’t a good year for you, then what can you do different in 2014? What can you do to make sure that your business in 2014 has a positive ending and not a negative one?

I will let you in on a little secret. People who set goals for their business seem to have consistently better businesses than those small business owners who do not set goals. Be honest how many of you small business owners, a year ago from right now, sat down, reviewed the year and worked on written goals for 2013? From a counseling perspective I can tell you that most small business owners have a very difficult time setting goals and many have never set even one goal for their business!

If you want to thrive, not just survive in 2014 then set a strong, positive goal for your business to reach in 2014. What is the best way of making sure you can reach your goal? Check out my next posting and teach you how to set and achieve goals.

If you have any questions or comments, contact me at bob@21questionbusinessplan.com