For many businesses, January and February are quiet times, as work slows while key clients are on vacation.

It is an opportune time, then, to reflect back on the highs and lows of the previous year, divine any lessons to be learnt and devise strategies for the year ahead.

In addition to doing the “big picture” thinking – detecting business and market trends and the opportunities they create – it is also a great opportunity to look internally and assess whether there are any aspects of your business that you could be doing better.

(Ideally, we’d have the time to do this on an on-going basis, but alas…)

A simple phrase – IT BECAME FASTEST – offers a handy mental “cheat sheet” for doing internal reviews:

(I)mprove basic efficiency – all the time.
(T)hink as simply and directly as possible about what you’re doing and why.

(B)ehave towards others as you wish them to behave towards you.
(E)valuate each business and business opportunity with all the objective facts and logic you can muster.
(C)oncentrate on what you do well.
(A)sk questions ceaselessly about your performance, your markets, your objectives.
(M)ake money; if you don’t, you don’t do anything else.
(E)conomise, because doing the most with the least is the name of the game.

(F)latten the company, so authority is spread over many people.
(A)dmit to your failings and shortcomings, because only then will you be able to improve on them.
(S)hare the benefits of success widely amongst those who helped you to achieve it.
(T)ighten up the organisation whenever you can – because success tends to breed slackness.
(E)nable everybody in the business to use their individual powers to the fullest possible extent.
(S)erve your customers with all their requirements and desires to standards of perceived excellence in quality.
(T)ransform performance by constantly innovating in products and processes – including the ways in which the business is managed.

(Source: Goldfinger: How Entrepreneurs Grow Rich by Starting Small, R. Heller)

Some entrepreneurs eschew such “cutesy” lists, figuring that if the process of creating wealth can be reduced to a handful of simple rules, then there’d be a lot more wealthy individuals than there currently is today.

They’re wrong. Running a successful business is not “rocket science”. Most of the time it requires little more than common sense. As I’ve mentioned in past posts, however, common sense is somewhat uncommon!

Making your business more successful in 2008 requires that you focus on three simple objectives:

1. Increase sales.
2. Decrease overheads (by reducing costs and improving efficiency).
3. Increase profit margins.

Forget fads. Ignore the utterings of charismatic CEOs and I-Will-Make-You-Rich evangelists. Before each and every decision you make, or action you carry out, ask yourself which of these three objectives it meets. If it doesn’t meet any of them, don’t waste your time – do something that does.