A lot of businesses experience the January doldrums during the first few weeks of the year. Not only do sales slow down after an active holiday season, but most employees are still in vacation mode, which diminishes productivity levels. To address these issues in my company, I take small but significant steps to ensure I start the year strong and off on the right foot.

Harshavardhan Reddy Chairman of Hvr Sports

Here are some of the action steps I’ve personally laid out for my company. Take a look and see which ones are applicable to you and your business.

1. Put goals on paper

Sit down and actually write out weekly, monthly and yearly goals. And try not to just jot down vague aspirations (i.e. I will empower my team more this year). Your goals are more likely to stick if they are specific, attainable and measurable.

Don’t underestimate the power of this activity. Research has shown that itboosts energy and confidence. I’ve also found that the mere action of writing down goals forces me to be clear and concrete with what I want to achieve.

Once you have your goals on paper, step outside of your comfort zone and share them with others because it may increase your chances of reaching them. A recent study by psychology professor Dr. Gail Matthews found that “people who wrote down their goals, shared this information with a friend, and sent weekly updates to that friend were on average 33% more successful in accomplishing their stated goals than those who merely formulated goals.”

2. Clean up, literally

Physical clutter leads to mental clutter, and it will bog you down to begin the year with either. Tidy up your immediate environment. Start off simple by de-cluttering your physical and virtual desktops, deleting and unsubscribing from emails that you don’t read regularly, and removing unused apps or widgets.

Make sure this extends to your employees. At Retention Science, I ask my team to clean up their physical working space at the start of the year, and allocate time for them to do so.

3. Hold a 2014 kick-off meeting

Round up your employees for a start-of-the-year motivational meeting. I recognize the idea may sound cheesy, but trust me that a pep talk is exactly what most people need to prevail from their slump.

Gather everyone into your conference room and deliver a rousing speech. Recognize them for their efforts in 2013 and outline your plans and goals for the coming year. Bring your team into your vision and they will march along with you.

4. Recreate your SWOT analysis

When was the last time you evaluated your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT)? If your answer is “a while” or “I can’t remember,” then you are past due to conduct a new SWOT analysis.

Swot analysis

Be completely honest with yourself when working through this exercise. Ask others on your executive team to also do one independently and compare notes, as everyone will bring forth a different perspective. It can also be revealing to have your employees create a SWOT analysis for each of their departments. For instance, if you’re able to identify the strong and weak points of your marketing function, you’ll be able to make more informed staffing and budgetary decisions. Same is true for R&D and your product roadmap.

5. Update your company’s vocabulary

Tom and David Kelley recently wrote an insightful article for the Harvard Business Review about the power of language and how it shapes creative culture. In it, they cited examples of companies that reached new heights simply by adopting a more positive vocabulary.

One example shares how Cathie Black, the woman who took over as president of Hearst Magazines, noticed the naysaying culture of the company’s senior staff. To counter this, she introduced a rule stipulating that executives would be fined $10 every time they made a negative statement such as “that will never work” or “we’ve tried that already.”

The result? According to the article, the shift in language helped Hearst keep its brands strong during a tough period in the industry, and “Black rose to become one of the most powerful women in American business.”

Pay close attention to the most commonly used words in your business. Is your company vocabulary empowering your employees or is it limiting them? If it’s the latter, make yourself more aware of the language that you use, and round up your team and ask them to be more mindful about avoiding negative or closed-minded terms.

6. Invite input

Start the year with some fresh and honest feedback. Send customers a brief survey encouraging them to share their opinions about your products or services, as well as your performance in 2013. At the end of each significant meeting with them, ask how you can be doing better and be receptive to their input.

If one of your goals is to become a better leader this year, consider fielding an anonymous survey among your employees where they can rate how well you led the company and which areas could stand improvement.

7. Make a list of must-make connections

Few things are more fulfilling than engaging with someone you highly admire or respect. This year, resolve to give yourself a chance to do just that. Write down the names of people you want to meet or reconnect with in 2014. They could be business idols, previous colleagues, old friends or former teachers. Maintain that list and refer to it whenever you’re heading out of town or attending events, and make plans to actually meet these people when the opportunity presents itself.

8. Join a mastermind group

Are you consciously surrounding yourself with people who can push you towards success? If not, consider finding a mastermind group. For the uninitiated, a mastermind group is a collection of like-minded people with similar goals. It’s like a club where members can ask questions, share stories and support each other. These groups also open up many networking opportunities and learning experiences that can help you and your business grow.

9. Make at least one upgrade in your business

It wouldn’t feel like a fresh year if there weren’t at least one new thing about you or your business. Find something dated that could use some revitalization. It could be anything from your operating system to your coffee machine or company sign. I’m not suggesting that you need to be materialistic or that you should change just for the sake of change. Rather, this is a move that signifies your conscious effort to stay current and keep pace with the changing times.

10. Update your company’s online information

Make it a priority to review and revise your company’s online descriptor and boilerplate, as well as all executive bios. It’s easy for these things to get long in the tooth over the course of the year. If you won any awards in 2013, got mentioned in the press, or brought on new clients and partners, make sure they’re also included in the process.

Refresh your own online profiles as well. Is your LinkedInprofile up to date? What about the skills, job description and number of years of experience in your bio? Does your portfolio contain all of your recent work? Take a few minutes to update them. By doing so, you’ll not only make sure that everything’s current, but you’ll get to revisit your accomplishments and see how much you’ve grown professionally.

2014 is ripe with opportunity for change and progress – what plans have you made to drive your business forward this year?

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