Three Year-End Questions for Small Business Owners

At Kona Impact, we typically have two times of the year–December and June–when we reflect and look forward. We try to take a detailed look at what’s working, what isn’t, and where we want to be in the future. I like to say that everything is on the table for discussion at these times; every idea will be considered.

What’s working?

What products or services are making the most profit? Note: this is entirely different from the most income: it’s easy to sell a lot of low margin products and make very little money–what we call the “busy and broke” syndrome. Be honest and consider all the costs and revenue from products.
I always ask restaurants: what products make you the most money? What products are easy to make, bring high levels of satisfaction to your customers, and sell for a good profit? There are things on the menu that have high food costs, your cooks hate to make, your customers don’t find very satisfying and you can’t or won’t charge enough for them to make a reasonable profit. Get rid of these.
What products or services do you do better than anyone else in town? These are your competitive advantage (if you can market them). At Kona Impact we get asked weekly if we make t-shirts. The answer will always be “no” because I know of two screen printers in town that do excellent work at fair prices. I don’t want to (nor could I) compete with them.
I do, however, want to be the best at what we do for our core competencies: signage, marketing, graphic design, specialty printing and print design. If we can’t be the best, or number 2, I have to reconsider what we do.
What products or service are growing? Growth is key. About a year ago, we started offering 3-D signs, cut with our CNC routers. While it’s still a small part of our business, it is growing rapidly. We see the trajectory as equal to, if not more important, than current volume.

success concept
What isn’t working?

The answer to this is simple: what do we do that provides us with little or no profit? Are we doing things that take our time, but result in only labor and materials costs and little contribution to the bottom line?
Another aspect of this is to consider what products or services face have encountered risks or headwinds that will only persist? Are there technologies or changes in the market that will result in a slow withering of something we do?

Where do we want to be in the future?

I freely admit that of the five pillars we had for Kona Impact when we started 12 years ago, two were quickly abandoned. We did not know that the predicted market for those would be small and hard to gain entry. We planned for them, but, alas, we were wrong. Fortunately, we had the courage to admit this and move on. We replaced those two non-working pillars with three others, which have done quite well.
We look to the next few years of Kona Impact and see many wonderful opportunities for growth. This includes increasing our marketing consulting business, growing our custom CNC (3-D) signage offerings and developing some business-to-consumer products. We’ve always been business-to-business only, but now see how some opportunities directly marketing to consumers.
We also see productivity gains coming from some new machinery and procurement processes.
As the year comes to a close, we are very excited about what is to come for Kona Impact. Truth be told, 2018 was an excellent year for us on many fronts and a failure on a few. I would be disappointed if we didn’t have a few failures, as that would mean we didn’t try to innovate or grow. I’m looking forward to the new year that is full of opportunities, and, yes, a few failures along the way.