4 Resolutions for Your Small Business in 2017
The New Year brings with it the desire (and pressure) to make resolutions you can’t keep.
Many will resolve to reach a fitness goal, and gyms are scrambling to gear up for the chaos, only to see the crowds dissipate within a month or two. Others will vow to quit smoking and drink less (or both) only to be found outside their favorite bar ripping a heater weeks later. And every business out there is resolving to make more money.
But there is hope for your small business to reach that revenue goal. Keeping in mind that most resolutions don’t make it far into the year, here are a few small business resolutions you can apply to your company with strategies to make them last through the whole year.
1. Resolve to come up with a plan, and stick to it
This might seem obvious, but it all starts with a plan. Do you have a business plan for 2017?
If you want to survive, let alone grow, coming up with a solid plan is the first thing you need to do. And we don’t mean that dream you have for your business, but a formal, written plan, that you and your employees can follow throughout the year. Generating a sound plan for your business involves evaluating what’s going on with your finances (more on that later), your competition, your operations, and more. This will help you prioritize how to spend your time and money, as well as set measurable goals. Having a plan will also help you be able to better identify current or future obstacles to reach those goals. This will help you avoid and even anticipate potential risks.
Even if you already have a plan for your small business, take another look through it to make sure it reflects your business’s goals. Once your plan is in good shape:
2. Resolve to manage your money better
Having a successful business is far more complicated than just bringing in more revenue. There are several other considerations to make that can bring in more cash to your business. (This is a blanket resolution with several little parts, so pick and choose where to start based on your needs and weaknesses.)
A good place to start is to evaluate your payment options. This is both for the convenience of your customers and also for the safety of your business. For instance, are you able to accept chip cards yet? (Because legally, you have to be.) Accepting credit and debit cards embedded with chips (EMV cards) helps reduce your risk of fraud and helps strengthen credit security.
Depending on your business, you may also want to be able to accept mobile payments, and not put yourself in a situation where you cost yourself customers because you aren’t able to accept a certain payment option.
You can also resolve to invest in your business in 2017. This is a two-fold resolution, because it involves understanding your day-to-day finances, so if you don’t, you will have to learn that too. But it is a great resolution for any business owner whose cash flow varies throughout the year.
It will even help you to generate a rolling 12-month cash flow projection for the year. Since sales ebb and flow throughout a year, you want to know where you stand on a month-to-month basis so you can know what to expect. Once you notice patterns, you can ask yourself a couple questions: Should you switch suppliers or vendors? Should you boost your prices? Then you can consider ways to reduce expenses and increase your revenues.
Analyzing your business expenses is a great way to see where you can cut costs and save money. Try to negotiate a lower monthly rate with your internet service provider. You could even ditch your phone company and that overpriced landline, and opt for an affordable small business phone system.
Another thing you’ll want to do is to learn the difference between cash flow and profits. All money isn’t created equal. CliffsNotes version: cash flow keeps your doors open short-term, profits provide long-term security. Make sure you understand what parts of your business bring in your profits.
And lastly, if you’ve let any customers slack on making their payments, it’s time to get after it and collect the money you’re owed. You might be shy and uncomfortable asking for money or have a poor collections process (all things you can work on too, by the way), but you need to get the cash you’re owed. This is a great exercise to implement early in the year.
3. Resolve to manage your time better, too
Obviously, this goes with the strategy above. Time is… after all, right?
That being said, make sure you charge what you’re worth. A common pitfall for small business owners is making your prices too low in order to match the bigger competition. But you shouldn’t undervalue yourself! Revamp your strategy and market to the right audience so you can raise your rates. Sell the value you offer that the competition can’t match. If you do this right, the price will be worth it for your customers.
Another more literal time management strategy is to turn off your social media. Not completely, of course, as it’s a vital component to your small business, but don’t let it become the major time suck that it has the tendency to be. Social media is a major distraction and if you let it, it can take up way more of your time than is necessary, even if you’re using it for your business. Read more tips on using social media to grow your business.
Avoid distraction by setting limits. Set aside a specific amount of time per day to dedicate to your social media, and then ignore it outside that window. Use a scheduling tool like Hootsuite to map out your posts: set it and forget it. This will help your focus more on your business. Don’t let Facebook take over and leave you wondering what happened to your day.
4. Resolve to try new marketing strategies
Marketing a small business takes an investment of time and money, but when done effectively, can help your business truly thrive. There might be a period of trial and error to learn what works and what doesn’t. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to test out new marketing strategies.
For instance, the goal of any business is to bring in new revenue, but don’t forget to show your current customers some love too. It’s easy to focus on bringing in new business, but most business sales will actually come from your existing customer base. You know the 80/20 rule. Retention can often be just as challenging as bringing in new customers, so make sure you take the time to engage with your current customers and don’t let anyone slip through the cracks.
Come up with clever ways to follow up with your buyers and stay in touch to let them know you value their business. When they are satisfied and feel appreciated, they will often turn into great advocates for your business, and may even purchase more products. If most of your customers are one-time buyers, resolve to find out what you can do to keep them coming back for more.
A possible tactic here is to launch a customer reactivation campaign targeted at those who haven’t purchased your product or service in more than a year. You can incentivize the campaign with a deal or gift.
You should also get involved in your local community or with a charitable organization. Regardless of what your business sells, research has shown that consumers would pay more for products and services from companies that are socially and environmentally responsible. Consider teaming up with a charity to donate a portion of your sales or sponsor an event; your customers will take note!
There are other mini-resolutions you could implement here as well. Improve your digital presence via targeted newsletters and social media campaigns. Update your website if it has gotten stale, and make sure it’s mobile friendly. Start a blog for your business. Host your own educational or promotional events.
Many of these strategies will cost you nothing beyond an investment of your time. To help boost your business profile and bring in more revenue, they could be well worth it in the long run.
That should be a good baseline for your business to follow in 2017. Obviously, don’t implement all of these strategies at once, but you can safely resolve to implement a few into your business in 2017. Keep checking back to our blog for more small business strategies and tips throughout the year.