For small business owners the end of the year means more than holiday parties and last minute shopping, it’s also the time to get their business in order for the New Year. While it may be hard for small business owners to step back, reflect and plan for the coming year, doing so can put the business in a better competitive position come January 1st.
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“Too many owners and their senior staff just get so caught up in the daily whirlwind that they lose sight of the realities of business ownership,” says Bill McBean, author of “The Facts of Business Life: What Every Successful Business Owner Knows That You Don’t.” “When that happens, success may not evaporate overnight, but it will, inevitably, slip away.” According to McBean, following these five tips will put you in a strong position for 2013.
No. 1: Be your own worst critic
It’s easy to pat your-self on the back and surround yourself with yes men and women, but according to McBean, successful business men and women share a common trait: the ability to self-analyze.
“Before you can lead a business forward, you have to define where it is today, evaluate your personal strengths and those of your business, and compare those evaluations to those of your competitors,” says McBean. He says to honestly ask yourself: did the business have a good year? What went well? What went wrong? And what are potential future opportunities to grow your business? Once you’ve answered these questions it’s time to put in place whatever needs to be done to change or achieve future goals.
No 2: Take the time to thank customers
Your business is only as good as your customers, which is why small businesses should use the year end as an opportunity to say thank you to its best customers. Thanking every customer that walks through your door or uses your service can be time consuming but thanking those that bring in the profits can be a boon to future business, says McBean.
“Once you’ve identified your VIPs, create ways to enrich the relationship,” says McBean. “No one likes to be taken for granted. A call or letter from you will show them that you don’t. It’s amazing the ROI you’ll get from such a simple action.” Small businesses should never forget that an upset customer means revenue and/or profit for their competitors, noted McBean.
No 3: Acknowledge your employees
Whether you are a three-person shop or 100 strong, it’s a good idea to acknowledge your employees at the end of the year with either a formal or informal review, says McBean. Not only will it give you an opportunity to address poor performers and reward high performers but it also boosts morale and thus productivity. “The idea is to show employees that you recognize and appreciate their contributions,” says McBean.
No 4: Assess the viability of your marketing plan
It’s easy to start a marketing campaign at the beginning of the year and then forget about it because you are simply too swamped to worry about it. But blowing it off into a New Year could mean you are missing the opportunity for new revenue. McBean says to take a pulse of your marketing plan by asking yourself if the plan is aggressive enough, is it reaching the right audiences and is it brining in repeat business.
Also consider your options and other ways to spend your advertising dollars more effectively. For instance, is your social media efforts really paying off or would you be better off spending your money on a direct mail campaign. “Many companies see marketing as an expense but it’s actually an investment and deserves your focused attention,” says McBean. “Create an objective and measure results against it.”
No 5: Have end of year meetings with the accountant, attorney and other advisors
Most business owners don’t check in with their accountants until tax time and don’t consult their attorney unless there is a legal issue, but McBean says the end of the year is a great time to get the perspective of your trusted professionals, that you probably have on retainer anyway.
“Their perspective can be extremely valuable to an entrepreneur who has been chained to his or her desk all year,” says McBean. “Planning for a future you can’t predict is part of a business owner’s job, and these advisors can help you make smart decisions.”
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