5 Business Resolutions You Can Actually Keep

Have you already given up on your business resolutions for 2013? Well, here are 5 you can keep — and they’ll continue to help you and your business all year long.

Do you make tons of resolutions to improve your business every year but ultimately just can’t keep them? Me too. To help us both, I’ve narrowed the list down to five resolutions that I know will make a difference to our businesses.

In the most recent American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor poll, American Express identified a subgroup of “high-achieving” small-business owners and pinpointed five actions they took that differentiated them from the average small-business owner.

High achievers boasted business growth of 34 percent in the last three years, compared to 10 percent growth for the average survey respondent. If you want to be a high achiever in 2013, resolve to do what they do.

- Resolution No. 1: Invest in your business. Despite a tough economy, 78 percent of high-achieving small-business owners plan to make capital investments in their businesses in the next six months (compared to 49 percent overall).

What to do: Think about the pain points in your business. For example, are you struggling with slow, outdated computers, or spending too much time on duties you should delegate? Figure out how much it would cost you to upgrade your systems or hire a virtual assistant to take over the busywork. Then determine how much more productive you could be if you made those changes. If the investment would pay for itself fairly quickly, find room in your budget to make it happen.

Tools: Find virtual assistants and business support at Fancy Hands or PeoplePerHour. Check out sites like ElanceoDesk and Task Armyto find freelancers, contractors and independent consultants. Check out CNet and TopTenReviews for small-business technology reviews to find the right products for your business.

- Resolution No. 2: Leverage social media. Seventy percent of the high achievers use social media (compared to 49 percent overall); nearly 80 percent use it to reach new customers (compared to 57 percent overall). If you haven’t plunged into the social media waters yet, now’s the time.

What to do: Go where your customers and prospects are. If you sell business-to-business, LinkedIn would be a good place to start. If you sell to consumers, start with Facebook. Once you’ve set up your account, make a commitment to start small by spending 15 or 20 minutes a day on the site of your choice, posting and responding to others. Use third-party tools to simplify your social media activities. Give it time, but if you’re not getting results after three to six months, reassess what you’re doing.

Tools: Learn how Facebook can help your business at Facebook for Businessand “The Facebook Blog.” Make the most of LinkedIn at the LinkedIn Help Center and “LinkedIn Blog.” NutshellMail lets you monitor all your social media activity in one place. Use a tool like HootSuite to manage your social platforms.

- Resolution No. 3: Ask for customer feedback. A whopping 92 percent of high achievers ask their customers for feedback and use that feedback to improve their businesses. Specifically, 78 percent ask how they can provide better service (compared to 52 percent overall); 73 percent ask for referrals (compared to 53 percent overall); and 51 percent request reviews on social media and ratings sites (compared to 34 percent overall).

What to do: Set up a system for requesting feedback so that it becomes an automatic part of your sales process. If you sell via salespeople, for instance, have them request a referral as part of the post-sale follow-up; if you sell online, send a follow-up email encouraging customers to refer a friend. Conduct regular customer surveys and act on what you learn. Encourage customers to review your business on ratings and review sites, which act as referral networks in their own right.

Tools: Use SurveyMonkeyPolldaddy or Constant Contact to conduct customer surveys via the Web, email or social media. Visit local search and review sites like Local.comYelp and Yellow Pages to claim your listing, keep it current and monitor reviews.

- Resolution No. 4: Stay positive. Nearly all (99 percent) of the high achievers see the glass as half full. Being positive helps you inspire your team and gives you the enthusiasm to power through the long days and nights that business ownership requires.

What to do: Get enough rest. Give yourself at least half an hour before bedtime to wind down. Choose a workout you enjoy and schedule time for it on your calendar, just like you would any other appointment. Eat a healthy diet that energizes you without weighing you down. Surround yourself with positive people and cut back on the time you spend with complainers, whiners and naysayers.

Tools: A smartphone app like Sleep as Android or iHome+Sleep can help you get to sleep and wake up at the optimal time. MyFitnessPal is a great free app for tracking your workouts and food intake. Try The Habit Factor to inspire, encourage and monitor your progress toward developing positive habits.

- Resolution No. 5: Get help. Almost 60 percent of the high achievers have a business mentor (compared to 33 percent overall).

What to do: A good mentor will meet with you on a regular basis, provide sound business advice, help you set goals and hold you accountable. Ask friends and colleagues to recommend possible mentors who might be a good match for your needs. Or get in contact with SCORE or your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC). These nonprofit organizations provide business mentoring, advice and more to small-business owners — absolutely free.

Tools: Learn more about SBDCs and find the one nearest you at the Small Business Administration website. Visit the SCORE website to get matched with a SCORE mentor.

Let’s meet back here a year from now and compare notes on how we did.

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