What are your plans for growing your business in the new year? When we posed this question in the past, you told us that you wanted to do things like expand your market reach, focus on getting more repeat customers, or introduce new products and services.
Those are all excellent goals. So, while you’re thinking about your New Year’s resolutions for 2014, we thought we’d offer up a few that, according to your entrepreneurial peers, actually made a big impact on their small businesses.
“Enhance response times.” Adi Bittan, co-founder and CEO of online reputation firm OwnerListens, says decreasing the time it took her team to respond to customer requests — from 48 hours to less than 24 hours — was her New Year’s resolution last year. To make that goal a reality, her team implemented recurring task reminders in their calendars and shared related metrics at weekly meetings. “I’m now happy to report the current average response rate is under 12 hours. Additionally, customer satisfaction rates are up 16 percent, and customer engagement is up 31 percent,” Bittan says.
“Reconnect with passions.” Two-thirds of the entrepreneurs we surveyed said personal passion drove them to open their businesses. However, when the demands of being your own boss set in, it’s easy to lose sight of that passion. Helenya Gradidge made it her New Year’s resolution to incorporate her love of animals into her skin-care business, Nuvo Visage. She shifted her sales model from wholesale to online so she could spend more time at home with her pets. She also partnered with the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia to offer free spay and neuter surgeries through the SNIP Fund. “It’s been a longer and harder process [than building a business], but it’s finally getting noticed. I’m happy I chose to stick to my goal,” Gradidge says.
“Make connections pay off.” Do you routinely turn the connections you make at networking events into a viable return on investment? Tracy Higginbotham is the president of Women TIES, a support group for female entrepreneurs. Last year, she resolved to place follow-up calls within a week of attending networking events and to incorporate sales calls into her weekly business routine. The result? “I increased my sales by 20 percent last year by dedicating just one day a week to following up with professionals I met at events. Networking is a wonderful experience, but to turn that time into money, entrepreneurs must make more sales calls,” Higginbotham says.
“Remove the emotion from business decisions.” In 2012, Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com, a company that provides incorporation, LLC filing, and business maintenance services, vowed to put all of the data her team was collecting to good use. “I resolved to pay attention to every piece of data that applied to the business. We were able to increase our return on investment, decrease spending on areas that were not yielding productive outcomes, and get the right team members on our team,” Sweeney says. “We drastically improved profitability; it has been incredible for our business.”
“Tackle the big to-do.” Entrepreneurs are inherently ambitious go-getters. But the nonstop demands of running a business can prompt owners to postpone activities that won’t have an immediate impact on the bottom line. In 2012, Brian Basilico, founder and president of B2b Interactive Marketing, resolved to write a book. He not only achieved his goal — It’s Not About You, It’s About Bacon was released in July — but also reaped additional rewards from doing so. “It has grown my business more than 30 percent because of the presentations and book sales,” Basilico says.