Throughout 2015, we’ve shared a wealth of tips and tricks to help move your business ahead. In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, we’re taking a look back at those ideas to create a manageable bucket list. The list includes 1) things you resolve to STOP doing; 2) things you resolve to START doing; and 3) things you resolve to KEEP doing. The list is short, so commit to at least one item in each area (or add your own) that can make a real difference for your business in the year ahead.
The Stop Doing List – This can be the hardest list of all since we humans tend to be creatures of habit. Look around your business – you’re sure to identify something you’re doing that should stop or change.
- Stop relying on email, social media and the web as an exclusive way to connect with customers. We live in a social world and businesses and customers alike benefit from the immediacy of 24×7 accessibility. But deep and long lasting business relationships still need real life interactions. Call and talk to your customers. Design a promotion or event that invites them into your business. Write (yes, hand write) a thank you note and (gasp!) mail it. See what a difference that personal touch can make.
- Stop putting off vacations. Let’s be honest. There’s really no such thing as work-life balance. As personal and professional lives merge, there’s just And everyone needs to find the balance that works for them. For some, a true vacation (think seven days in Aruba without even thinking about work) is the ticket. For others, simply taking a day off from email and work can provide the mental break you need. Give yourself permission to just take a breather.
- Stop guessing. Data is everywhere these days, so tap into it. What don’t you know about your business that could impact your success? Are you playing a guessing game when it comes to your cash flow? Use QuickBooks to get a handle on it. Unsure which products and services are most valuable to your customers and your bottom line? Find out. Look at your numbers or engage an advisor to help you understand the numbers. Survey your clients and your prospects to find out what they value and Use that insight to add value by packaging products and service differently, or update them to meet that need. Even better, bring something new to the market.
The Start Doing List – This list is often the longest as we envision great things for our business. Not surprisingly, it’s also the most abandoned because we often set goals that are out of reach. So, be realistic with the items that make this list. Stick to it and celebrate the milestones as you reach them.
- Start investing in technology. The smaller your business, the more efficient it needs to be. A simple hardware or software upgrade can make a big difference when it comes to saving time. Whatever your industry, technology (whether it be computers, peripherals, the Internet and the cloud) can help you do more. If you want to grow your business, provide better customer service or simply work smarter, technology can be the catalyst. Start with a small investment, but design a plan that will support your business goals in the years ahead.
- Start getting involved. Small business owners are entrepreneurs, innovators, artists and leaders. Every day you’re devoting your time, energy and ideas into building small businesses that contribute to the economy and your community can benefit from your leadership. To make your business vital to your town, city or community, get involved. You can: serve on a community board; volunteer; build partnerships; donate (time, money or even space); and plan, host or simply participate in community events. Your community will benefit, and you might be surprised by what you get in return.
- Start building your (and your employees’) financial acumen. A lack of financial literacy is often the culprit behind other inefficiencies within a company. Look for opportunities to continue your financial education. Find an accountant that’s the right fit for your business and schedule regular check-ins to keep finances in tip-top shape. And if you have employees, consider offering financial wellness training for them, too. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) has many resources available to assist you.
The Keep Doing List – This list is your virtual “pat on the back” because there are lots of things you’re doing well. Keep it up!
- Keep your website up-to-date. With so much business conducted online these days, your website is probably the single most important marketing tool you have. While blogging, social media and other tactics are important, sometimes the core content on a website gets neglected. A site that’s not updated can convey many things about your business – most of them negative. So keep it fresh. Not only do search engines love frequently updated sites, but a current website with value-added content keeps visitors coming back.
- Keep your business plan current. Markets and technology are not stagnant – neither is your business. That means your business plan must be a living, breathing document too. Review it regularly to ensure it’s still aligned with your business goals and change what needs changing. If you don’t have a business plan, write one. Even if you’re not in the beginning stages, a business plan helps you think creatively about your business while keeping it on track.
- Keep learning. Continuous learning is essential for small business owners. Ideally, you should spend 30 minutes each day researching new ways to improve how you run your business. Not realistic? How about setting aside 30 minutes a week to read up on new and improved methods of marketing, bookkeeping or product design. This could be the year you become proficient in an area where you are weak. Technology, marketing, accounting and consumer expectations are going to change, so give yourself time to stay on top of the trends in your industry.
It’s always satisfying to cross an item off a to-do list, but it’s even more motivating when you’ve already eliminated the things that are unimportant or distracting. What can you stop, start or keep doing that will have the biggest impact on your business this year? Make your list. Make it realistic, but leave a little room for dreaming, too.