It’s that time of year again when we make resolutions in our personal lives that help guide us into the New Year. Hopefully, for most of us, we’ll follow through and achieve all of our resolutions — even if we do fall off the wagon once or twice.
As a small business owner, this is also the perfect time of year to make a list of resolutions of things you can do to help grow your business in the coming year. Think of it as reinforcing your business plan — or in some cases, rewriting your business plan to take advantage of new opportunities.
Let’s take a look at five resolutions that you can make for 2008 to grow and solidify your business.
Resolution #1: Back Up Your Data.
Backup, Backup, Backup. What would happen to your business come tomorrow if you woke up and found out that your computer with all your finances, customer information and invoices had died? All too often small businesses don’t back up their data and as a result their computers turn into ticking time bombs. In 2008 resolve to make better use of backup software and other technology that helps keep you protected from the failure that will happen sooner or later. Take advantage of new technology that allows for automatic, off-site backups that protect you even further by storing your critical data at another location. Most of these packages are available for a nominal fee and are worth their weight in gold when disaster strikes.
Resolution #2: Invest in Customer Relationship Software.
Turn your customer data into something you can use to help you grow your business. So many companies store their customer data in spreadsheets or in files scattered across the office. Customer Relationship Management Software (CRM is the industry slang) helps you manage your customer relationships and track not only their orders but also their interaction with you via phone, email or other means. With a few clicks you can find out who your most valuable customers are, which ones are consuming large amounts of your time and which ones are prospects for growth in the upcoming year. There are many packages on the market that can help you with this, ranging from off-the-shelf varieties that can suit most business needs and are available at your local office supply store to fully customizable one from big vendors such as Microsoft and Oracle. Take some time this New Year to read up more on CRM software and learn how it can be a valuable tool in managing your customers and your business.
Resolution #3: Procure a Good Accounting Package.
Make 2008 the year you stop using spreadsheets to track your finances and invest in a good accounting package. Spreadsheets are good for very small businesses, but the moment when you start growing you will find that you are being held back by their lack of ability to manage complex financial transactions. Another benefit you will receive from investing in a good accounting package is that tax time will be a breeze. Many accounting packages on the market today have modules that let you literally point, click and print your tax returns for your business! A good accounting package can pay for itself within weeks and in many cases even sooner. Think how much more effectively you could run your business when you can get up in the morning and see, at-a-glance, how well your business is doing.
Resolution #4: Become a Marketing Pro.
Learn how to effectively market yourself and your business. You don’t need an MBA in Marketing to be an effective marketer thanks to the wealth of information online and in stores nowadays about how to market almost any type of business. Perhaps 2008 is the year you decide to take a class or two at your local college to brush up on your marketing skills. Many businesspeople are heading back to the classroom to learn about more effective business management and marketing — plus it is a terrific way to network. Take a few moments when you turn the calendar to put together a list of marketing resources available online and locally and then resolve to take action on one or more of them. After all, nobody is going to buy from your company if they don’t know who you are to begin with!
Resolution #5: Outsource!
Take inventory in your business of how you can offload some of the more repetitive, routine tasks to others to allow you more time to grow the business. We often get loaded down with routine tasks that must be done, but end up stealing away our precious time we could be investing in the business to make it grow. Whether it be by hiring an administrative assistant to do some of these tasks or outsourcing some of the work to specialty companies or individuals, you may be surprised to find out that the additional cost of doing so is more than made up for by the “brain power” you are able to put back into your business. An added benefit is that by adding personnel to do such tasks they may be able to find even more efficiencies since they are often skilled in these areas — because, let’s face it, not all of us can be an expert on every aspect of running a business!
So now it’s time for you to act.
What will you do this New Year to help your small business grow? What action plans can you put in place now to guide you through the upcoming year?
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About the Author: Husband, Father, Friend, Lifestyle Coach, Author, Educator, and Entrepreneur, David B. Bohl is the creator of Slow Down FAST. For more info go to Slow Down Fast and visit his blog at Slow Down Fast blog.
Good stuff! I bought a CRM package from Microsoft last year and it has transformed how I look at my customers. Makes managing relationships, orders, clients and potential clients such a breeze that I don’t know how I did all this stuff beforehand.
David B. Bohl,
Great points. Instead of an expensive CRM system, we have decided to use the open source system called Vtiger. It has taken some time to learn the ropes, but we are getting as we go along.
… It has taken some time to learn the ropes, but we are getting better as we go along.
Excellent advices, hitting home run.
Being in IT and having worked world-wide with big businesses, IT played a major role in transforming businesses to greater heights. IT is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity to business growth and success. It’s a fact that the business playing field is now local and global scale. And IT enables and levels the playing field between small, mid-sized and big enterprises, i.e. through the internet, on-demand software model and more.
Great list David! I can especially relate to number two after the few weeks of trying to find JV partners.
To start this year off right, I made a list of my resolutions and turned it into a sale at resolutionsale.com, my first sale ever! So far the sale is going somewhat slow, probably due to the holidays and my difficulty in reaching JV partners, but the sale is converting at 3% and the OTO is converting at 85% so I can only hope that will keep up!
Happy New Year, blessings to all!
Great article David. I work with small businesses every day and certainly would advise clients to outsource IT functions. Too many times I find small businesses get their operations all gummed up with slow, virus-infected systems and they just don’t realize how much better things can be. Its like driving a car without regular tune-ups and not realizing the slow degradation in performance until it dies on you. Backups are KEY as well. Just met with a prospect the other day that has never done a test restore of their backups….bad idea. Keep the good info coming.
David is dead solid perfect in his point of view. However, his point of view is a whiter shade of pale.
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Thanks for the tips!
I can personally relate to #2 and #5… They could definitely boost my business.
Regarding #5, I have been noticing recently that I waste so much time re-acquainting myself with mundane business tasks that I only do once a week, for example. There’s a learning curve each time because it’s not fresh in my memory. If I would only take your advice to heart and outsource! (:
I have been following your advice since the first of the year. I have already seen the productivity of my office staff increase. Sales are up, expenses are down, and the attitude of the staff is way up. Thanks for the tips.
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yeah,IT played a major role in transforming businesses to greater heights. IT is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity to business growth and success.
Great article. A good time to make business resolutions, too. I am going to get into outsourcing this year, as a strategic move. Setting up a cost/benefit analysis now http://www.squidoo.com/benefit-of-outsourcing