Eight years after the recession, as many as 93 percent of U.S. counties are still feeling the effects.
Only 1 in 5 small businesses have completely recovered. While the economy slowly improves, small businesses have sung the same tune of sluggish recovery for almost a decade.
But it’s a new year. In a world of political and international uncertainty, 77 percent of small business owners feel confident about the upcoming year, and many are positioned to hire new employees and make strategic investments.
To meet your goals in 2016 and the expectations of a bullish small business market, below are some helpful tips.
Prepare for El Nino!
Some states have already started to experience the peculiar weather patterns of El Nino, and weather experts continue to predict unusual winter weather in much of the United States. Now is a good time for your business to create or update a weather emergency plan. Consider the implications of temporarily closing, and keep copies of important documents somewhere outside the office.
Invest In Your Employees
Whether you choose to conduct a continuing education program or simply resolve to get to know your team better, team engagement matters. Show appreciation, provide constructive feedback, and encourage everyone to participate in the ideation process.
Everyone in small business is a marketer, to some degree. Create technological goals for your company this year. Update your website for mobile friendliness, invest in a streamlined point of sale system (POS), or subscribe to a marketing platform to keep track of your online marketing activities. Check out some affordable cloud solutions to compete with larger businesses.
Businesses in 2016 can’t afford to ignore online marketing. Start a blog, optimize your online presence, and consider hiring a consultant or in-house marketer. Small business marketing doesn’t have to cost a ton, and some small changes can yield big rewards.
Find New Ways to Support Your Customers
Consumers are looking for value. They support brands that make them feel connected and offer quality products and exceptional service. Engage in real conversations on social media (not just likes, shares, and promotions), go to more community events, and partner with other small businesses on a regular basis. Showcase your employees and best customers on your website and in local publications to create an ongoing dialogue between your brand and your consumer base.
Keep Next Year’s Taxes in Mind
If you stress out about filing corporate taxes, start planning early in the year. Organize your filing system. Use a scanner to keep all your tax files in one easy-to-search location. Consult a tax planner or accountant to strategically plan your investments and applicable deductions.
Take Some Classes
Aside from general concerns, many small business owners are really concerned about new government regulations and compliance. Take a few classes or attend a conference to address your pain points (regulation, taxes, online marketing, etc.). Use the opportunity to network with other like-minded people and gain new perspective. Getting away from the office for a day or two can also help you refocus on your strategic pursuits.
Outsource What You Can’t Handle
For administrative tasks and routine duties, use a freelance site, an online platform, or an outsourcing company to help out. Is your time better spent out with customers and prospects, or in the back office writing content or filing paperwork? Focus more on activities that bring in and keep business and hand off non-revenue-producing tasks.
The start of a year brings change across small businesses and large. With a balance of education, innovation, and strategic planning, small businesses can defy the sluggish growth trend and enjoy rapid advancement. In 2016, try something different, invest in the future, and measure your progress at every step to get ahead.
Bull Market Photo via Shutterstock