This time of year many of us share a longing to make a fresh start. With that in mind, here are six must-keep New Year’s resolutions that will help your small business stay strong, relevant and competitive in 2017 and beyond:
1. Find the right technology provider and build a relationship
As a small business, there’s a strong chance that you count on local IT service and solutions companies to help manage computers, servers, business applications — all the technology you need to run the business. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when searching for a technology partner:
- Look for providers of complete end-to-end solutions, as opposed to one-off products.
- Ask other business owners about their experience with local technology providers. Did the IT provider act as a trusted partner and tailor service to their individual needs?
- Test potential partners by giving them a “pilot” project and evaluating their performance.
2. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly
You can accomplish this by incorporating responsive design techniques  into your website. You can begin by simplifying the navigation of your website, getting rid of PDFs and replacing them with HTML-based pages, testing design options and getting user feedback from family and friends. Make sure your website can easily be found by doing a little Search Engine Optimization (SEO) . You can begin an SEO project by using tools like Google Keyword Planner  and WordTracker  to help find words that people search for when looking for products or services that you provide. Then incorporate those keywords into website content and the ‘About’ section of your site so that it’s more likely be discovered by potential customers.
3. Fight ransomware by backing up your data
More and more small and midsize businesses are getting hit with ransomware  — nasty computer viruses designed by cybercriminals to encrypt important business files and render them useless until a ransom is paid. And IT industry analysts say the best protection against ransomware is a high-quality backup and disaster recovery strategy. A recent Ponemon Institute survey  of 618 IT workers at small businesses revealed that about half had been hit with ransomware, and half of those victims were forced to pay the ransom — many times because they didn’t have a clean backup copy of their relevant customer data or business files. The average amount of the ransom requests was $2,500. This year, resolve to invest in a cloud backup solution because that’s the only way to be certain you’ll get your data back if the business falls victim to ransomware or any other type of disaster.
4. Fire up those neurons by learning something new
Professional development should be more than just a buzz phrase. As a small business owner who wants to remain competitive, you need to continually expand your own skill set and keep up with the latest tools, techniques and technologies that can help the business succeed.
5. Three words: Specialize, specialize, specialize
Face it: There’s a lot of competition out there — a lot of noise in the marketplace. A great way to stand out from the pack is to stop trying to serve everyone’s needs and instead focus on the key areas where your business truly shines. For example, if you’re a baker who makes excellent wedding cakes, double down on that skill by getting the word out and spending less time on products that are just average.
6. Get on top of your financial situation and stay there
Resolve to spend more time digging into the minutia of your business’s finances because you may be surprised at how many opportunities you find to slash costs, increase efficiency and grow profit margins. That means tracking invoices more closely, paying bills on time, asking utility providers for ways to save money, and scoping the market for competitive suppliers. Choose one area to focus on each month and you’ll be very happy with the results. Happy 2017!
Norman Guadagno is Chief Evangelist and Senior Vice President of Marketing at Carbonite .
Silhouette 2017  Photo via Shutterstock