New Years Resolutions for Small Businesses
(Photo credit:) iStock/Ilya_Terentyev
As 2015 wraps up, it’s time to set new business goals for the year to come.
Whether you’re coming off of a strong year or one in which you struggled, there are always ways to improve your business and yourself as a business person.
Here are some smart small-business New Year’s resolutions to consider for 2016:
- Make more in-person connections. You know that business is built on relationships, so make it a goal to create more meaningful ones in 2016. Get involved with your local chamber of commerce, join a trade or alumni group, or attend an industry conference. Getting out there will help you build an invaluable network that can help you find new customers and vendors and stay up to date on what’s happening in your industry.
- Learn a new tech skill. Technology is evolving quickly and your ability to keep up is key to your future success as a small-business owner. Whether it’s building a website or the ability to process mobile payments, spending time to learn one new tech skill is an important investment in both yourself and your business.
- Hire smart. Building out a company is one of the toughest parts of growing a startup, but spending time carefully vetting and interviewing potential hires can pay off down the road. Look for candidates with small-business experience who seem like they’d be a good fit with your company culture.
- Get organized. For entrepreneurs, having a filing system and a plan for keeping receipts and other documents is an important tax-planning step, but it’s one that often falls through the cracks. “Many business owners are so busy running the business that they don’t do the boring, unpaid tasks,” says small-business tax adviser Barbara Weltman. “That’s foolish, because it costs you in the end.”
- Review your insurance policies. Your insurance needs will vary depending on the size of your business and your industry. Even if you’re happy with your broker and policies, it’s worth shopping around every few years to be sure that your coverage is appropriate and your premiums are in line with industry standards.
- Pay attention to cybersecurity. Although breaches of high-profile companies like Home Depot Inc. or Target Corp. get the headlines, your business is very much at risk. “Smaller doesn’t mean safer,” says Christopher Roach, managing director and national information technology practice leader at CBIZ Inc. Half of small businesses said that they had been the victims of a cyberattack, each costing an average of $20,750, according to the Small Business Administration.
- Manage your cash flow more efficiently. Cash management problems can grow into serious issues for small businesses. If you don’t have someone handling your finances, set aside time each week to take a look at your financial statements.
Look at how your expenses line up with your revenue and, if necessary, consider ways to make that process more efficient. That could mean renegotiating agreements with vendors, securing a short-term line of credit from a lender to access if you fall short, or something as simple as creating a process to ensure you promptly send out invoices.
- Listen to your current customers. Of course you always need to be working on ways to expand your customer base, but doing so at the expense of your current clients can be a huge mistake. Focus on ensuring that their needs are met in a manner that will keep them coming back, and take any complaints or suggestions they might have concerning your business seriously.
- Give back. Whether you’re making a donation to the local Little League or encouraging your employees to volunteer their time, being a supporter of your local community is as good for your business as it is for the organizations you’re supporting. Giving back is a great way to promote your company, increase employee retention and potentially nab some valuable tax benefits. Just be sure you get a receipt for any donation worth more than $250. “Unless you have [an] acknowledgement from the charity, you can kiss the deduction goodbye,” Weltman says.
- Make some time for yourself. Entrepreneurs are notoriously bad at maintaining a work-life balance, which can lead to burnout or fatigue and take a toll on personal relationships. Focus on building a team so you can delegate tasks, and make it a goal to carve out some time this year for yourself and your family, whether that means taking a vacation or just unplugging for an hour or two each night.