7 New Year growth resolutions for small businesses
Do you have "inspirational" posters in your office that are meant to motivate you and your employees but deep down you know they are utterly useless?
This post is the opposite. I am not here to inspire you, I am here to tell you what changes you should make in 2017 to grow your business (if you haven't made them already). Also, unlike in the traditional New Year resolution list, you can make some of these changes within the first week, some within the first month, and only a couple resolutions will have to go on for the whole of 2017. So, my dear friends, Happy New Year, and let's start with the business growth.
1. Abandon what's not working.
There is a number of routine processes running in your business. You are probably well aware of what processes drive your profit, assuming your business is already profitable, but do you know what processes are simply there without any use? It's important to understand that even if the business is a success, it's partly functioning despite some actions, not because of them. What's the solution?
It's the beginning of the year - the perfect time for a business audit. Identify the ineffective and harmful processes, and either make a solid step-by-step plan to improve them, or get rid of them. This will clear the room for effective strategies, save you and your employees both time and money, and make it easier for your business to grow.
2. Delegate more.
Entrepreneurs tend to be workaholics. They also tend to have serious trust issues. Too often business owners live by the "If you want a thing done well, do it yourself" rule. While it's a great rule for when you're just starting, it shouldn't stay like that forever. At the point when you have a team of people working for you, you as a business owner should focus on your direct responsibilities, while the members of the team should focus each on their own job. If that sounds painfully obvious to you - congratulations, you're doing it right; if you're a business owner that spends nights catching up on paperwork - rethink your strategy. If you want your business to grow, you should learn to trust your employees. After all, you were the one to hire your team - they really should be good enough.
Tools to help you make the difference:
Both of these tools help you delegate tasks and manage your employees' workflow by easily assigning tasks and checking their working status.
3. Update your technology.
You might never find out about dozens of ways to simplify your job if you don't do your technology research regularly. Finding and employing the right technology will help you automate some routine aspects of your business, and will let you concentrate on the important ones. New technology will also open up possibilities for your business you might've never thought about. Common areas of improvement are accounting and financing (Certify), order-taking (Megaventory), database management (Zoho), communications and human resources management (HRMatrix). Although learning to use another IT solution might not seem like an easy thing to do, it is almost always worth it.
4. Step up your customer service.
A great thing about customer service is that if you pay extra attention to it, you will easily stand out among your competitors. Every extra move, even if it happens only once in a while, is appreciated by your customers. Surely, the thing you should be aiming to achieve is seamless customer experience all the time, but you can start little. Take the time to reply to customers on social media, send a couple of your most loyal customers a surprise holiday present, send out a "Thank you" card. Some extra effort will go a long way, and it will build you a reputation of a customer-orientated brand.
Tools to help you make the difference:
A social media monitoring tool that finds all questions, comments, and complaints on social media and the Web in real time so that you can reply immediately.
If you're looking not to provide a boost to your customer service (as Awario would), but to completely reorganize it, try Zendesk. It's a web-based customer service platform that covers customer service through phone, email, live chat, and social media. It also allows businesses to create custom online help centers, so customers can find answers through a public knowledge base.
5. Maintain a daily online presence.
If you're not doing that already, start now. Have a brand page at least on one or two most relevant social media networks. The two most common ones are, of course, Twitter and Facebook. However, others may be more relevant to your target audience. To learn more about what platforms are best for promoting your brand, jump to the post that tells everything you need to know about the difference between the social media platforms. Make a resolution to post one or two interesting and relevant to your brand posts, questions, photos, or anything else daily.
Tools to help you make the difference:
A scheduling tool that lets you plan and schedule social media posts, and then does the posting itself, ensuring your social media presence is equally distributed through the days and doesn't distract you from other tasks.
Hootsuite covers same tasks as Buffer, and does a bit more. It also supports more social networks, including more rare ones such as Foursquare, MySpace, Vimeo, etc.
6. Consider attending (or quitting) networking events.
This one is tricky. Depending on your niche and the level of your business development, you might gain a lot from networking events or you might be wasting your time. To understand which of the two options is yours, think about your aims for the networking events. Are you aiming to meet your biggest investor? Then you're probably wasting your time. Yes, there is a chance for this to happen, but similarly there is a chance for meeting your future wife on such event, yet you don't get frustrated when this doesn't happen. So the key here is to realise that this probably won't happen, and if it will, the investor most likely won't be worth hours spent on finding the one.
It's crucial to realise that networking is more about building strong relationships. Firstly, it's a marathon as opposed to a sprint. You won't just meet someone and everything will figure itself out. It's a slow process where you build connections slowly as you keep meeting the same people on different events, and finally taking your relationship outside of networking events. You shouldn't even necessarily exchange business cards; rather, you exchange stories, inspire and help each other, as most people there are just starting out. So, if you feel like you have time for building relationships more for the sake of expanding your social circle than hoping for that one investor to pay attention to you - do it. However, if you're buried with work and you haven't slept or seen your dog for the past 6 weeks, abandon networking events and focus your valuable time on something more effective. That actually might have a bigger chance of resulting in business growth.
7. Keep learning.
As a business owner, it is easy to just get stuck in your own bubble of work, more work, and some work you have to do right now. Yet, to stay on top of your niche you have to keep learning. I am sure you know that, but you just never seem to get to it. Well, that's what New Year resolutions are for. Make a promise to yourself to do as little as read about new advances in your niche every week, monitor the Web for what your target audience is talking about, keep an eye on new technology/events/training courses that might result in your business growth or make your time more effective. And if you are feeling especially brave, promise yourself to learn something very new that might be helpful for the growth of your business.
Resources to help you make the difference:
Udemy offers courses on business, management, IT, design, marketing, and more.
Lynda.com is another educational website that offers courses that mainly focus on employability skills, such as computer programming, videography, office software proficiency, and meeting/presentation management.
That's it! Hope you found something to you'll make use of in 2017! Have a great year in business.