10 New Years Resolutions For Small Businesses and Startups

 The new year is fast upon us and it is time for that ritual known as resolution-time! I am not talking about a new resolve to eat lighter and get to the gym 4 days a week. I am talking about business resolutions – specific actions and efforts you should take over the course of the next few months to strengthen your business, improve your customer’s experience, and strengthen your team in the year ahead.

Some of these suggestions are specific things to do to help increase business activity, other undertakings are meant to help you learn more about the current state of your business. Not all of these are for every company, but I hope that you find a few on the list that make sense for you. Here then are 10 new-year-business-resolutions for 2012!

1. Review your strategic planIt is a good idea to dust off your strategic plan at east once a year, and what better time then now? Business strategy needs to be ever changing and ever evolving if you hope to compete effectively, and an audit of your strategy is definitely in order. Schedule a brainstorming session, look hard at what your competition is doing, consider your marketing tactics and come away with a fresh approach to your business for the upcoming year.

2. Audit your social media strategyA SM assessment is an easy resolution to start the year, and Facebook is a natural starting point. Simple to use and critically important, FB is a key portal to your business, a point of entry for many of your potential customers. If you haven’t been attentive to this in 2011, start in 2012. Twitter is another channel that you should appraise and consider whether your efforts there are adequate or if they can stand improvement.

3. Attack your budgetWe do this at the end of each year, and it is critical that you look closely at your budget as soon as possible. Track last year’s expenses and compare actual expenditures with budgeted amounts. Do a reality check and see where there is fat to be cut or where you are underestimating the true costs. An focused look at your costs will help you to keep them under control in the new year.

4. Try some experimentation. Resolve in the new year to set specific goals for your business, define strategies to achieve those, and then develop a short list of experimental tactics to execute. Perhaps you haven’t tried email marketing, social media, public relations, special events, or other marketing  methods and some or all of these may prove effective if you try. Be sure that you are able to effectively measure the results of any new tactic you engage in and be ready to quickly kill those that are not working and increase your efforts with those that are.

5. Gather your data. The new year is the perfect time to reconsider the business data you gather and whether you are measuring what is truly important. Resolve to measure effectively, develop useful reporting, just be careful that you don’t waste your time or the team’s on measurements which will not move your company forward.

6. Ask your customersThe one person who can help you the most when it comes to improving your business and increasing revenues is your customer and the best way to get help from her is to ask. We use short, simple, and regular surveys to ask our customers about key aspects of our business: new features, pricing, customer service, even marketing efforts are great topics for surveys. Make a resolution to put that customer list to work for you and listen hard to what they tell you.

7. Clean up  your website. Or your storefront. Or your office. The point is that your places of business can use a little tidying up, whether it is just to make it more attractive, to feature new products or services, or to help your customers more easily find you. Study up on current bet practices for your industry and resolve to make some tweaks in 2012.

8.  Improve your customer serviceIf there was one most meaningful resolution you could make for your company in the coming year it would be to upgrade your customer service. A simple audit can tell you how effectively you are helping your customers; what channels are available for them to reach you? How quickly do you respond? How effective is your team at answering customer’s questions and solving their problems? Answer these questions and look hard at how you can improve on each – great customer service leads to great word of mouth, the most effective or least expensive marketing tactic on earth.

9. Delegate more. Take the time to identify all of the time that you spend every day doing things that others can do for you. Your time is best spend developing strategy, experimenting, listening to customers, and generating actual revenue. If there are actions you perform, which are not directly contributing to the growth of your business, you should look hard at how you can push those off of your desk and onto the desk of a subordinate or a vendor. Make a resolution to free up more time to think and your business can grow.

10. Thank your customers. Finally, resolve in the new year to thank your customers more often and in more meaningful ways. They are the life blood of your business and you should be letting them know that every day!