1. Have a Plan: Take time at the beginning of the year to identify goals for your business. Create or revamp your strategic plan (both for the year and long-term). What do you want to accomplish? By when? How will you measure those goals? Once you have a list, communicate them to your staff so everyone is on the same page. Having clearly defined goals will keep you focused throughout the year and will give you a basis for evaluation.
2. All Social Media Channels are Not Created Equal: Let’s face it, your customers are on social media. But what social media tools are they using? Each type of social media has a different primary audience and focus. First identify your customer, then figure out where they are spending their time online. Once you do that you can begin developing your social media strategy.
3. Make Cyber Security a Priority: The FCC outlines 10 cyber security tips for small businesses:
(1) Train employees in security principles
(2) Protect information, computers, and networks by keeping clean machines and having security software
(3) Provide firewall security for your Internet connection
(4) Create a mobile device action plan (such as password protection)
(5) Make backup copies of important business data and information
(6) Control physical access to your computers and create user accounts for each employee
(7) Secure your Wi-Fi networks
(8) Employ best practices on payment cards (using PCI validated hardware and software, for instance)
(9) Limit employee access to data and information, and limit authority to install software
(10) Require all employees to use unique passwords and to change them regularly
4. Gain New Skills: There are multiple resources across Delaware where you can gain new skills—and many of them are free. For instance, the Delaware SBDC has both online and face to face training events for you to expand your business knowledge: http://delawaresbdc.org/training/.
5. Build Your Professional Network: Professional networking should be included in your annual business strategy. Benefits include acquiring business leads, sharing best practices, staying updated on industry trends, identifying talent, etc. You can network by attending events all across Delaware, such as: Chamber meetings, training events, industry-specific conferences/networking groups, social media, volunteering, etc.
6. Update Your Technology: Emilia DiMenco, President & CEO of Women’s Business Development Center, suggests the following: Employing the right technology will help you increase business efficiency and give you a competitive edge. Common areas of improvement are accounting and financing, order-taking, database management, communications and human resources management. Make your decision based on need and goals, not desire, and be sure to get the right support and training. Developing a solid IT infrastructure capable of growing with you is essential and a cost savings in the end.
7. Check In With Your Customers: When was the last time you solicited feedback from your customers concerning your products or services? Make it a point this year to do so. It’s also a good idea to assess what clients are return customers (and why), which aren’t (and why), and who you want as clients (and how to get them). You want to be sure you are paying attention to the existing loyal customers, while also remaining committed to seeking out new potential markets.
8. Make a Date with Your Business Financials: Not everyone is excited about looking at the company accounting books, but it’s necessary. Schedule a specific amount of time to assess your company’s financials on a monthly basis so there are no surprises. If you decide to hire someone to handle your accounting, you are still accountable. Schedule regular meetings with them to review your company’s financial viability. Delegate, don’t abdicate.
9. Hope for the Best and Plan for the Worst: You can’t anticipate everything that will happen to you or your business this year. Hopefully the year will be full of growth. However, we all know the best laid plans often go awry. Be sure you plan for business disruptions by having a backup plan. What if you lose a key employee? What if there is a natural disaster? What if your computer system goes out? Check with the Delaware SBDC for business resiliency resources, tips, and training events.
10. Seek Help: Is your business not growing sufficiently? Are you trying to do too much yourself? Some challenges might be remedied by hiring a great worker or by setting goals, but sometimes you might need more help. Examine your business and look for areas where you might need external assistance. Remember, the Delaware Small Business Development Center is a free resource dedicated to helping small businesses grow.