This time of year, many small business owners are looking at how their business performed last year and trying to figure out how they can improve in the New Year. Here are some tips to help you start the New Year right with your small business.
Look at how you operate your business and be sure you are truly focusing on your customers. Most small business owners would say of course they focus on customers. But it is easy to get busy with day-to-day demands and let yourself get into a rut when it comes to your relationship with customers.
Work to understand thoroughly who your customers are and what they need. Realize this does not always stay the same and you must be vigilant if you are to keep customers happy and coming back.
One way to do this is to seek feedback from customers often and in a variety of ways such as email or paper surveys, social media, or just asking them while they are in your store. Look at your competition and ask yourself why customers would come to you instead of them and vice versa.
Use this research and the customer feedback to sharpen your competitive edge and deliver outstanding customer service this year.
Put to use the financial information based on your business operations. Too many small business owners keep financial records just for tax purposes. But accurate and current financial records can be invaluable as you make business decisions.
So take time to organize and analyze your financial records and do not be afraid of the numbers. You need to understand and use your business’s financial statements to have a profitable and growing business. This year, use the insightful information in your financial records to better manage your business.
Set aside some time to educate yourself and improve your business skills. If you are not constantly improving yourself, you are falling behind. Analyze your strengths and weaknesses, determine what areas you need to concentrate on improving and take advantage of sources of assistance.
You could take continuing education classes through local colleges and universities, attend seminars presented by chambers of commerce and other business organizations, take online classes and short webinars, read books and articles, etc.
Conduct a SWOT Analysis on your business. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This analysis helps you define your business’s strengths so you can determine ways to capitalize on them and identify your business’s weaknesses so you can make improvements.
SWOT analysis also helps you look at factors outside your business to find opportunities in the market and take advantage of them. It helps you spot potential threats so you can prepare to deal with them.
Seek and use the resources available to help you make your business more successful this year, including both free resources and those for which you must pay.
Visit the Small Business Administration website at http://www.sba.gov/ to find out about loans, useful business information, other helpful websites and free consulting resources such as the Small Business Development Centers (SBDC’s) and SCORE.
Contact your local chamber of commerce for information and resources. Learn about small business groups and organizations that may be in your area and look for opportunities to network with other small business owners.
Visit your local library to learn about resources they have available to help small businesses.
Be willing to pay for a good small business attorney and a good small business accountant. Establish a good relationship with your banker and your insurance agent.
The above tips can help you start the new year off right. And your local Small Business Development Center offers free consulting to small business owners to help you identify and implement changes to make this a better year for your business.
Connie Edwards is business consultant for the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center in Savannah. Contact her at 912-651-3200.