10 New Year’s Resolutions for Small Business Owners
Congratulations! Your business has made it through another year intact. When you’re a small business owner, that’s no small feat.
But even if last year was your best yet (and especially if it wasn’t), you know there’s always room to be better. The end of a year is a good time both to celebrate your successes so far, and to look for ways to improve upon what you did last year.
To make the most out of the year to come for your business, commit some time at the beginning of the year to working on resolutions that will make your business better.
Here are ten New Year’s resolutions to consider in 2018.
1. Review and update your business plan.
Every small business must be guided by a business plan. If you’ve been at this for a while already, then you know how important that is. But how often do you go back to revisit your plan and make sure that it’s up to date and you’re sticking to it?
The beginning of a new year is a good time to pull up the most recent version of your business plan to see if your earlier goals and planning are still in line with what you want for the year to come. Chances are, you’ll want to make some changes based on new trends or technology and on your analysis of results from last year.
Your business plan doesn’t have to be set in stone, but simply the practice of sitting down to review and update it will help you go into the next year with a more clear and defined idea of what your priorities are and how to best to achieve your goals.
2. Consider your staffing needs for the New Year.
The people who work for you are one of the most important parts of small business success. But you don’t want to get complacent and assume the few good people you’ve hired already are all you need. If any of your current staff are overwhelmed, it’s probably time to hire more employees to help spread the work around. And if you’ve decided to tackle new initiatives, you’ll need to look for people with the skill sets required to take the new projects on.
A strong team of employees is hard to overestimate. While bringing new employees onto the team can be expensive, if they help your business run better and achieve more success into the year to come, then it’s important to take the plunge and build out your ranks. Take time to talk to your current employees and really analyze where your needs are. If you determine new hires are needed, get to work putting together some job ads and starting your search.
3. Check in with your customers.
Employees are one of the most important parts of small business success; your customers are the other. Your business won’t get anywhere without people buying your products. It’s important not just that you have customers (obviously), but that you work to understand who they are, why they buy from you, and what their experience with your business is.
To do that, you have to listen to them. Send out customer surveys to get their input. Encourage feedback on every purchase and customer service interaction and make sure you follow through on reviewing it and doing something with it. Commit in the coming year to making customer feedback and outreach a priority and put specific plans in place to make it happen. Your business will only get stronger and more successful for putting customer experience first.
4. Revisit your pricing.
Pricing isn’t something that you should set once and be done with. Every so often, you should revisit what you’re charging now and consider if you should raise or lower your prices. If your brand has gotten stronger in the last year and your sales have increased steadily, you may be able to easily bump your prices up without losing sales. On the other hand, if a cheaper competitor entered the market and is taking a lot of your old customers, then bringing your pricing down may be warranted.
Do price testing to get a feel for how your customers respond to different pricing levels and configurations. Changing your pricing always involves a little risk, but if you determine it’s the right choice after testing and careful consideration, it could mean higher profits in the year to come.
5. Look into new software solutions.
Small businesses depend on a wide range of software products to make various business tasks easier and more effective. While software itself is never a full solution – how you and your employees use it will always make a big difference – the right tech products can make your business more efficient and enable you to tackle new initiatives.
As you head into the New Year, review your current tech products to confirm whether or not they’re working well for your needs now. If they are, you may not need to change or replace any of what you’re using now, but if your employees find the software you have now hard to use or feel there’s missing functionality they really need, then it’s time to look at your other options.
In addition to figuring out which of your current software products should stay and which should go, look into the tech options available for functions you haven’t tried yet. Maybe you’ve been thinking about starting to use marketing automation or customer personalization, but haven’t taken the plunge to invest in the tools you need to start. Don’t rush into any business tech decisions, but do start to identify your needs and interests moving forward, and start researching the best options for meeting them.
6. Create a customer review policy.
Customer reviews can make or break small businesses. With so many places online where customers can check reviews before making a decision to buy, your online reputation is largely dependent on what the customers who feel like reporting back on their experience have to say about you. That means it’s crucial that you pay attention to the reviews your customers leave and care about what they have to say.
If you don’t have one yet, use the beginning of the New Year to create a customer review policy for your customer service team to follow. Commit to reading every review and responding. Good reviews should receive a “thank you” message, while bad reviews should receive an attempt to fix whatever the reviewer’s unhappy about. There will be cases where there’s not much you can do to fix the problem in a bad review, but assess each case and do what you can.
Beyond responding in the moment though, make a plan for doing something with the information the reviews provide. Good reviews tell you what you’re doing right and help you reward your employees for a job well done, and even bad reviews have value in teaching you how to improve. If you find trends in the feedback people give, turn those into action items to make your business better in the year to come.
7. Improve your marketing plan.
We’ve already talked about updating your business plan, but don’t forget to revisit your marketing plan as well. Every year brings new marketing trends and channels for businesses to consider, so you should always take time to consider which marketing tactics you want to employ in the coming year.
Look to your marketing analytics to determine which of your current campaigns and tactics are providing the best results. You’ll likely want to change up your current marketing mix based on what’s working the best for you now. But also consider if it’s time to branch into new online marketing tactics. If you feel like you’re lagging in SEO results, it might be time to start a content marketing program. Or if your content isn’t being seen enough, it might be time to look into guest posting or native advertising. The beginning of the New Year is a good time to get adventurous and think about trying something new.
8. Do a website review.
Whether you run an ecommerce business or have a physical shop that your website helps promote, your website is the main way people will interact with your business online. You’ve got to keep it up to date and working well.
If you haven’t had a website redesign in a while, take some time now to do a thorough review of your website. Test out how it works both on desktop on mobile. Do user testing to make sure it’s intuitive for your customers. Look for issues like broken links or images that no longer show up.
It can be easy after a while to think you can let your website run on autopilot, but the longer you go without doing proper maintenance to make sure it’s working as it should, the more little issues will accrue that cause your visitors to have a negative experience. Make a good, thorough website review one of your New Year’s resolutions.
9. Beef up your security.
We’re not talking about hiring intimidating security guards here. Your customers trust you with their personal financial information; making sure you do everything in your power to keep that information safe is a big responsibility that you owe them. Every year, hackers are getting more sophisticated and we get more news about big data breaches that put consumers at risk and damage business reputations.
Just because your business is small doesn’t mean you’re not a target. Take basic precautions to keep your networks and secure information safe.
10. Get more locally involved.
Small businesses have a lot to give to their local communities, and local communities have a lot to give back. That’s often true even if you’re an ecommerce business. The city where you’re based likely has professional organizations, networking get-togethers, and local events you can benefit from getting involved with.
Get out there and make connections with other businesses in your community. Speak at local events. Seek out mutually beneficial partnerships. And consider local causes you can donate or otherwise contribute to. Becoming part of the community will only make your business stronger.
Happy New Year!
Even if last year was a good year for your small business, it’s worth making an effort to make this one better. Commit to a few good New Year’s resolutions and make 2018 your best year yet.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.