Create a list of little niggles, issues and lessons learned throughout the last year - however big or small – and come up with a way to eliminate them going forward. New businesses will have all kinds of teething problems, of course, but it’s how you deal with these issues and overcome them that will keep your businesses moving forward.
Chances are, whether you are 6 months or 6 years into your business, you will have veered away from your original business plan. Take some time to look back at it and see if your business needs to be re-aligned, or your plan simply needs updating. Either way, it will really help focus your mind on why you set up your business in the first place.
It’s easy to let your website content slip – once your site is live and well-populated, and getting traffic, it can be easy to move it down the priority list. Try printing out each page, and go through it to identify any changes. Check for spelling and grammar errors; make sure prices, and contact details are accurate; and ensure your news or blog pages are up to date – the latest content should not be more than a month old.
Add new customer testimonials (ask their permission first!), or media articles you have secured, and make sure there are calls-to-action, and plenty of keywords in your content. You may be considering a special offer for January anyway, so make the most of your webmaster’s time and send them all updates together.
With an ever-growing digital world, it’s important to keep up with your customers, and adapt your marketing and social media to ensure you have the best engagement with your customers. Keep an eye on competitors, new trends, and customer habits – they change constantly. Keep your content fresh.
There are hundreds of great books out there that are full of useful tips, ideas and practical advice – put one of them on your Christmas list, and make sure you read it!
You should regularly be taking a look at how your employees are performing and identify any gaps in their training and professional development. If they are not contributing to the business and to your profits, it’s time to shake things up. Think about each member of staff, and how your business would suffer if each took a month-long holiday – could you cope?
If the answer is ‘yes’, for any of them, why is that? Do they need more training? Is the role now redundant, or is it that the person in the role is not performing? The New Year is a great time for new recruitment, so chances are, you’ll find some great candidates if you do have to let someone go.
Think about how your business is developing, and how you can best support that development. Are you lacking in knowledge or understanding of any aspects of your business? It’s important to take the lead, and if that means learning a new skill, then do it. It could be something basic like becoming more social media-savvy, an accountancy course, or developing your pitching skills, but it could make a big difference to your bottom line.
Have a look at all your customers in 2014, and consider rewarding any repeat customers or big spenders in 2015, to ensure you keep their custom. It doesn’t have to be a huge reward, but as a small business, chances are you can personalise it to suit their needs and buying power.
Your accountant is your best friend in business – take them out for a coffee or lunch, get to know them, and ask them to go through all the mistakes and loopholes you missed out in the last year. Far too often, accountants will just do the basics, but if you make friends with them, and keep regular contact with them, they should offer you the best advice to ensure you are maximising profits and reducing your tax bill.
Business doesn’t have to always be formal, for you, your staff, partners, suppliers or customers. Think about how you can inject a little bit of fun and creativity into different elements of your company. It can help make you much more memorable to customers, and makes it a much more appealing place to work.
Whatever stage your business is at, the New Year should give you great impetus to look forward and make good progress. Of course, there are hundreds of ways to do this, and plenty of resources to help you along the way.
Securing a place on the New Entrepreneurs Foundation programme is a great start – application deadline is 27th February so there’s not long left to apply – check New Entrepreneurs Foundation for more information and to apply online.