Happy new year. But will it be a profitable one for entrepreneurs and the businesses they run? Taking a breath now to think about the year ahead makes a great deal of sense; here are seven resolutions to make for your business as you seek to put it on the right footing for success in the year (and decade) ahead:
Get more balance in your life
Entrepreneurs are renowned for putting long hours into businesses they understandably feel passionate about. But there’s a danger of doing too much and putting your health at risk, including your mental health. One survey of 500 small business owners published by accounting software specialist Xero last year suggested that 83% had experienced stress in the past six months; almost half said they had been more stressed than normal. In the end, putting yourself under this kind of pressure is likely to be counter productive so in 2020, make more effort to delegate, spread the workload and get more balance in your life.
Revisit your business plan
Every small and medium-sized enterprise should have a business plan – a vision for how they will achieve their goals and ambitions for the future. However, research published last year by the finance provider Close Brothers found that almost a third of small businesses (29%) don’t have such a document. The beginning of the new year is the perfect time to address this failing or to review your business plan if you already have one. Think carefully about what you expect your business to achieve over short-, medium- and long-term timescales, and set out the steps you will take to enable this. Make sure you have clear and measurable targets for specific dates in the future against which you can measure progress.
Protect yourself against cyber attackers
Small businesses often assume that cyber criminals won’t be interested in them, preferring richer pickings at larger organisations. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth – the Federation of Small Businesses warned last year that small businesses in the UK face an average of 10,000 attacks a day, with one in five having been targeted over the last two years. If you haven’t reviewed your business’s cyber security recently, now is the time to do so, putting in place safeguards to help protect you from attack over the year ahead.
Find out how to make your customers even happier
Research from the Harvard Business Review suggests that it is up to 25 times’ more expensive to win a new customer than it is to persuade existing customers to make new purchases. Even so, many businesses routinely concentrate their resources on increasing the size of their customer base rather than on client retention. This year, aim to put that right – talk to your customers about how you can serve them better and what else they might want from you. That doesn’t mean giving up on new customers altogether – but put your current customers first.
Britain’s failure to increase productivity is its economic Achilles Heel – the Office for National Statistics warned this week that productivity has flatlined since the financial crisis more than a decade ago. Unproductive businesses rapidly fall behind their competitors, so think hard about how you can improve. That might mean reconsidering out-of-date processes, for example, or investing in new technologies to automate mundane manual tasks that take up too much of your employees’ time.
Give your business a financial health check
How long has it been since you thought seriously about your business’s balance sheet and its profit and loss account? Far too often, financial difficulties take businesses by surprise, causing problems that could have been avoided had they been spotted earlier; one in five small businesses were hit by cash flow problems last year according to research from Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banking Group. To avoid the same fate, look at the money coming in and out of your business and consider whether you have sufficient headroom. If not, what can you do to address the issue? For example, do you need to spend more time chasing late payments, or could new financing facilities provide an answer?
Be prepared to invest for the future
Santander Bank’s most recent Trade Barometer report suggests many businesses are cutting back on investment. While 47% of businesses plan to hire new staff in the 12 months ahead, 39% intend to invest in product development and 32% are looking to purchase new equipment, these figures are down from 81%, 76% and 69% respectively six months’ previously. In uncertain times, it’s easy to be cautious, but failing to invest in your business now could limit your opportunities to grow.