By Rhonda Abrams
A perfect "10." That's what I want 2010 to be for my business. I want 10 new significant customers. 10 times my job satisfaction. 10 steps to increase my profits. And I want 2010 to be a perfect "10" for you and your business.
To help you — and me — make 2010 a much better year than 2009, I've come up with the Top Ten New Year's resolutions for small business in 2010. Now, if the economy will only help out.
1. Stay in front of customers and prospects. A critical lesson of 2009 is that each and every customer is important. That means calling, emailing, visiting, listening. Increase your marketing efforts — whether online, word-of-mouth, at trade shows. Make yourself continually visible to your customers.
2. Exploit your strengths. One of the most important lessons I learned in 2009 is that successful people concentrate more on their strengths than worry about their weaknesses. In 2010, examine what gives you a true competitive advantage, what makes you special. Build your business in ways that leverages your strengths as much as possible.
3. Seize opportunities. The recession of the last couple of years left your competitors weakened, your customers looking for change, great employees willing to work for less.
As the economy improves (hopefully!), aggressively go after new business before new competitors emerge. Now is the time to be bold!
4. Go to the cloud. Switch more of your business applications to be Internet-based — rather than based on a server or desktop. Yes, there's usually a monthly charge, but there's continual upgrades at no extra charge, backup/security (if you choose a highly reliable provider), and access anywhere there's an Internet connection.
5. Learn more about social networking. Social networking is the hot new thing. Much is hype; some is realistic. Learn enough about these to see whether it's worth your time and money to develop a social networking strategy for your particular business. Create a profile on LinkedIn, start a Facebook page, check out Twitter. These may not be appropriate for your business, but you should know what they're about before just dismissing them out of hand.
6. Start an e-mail newsletter if you don't already have one. Send it out more frequently if you do. Make sure there's always something of value to the reader — otherwise it's going straight to their junk email box.
7. Put more money away for retirement. Overwhelmingly, entrepreneurs depend primarily on their businesses to fund their retirement. They intend to sell their company — or keep working forever. The year 2009 showed that the value and security of a company can drop precipitously, and relying entirely on your business for long-term security may not be realistic. You need other money — and other investments — than just the value and cash flow of your business. Maximize your retirement contributions every year.
8. Get greener. Every year, I make a personal promise to lessen my impact on the environment. What can I do for my office? Turn off all equipment over night and on weekends. Use both sides when printing (often the "duplex" setting in your print set-up). Reduce unnecessary car trips. Encourage the use of public transportation. We now compost at the office, thanks to Anne Marie.
9. Get closer to a banker and reduce debt. Most businesses (especially growing companies) use some form of debt to run their businesses. Without my line-of-credit, I'd have a much smaller company. But most of us also rely on credit cards. In 2009, credit card companies significantly raised interest rates — some as high as 29%! Take a good, hard look at your debt. Find better — lower rate — financing methods and reduce total debt.
10. Backup, backup, backup. Last, but not least, make sure your data and documents are secure. The unexpected happens. Find an easy, reliable way to regularly back up your data.
Finally, remember what truly matters. In 2009, I lost a very close friend, and others developed life-threatening illnesses. On the other hand, my office manager and administrative assistant each had much-wanted babies. Make 2010 a year of gratitude for health and happiness. Do your part to increase the world's supply of joy and opportunity. And have a happy, healthy, prosperous and peaceful new year.
Rhonda Abrams is president of The Planning Shop, publisher of books for entrepreneurs. Her newest book is Successful Marketing: Secrets & Strategies. Register for Rhonda's free business tips at www.PlanningShop.com. For an index of her columns, click here. Copyright Rhonda Abrams 2009.