Now that 2010 is winding down, you should take a few moments to reflect on what has transpired during a very difficult and trying year for most small business owners. Use this look backwards to see what happened and try to put in place some steps to get a jump start on 2011. Here are 12 practical tips to help you do just that.
1. Dust off the old business plan (shame on you if you don’t have one) and try to figure out what your revenue target will be for 2011. Plug this in and rerun the numbers.
2. Take a long look at your product or services portfolio and decide which product/services to retain and which to discontinue. Try to bundle services into market baskets so that they are more attractive to customers.
3. See whether there are parts of your business that you can outsource for less than it is costing you in-house. There are many out of work professionals who have become freelancers and are selling their services below market.
4. Review your customer base and make a list of your most favorite customers and thank them for their business with a personal phone call or handwritten note. Do the same for your least productive customers and see which of them you can stop doing business with, especially the slow paying ones.
5. Develop a public relations strategy and look for community activities that you can involve the business in. This can be a very cost effective way of getting your business some free positive publicity.
6. Review your advertising strategies and stop any underperforming advertising efforts. Now that you know who your favorite customers are (from #4), you should definitely understand what they need and craft a suitable marketing message before developing your next advertising plan.
7. Review your vendor database and list those who are your best vendors. Personally thanks them for doing business with you. List those whom you’d like to stop doing business with and try to end the relationship as amicably as possible.
8. Times are slow so now may be the best time to get educated on those parts of your business that you are not proficient in. There are relatively inexpensive seminars and courses at SCORE or the local SBDC. Also take the time to also study your competitors and what they are doing that is successful.
9. Try to renegotiate your property leases and see whether you can get better terms. At the same time look at your utility usage and see where you can cut expenses.
10. Personally thank your best employees for their good service to the business. See if any of them can work from home to lessen the cost of housing them in the office. Remember to add in the cost of communications and remote equipment needs.
11. Take a look at your overall communications costs and see whether you can eliminate any phone lines or carriers. Consider changing web hosting vendors and ISPs as the cost of these services has become very competitive. Review the use of company cell phone by employees to ensure that it isn’t being abused.
12. Review your travel and entertainment spending for the year and eliminate all unnecessary expenditures.
If you put in place as many of these steps as makes sense in your case, you’ll be well on your way to a fast start in 2011.