In the wake of the New Year, many of us burden ourselves with a laundry list of resolutions to do things differently and to improve upon our personal and professional goals. For many entrepreneurs, a new year offers a clean slate and a tantalizing chance to achieve greater business success. Individual goals may vary, but here are five central principles that are integral to business success in today’s competitive world. Focus on them and you’ll see some big improvements.
- Clarify your business goals. Whether it means updating an existing strategic plan or starting from scratch, having a focused business plan that states specific, realistic, measureable goals, as well as a timeline and a budget is crucial. This is not a purely academic exercise. You can—and should—share this with all your employees. A strategic plan is a key tool (edited as needed for outside audiences) when you need to apply for business funding or when you seek business partners. With that said, a business plan needn’t be written in stone. If circumstances or opportunities change, update the written plan to reflect these changes.
- Proactively manage cash flow. Alongside your business plan, prepare a month-by-month rolling cash-flow projection. To avoid unwelcome surprises, review and update the cash flow-plan at the end of each month. That way you can adjust your elective spending and readjust your pricing systems to keep your company financially healthy.
- Evaluate payment options. Don’t limit your financial planning to revenue forecasts. Make sure you offer customers the easiest and most convenient means to pay for goods or services. Pay attention to the latest technology for mobile payments and electronic payment methods. Offer your customers secure options with maximum convenience.
- Know your market. Apply the resources and/or staff time needed to research your specific market and competitors. Stay ahead of the game by anticipating market trends and understanding your key competitors’ sales and marketing strategies. For many small business owners, it often makes sense to hire a freelance marketing professional who has the know-how and experience to do this quickly and cost-effectively.
- Manage your time mindfully. Think not so much about managing your time as knowing your priorities each and every day. Spend your time on the things that move you closer to your goals. If boosting business revenue is your aim, first do those tasks that contribute most to generating more income. Every day, determine what needs to be accomplished in the next 24 hours to bring you closer to that goal. Control interruptions when you can. You might have to stop whatever you’re doing to take a client call, but limit email, texts or phone call distractions by blocking off time on your daily calendar to return routine calls and answer non-urgent email.