By Rieva Lesonsky
Are you feeling good about 2016? I hope so! Entrepreneurs are naturally optimistic, and there’s a lot to be confident about in the coming year—everything from technological advances simplifying your business, to a strengthening economy making your customers more willing to spend.
Here are five steps you can take to help make 2016 your best business year ever.
- Take advantage of technology. Sophisticated technology, from hardware to apps, is increasingly within reach of even the smallest business. In 2016, spend some time investigating new technology available in your industry that could help you run a better business. Yes, it can be hard to keep up — but it’s important to stay informed about tools that enable you to compete, and to set aside an adequate budget to update your technology.
- Put your finances in order. I can’t tell you how many small business owners I run into who admit that they don’t know much about accounting. As a result, their bookkeeping is a mess and they consistently run into problems with cash flow. Even if you hire someone else to manage day-to-day bookkeeping, it’s vital that you understand the basics of how money comes into and goes out of your business. There are many courses you can take to get familiar with this — it’s time well spent.
- Get help. Are you trying to do everything yourself — or trying to do too much with too few people? Make 2016 the year that you finally get some (or more) help. There are so many options available now for how small business owners can hire, including full-time or part-time workers, interns, temporary employees, virtual workers or outsourcing to independent contractors. No matter what your budget or needs, I guarantee there’s someone out there who’s a perfect fit.
- Build your customer base with marketing. Review the marketing strategies you used in 2015. Which ones worked, and which ones didn’t? Are there new types of marketing you want to add in 2016, such as social media, online videos, referral-based marketing or event marketing? Does your business brand need a makeover? What about your website (you do have one, right)? Sit down and develop a marketing plan going forward, including a budget and marketing calendar.
- Plan for the future. Where do you want your business to be at the end of 2016? You won’t get there without a plan. Create realistic goals for sales growth, new product or service lines, market expansion, new hires or whatever else your heart is set on. Then break each goal down into the steps you’ll need to achieve it. While you’re at it, don’t forget about planning for your Do you have a retirement plan for yourself and/or your employees? Retirement plans exist for even one-person businesses, so there’s no excuse for not setting one up today.
Need help with these steps? Your accountant, financial planner or IT consultant can assist. Don’t have any of these on your team? The experts at SCORE and your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) can provide free advice and consulting with no strings attached. (Disclosure: SCORE and the LA-SBDC Network are clients of my company.)