Six Ways to Start the Year Off Right

 By: Connie Certusi

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A new year inspires renewed energy and excitement for what could happen. It’s a fresh start and the perfect time to reflect on the past and plan for the future–to set goals and figure out how to meet them.

We may already be a couple of weeks into January, but it’s not too late to kick things off with a bang to help ensure growth for your business. Check out these six tips:

  1. Learn from the past.Look back at the previous year. Assess what went well and what didn’t, and find takeaways from both, the mistakes and successes. Review your business plan and make updates. Were there big moves you wanted to make last year but didn’t? Did you want to expand your team? Open a second location? Expand your office space? Take a hard look at where you’ve been, and perhaps where you wanted to go but didn’t, so you can better know where you should be heading.
    “We can draw lessons from the past but we cannot live in it.”–Unknown
  2. Focus on the future.As you develop projections for the year, consider the broader economic conditions and how they might impact your market. Of course, keep in mind that projections are just that–projections. It’s impossible to know what will happen, so ground your projections in as much data and objectivity. Knowing the latest business trends and economic news will arm you to handle the constantly changing environment. Finally, rely on the experience of others to help. Many have been where you are now and possess great wisdom. Look for one or more mentors to offer advice for growing your business.
    “The future depends on what you do today.”–Mahatma Gandhi
  3. Improve communication.Effective communication is vital to business success. Encourage your employees to share their thoughts about the past and the future. Provide several ways they can communicate with you, from regular team and one-on-one meetings to an online chat platform. Have an open-door policy and be open to receiving honest feedback and ideas. Set the tone for consistent and transparent communication.
    “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”–Stephen R. Covey
  4. Find new ways to create buzz.With so much information and so many products and services flooding the market, it can be very difficult to differentiate your business–especially on a reasonable budget. Look for simple, affordable, and creative ways to stand out from others. Think of ways to connect with your customers using social media platforms, starting with the big three: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. All are free and can effectively reach your customers while generating word-of-mouth about your business and its products or services. When used well, social media can greatly promote special deals and giveaways, and provide a vehicle for sharing the day-to-day, behind-the-scenes glimpses that give your business personality and establish customer intimacy.
    “I define marketing as sharing what you love with people who want to hear about it.”–Joanna Penn
  5. Mind the budget.It can be difficult to keep track of all expenses, especially while juggling many areas of the business, but it’s crucial. Businesses can maximize dollars in numerous ways–from tracking tax-deductible business expenses and minimizing long payment terms, to making monthly instead of annual insurance payments and leasing or buying used office furniture and equipment. And, while employee costs are a major business expense, you must make smart decisions here; you can’t focus only on cost-cutting. Effective hiring practices will help ensure you’re getting the best bang for your buck. Consider hiring temporary staff or interns during busier times to help save on overall costs throughout the year.
    “Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.–Benjamin Franklin
  6. Create a positive work-life atmosphere.Your business couldn’t operate without your employees. As you look for areas of improvement for this year, consider how you can let employees work in ways that best motivate them and are flexible enough to suit their various circumstances and personal responsibilities. Also, encourage your employees to take time away from the office, and set an example by taking vacation time yourself. I bet you’ll find getting that gym time in, taking that trip, and pursuing that hobby keep your entrepreneurial fire going and make you even more productive.
    “You can’t do a good job if your job is all you do.”–Unknown