It’s that time of year, when we commit to self improvement. Whether it be going to the gym, eating better, or spending more time with family, we all want to make the coming year better than the last. Why not in business? Here are six New Year’s business resolutions that we think are worth keeping.
1. I Will Look for Holes
Though celebrity stalkers might argue, no one is perfect. The same is true in business operations. No matter how many things your company does right — even if you’re not doing anything inherently wrong — there are always things that can be done better. Or, what I like to call “righter.” Looking for holes is finding those things that can be refined, which might include improvements to the ordering process, shipping, invoicing, receivables, online properties, and social media strategy.
2. I Will Become the Friendly Neighborhood Grocer
We all know that the friendly neighborhood grocer was killed off by the middle of the last century, but he’s been brought back to life on social media. It turns out that showing customers new products you just got in, finding solutions to their needs, telling them about yourself, and encouraging them to share still works. Some small owner-operated businesses still use the traditional approach to becoming the friendly neighborhood grocer. The rest of us will need to leverage the power of social media, which is a topic unto itself. Best advice: be visual, be personal, and be authentic, just like the friendly neighborhood grocer.
3. I Will Give my Team a Voice
Have you ever noticed that the ideas people sometimes get the most excited about are their own? By giving your team a voice, you can harness this enthusiasm and turn it into action. Take time to meet with your team on a regular schedule. Let them know what challenges the company is facing. Float solutions, get feedback, encourage idea sharing. This builds trust, unifies employees, and fosters a sense of ownership and accountability, which customers will notice. And whenever customers take notice of something, that’s a defining moment for your brand.
For a small business, or a company of one, you might not think you have a team to rely on. In this case, make customers and suppliers part of your team. This really applies to businesses of all sizes. Talk to customers. Elicit feedback on your ideas. Build relationships with suppliers. Remember, suppliers also have relationships with your competitors, giving them valuable insights that you can apply in your own business operation.
4. I Will Watch the Competition
People shop, and the Internet has made it easy for consumers to compare products, services and price points. If your customers are taking a look at the competition, shouldn’t you be? Between closing deals, putting out fires, and getting boxes out the door, take time each month to check the competition. Compare product and service offerings, along with pricing. See what they’re doing that you’re not. Investigate where they’re spending their marketing dollars. Talk to suppliers to get an idea of what competitors are ordering, and in what volume. You’ll be surprised what you can learn by looking around and asking questions.
5. I Will Explore Opportunities
Like great rock groups, great companies must evolve to remain relevant. Imagine if the Beatles put out “Love Me Do” in 1969 instead of 1962. Critics would have panned it as retro, derivative, and irrelevant to the time. That’s why, by 1969, the Beatles had evolved their “product” to stay relevant to their market, by putting out contemporary songs like “Let it Be.”
Businesses must also evolve to stay relevant to their market, and that means exploring new opportunities. Some opportunities might involve refining your current product or service offerings, while others may be focus on finding ancillary revenue streams. The key is to leverage what you have while adding what you need. Do you have a large and loyal customer base? Find other products or services they are likely to need. Are you in a financial position to take on large-scale growth, either through investment, lending, or access to capital markets? Consider purchasing a competitor or a company that adds value to your business model.
6. I Will Feed the Pipeline
Keep an eye on your new-to-existing-customer ratio. Establish a benchmark for measuring growth and retention. While it’s always more cost effective to retain existing customers than acquire new ones, there will undoubtedly be loss of customer base due to a variety of factors, including business closure, competition, and internal or external regulation. When this happens, new customers must be found to “feed the pipeline.” Don’t just rely on passive marketing to fill the void. Integrate active marketing and sales tactics, such as business partnerships, direct marketing, outside sales, and networking. The key is to consistently feed the pipeline while maintaining continuity in quality and service to build retention.