As we kick off the new year, many of us are already wondering what 2019 will bring to our business. Owners are always looking for the next big business strategy to give their enterprise a boost over their competitors.
2019 is stretching out in front of you - the only question is what you’ll do to make your business better by the end of it.
New Year, New Goals for Your Business
The adage fail to prepare, prepare to fail rings true for many situations. With the coming year presenting many opportunities for your business, you’ve got to maximise each and every one of them.
Create a plan to get the most from your business this year. Although it can be hard, you want to free up time to work on your business, not just work within it!
Taking a high-level view of the situation is key to lead your business to further success.
Audit Your Finances
Getting to grips with your finances is a good starting point for the year, as this is most likely how you’ll measure your success by the end of it.
Begin the year by understanding the products and services that really add value to your business. This will teach you where your efforts are best allocated in the coming year.
This is also a great chance to cut out products or services that cost your business more than they’re worth. These will generally have the lowest profit margin and may end up costing your business money.
For clients that use these no longer profitable services, you should consider whether you want to raise the price or discontinue them. Offer an alternative where possible to retain good clients.
Remember, accountants do more than just crunch numbers and create reports! A proactive accountant should be ready to explain their findings to you in simple terms and make recommendations to improve your finances, including where savings may be made.
Schedule time with them to look over the 2018 accounts before reviewing suggestions for the coming year.
Motivate Your Staff
It’s only natural that staff will have peaks and dips in productivity; some of them may also choose to leave over the course of the year. However, you can take very real steps to retain star performers and motivate your team to improve their performance this year.
The first step in motivating your staff this year is to work out what they want from you. Not every staff member is looking for the same perks or opportunities, so creating a forum for discussion or having managers ask for recommendations from their team can give you an overview of the consensus.
- Increased salary
- A bonus
- Health or dental insurance
- Gym memberships
- Additional holidays
- A service like Perkbox that delivers a wide range of benefits
You can also update your policies to make your workplace a more welcoming, caring and supportive environment; for example, by improving your commitment to equality and diversity, or by providing more support for parental and adoption leave. (Some employers even offer ‘pawternity leave’ for staff who adopt a new pet!)
Whichever route you choose, show staff that you want to reward them consistently through the year, and keep this up with regular reviews, social events and meaningful changes.
If you kick off each year by appreciating your staff and then forget about it after a few months, then it’s not as effective. Staff may recognise this as your ‘generous time’ of the year before you go back to business as usual.
Train Your Teams or Bring in New Resources
A stagnant workforce isn’t always the most productive! Giving staff their spark back with perks is just one aspect of employee growth and workforce planning.
Do a company-wide analysis of skills and responsibilities, and identify which team members would benefit from additional professional training.
You don't need to commit to giving staff time out of the office - many professional qualifications can be studied fully online and shaped around your employee's daily tasks.
Identify areas in which new resources may be required by asking managers and employees for honest feedback, and make a plan for bringing in new talent.
Get creative with your staffing solutions to create a more diverse team. Modern apprenticeships can help you attract and build homegrown talent in a wide variety of roles, including those you might not expect such as HR, finance and management.
A more diverse workforce is a great asset to the team, as a variety of backgrounds, ages and perspectives can shed new light on problems and spark innovative solutions.
Create a 12-Month Plan
If you started out in business as an SME, you will have carefully crafted a business plan: your initial roadmap for success.
Some business owners never return to this plan after their initial growth, but this means they begin to lack clear direction. Take the time at the start of the year to create a plan that will serve as your guide.
We all start the year with the very best of intentions, but as time goes on we can begin to lose motivation. This plan creates a sense of accountability for you and the members of staff that you want to include in the major milestones along the way.
Plot out the key performance indicators that will show if you’re on track. Think about the figures that matter most to your business like sales, staff turnover and profit margin.
Explore New Products and Services
By ditching some of the products and services that aren’t bringing in money, you free up resources to explore new ones. Analysing what your customers want and giving that to them is a sure-fire way to increase your sales this year.
However, don’t jump into new waters without in-depth research. Ensuring that there is a place in the market for your new venture is essential. You don’t want to launch a service that none of your customers are looking for!
Get feedback from existing clients as to whether an addition would bring more value to the relationship, as well as what they would be willing to pay for it.
Costing new services effectively - making them profitable to purchase and lucrative to sell - can be time consuming. It involves research, restructuring and market testing. Get this right the first time and you’ll make a splash on the market – and if you don’t get the right price-point initially, ensure your team has the flexibility to adjust.
Expand Your Client Base
The more clients you have, the larger your potential for profit. Reaching out to new clients can be challenging, but if you invest in new marketing and sales channels effectively, you’ll see a positive ROI.
New marketing channels and tactics to explore could include:
- Google Display Network
- Content marketing
- Email marketing
- Social media ads
If these new plans would overload your marketing team, consider partnering with a marketing agency to enact your new strategy.
Depending on your business type, you could also grow your sales team to enable you to build new customer relationships directly.
For many of us, the client acquisition model has looked the same for a long time, focusing on the same cornerstone clients that bring in a return. However, coming up with more creative routes to market can open up a much larger potential client pool.
Get to Know Your Clients
Retaining clients is a cheaper process than attracting new ones, as marketing and onboarding can represent a significant expense. This means that truly understanding your existing clients can give you a significant edge.
So, how do you do this? On the analytics side, you can get to know their buying behaviour and schedule, and group clients with similar profiles together. Tailoring promotions to this client profile will allow you to test what makes them tick and develop the perfect formula for upselling to the right clients, with the right products, at the right times.
On a more personal level, you can check in with the client for feedback or comments. These might not always be positive, but even negative feedback is useful: you can rectify issues, repair any reputational damage, and convert a potential brand detractor into a loyal customer.
Stay Ahead of the Game
Do you know the latest trends and tech in your industry? If the answer is ‘no’ then you’re falling behind!
You can’t hope to be the best in your niche without having the right tools at your disposal. Subscribe to news, magazines, blogs and email lists for your industry, and assess how new developments could impact your business.
Remember, not every advancement will be relevant or useful for you, so be selective with what you implement.
Up-to-date knowledge of your industry also helps you to position yourself as an expert – which is useful in front of clients.
Study Your Competitors
Another way to hone your industry knowledge is to be aware of what others are doing. You don’t want to simply copy their tactics, as this will be much less effective! Instead, know your competition and look for ways to be better than them.
You can look at direct competitors or ones that operate on a global scale. There are always lessons to be learned from other businesses if you extract the information that’s relevant for you.
There may even be some opportunities for you to work with other companies in your industry that aren’t in direct competition. Fostering these professional relationships can also assist in broadening your client base.
Network More Often
Networking events may not be your favourite way to pass the time, but you never know who you might meet! Selecting the right event and going prepared will maximise the opportunities that these can present.
You can also network within your own organisation to learn more about the people that you employ. The more you know about their thoughts and aspirations, the better placed you are to support them through their time at your company.
If you follow these tips, you’ll be placing your business on track for a truly productive year. Refine your business strategy and make 2019 your year!