A quick trip down any Yorkshire High Street is enough to confirm that silly season is in full swing. Depending on your business you are probably in one of the busiest or quietest times of the year.
Yet 2019 is just around the corner so, whenever you get some quiet time either over the next couple of weeks, or in that after Christmas lull, here are my key things to get your small business ‘New Year’ ready.
No surprises here, up first - Review
Honestly, how has the past year been? Financial success is important, however to sustain your business, and yourself, over the long term it’s vital to take a more 'balanced scorecard' approach. Reviewing your business in these four key areas.
Finance – Did you achieve your Top line financial goal (Turnover)? Is the business working efficiently? and how well are costs being managed to maximise the Bottom line (profit)?
Learning & growth – Is the business moving forwards, developing or acquiring new products or services? Are you harnessing the opportunities in new technology, from your business processes, sales & marketing to your product/service offers?
Customer perspective – Are your customers happy? Are they loyal and, importantly do they refer others to you? Are you meeting all their current needs and understand how these may change next year?
Personal well-being – Are you in a better place than you were 12 months ago? If you have been financially successful has this made a positive or negative impact on your well-being? And what about your employees?
As Tony Hsieh (Zappos) says “you can’t deliver good service from unhappy employees.” – and that includes you.
For anyone familiar with Kaplan & Norton's scorecard model, forgive my replacing Internal processes with the personal well-being, as the business owner without some focus on taking care of yourself the business may become unsustainable.
As Jane Keogh (Positive mind & Success coach) would say 'you have to have your own oxygen mask in place before you can help anybody else'.
Plan for success next year
Based on your review set goals for the coming year in these four ‘scorecard’ areas. Then scope out the work to be done, including who is going to do it and when.
Share your future plans with your accountant, from taking on members of staff to moving premises make use of their expertise on the best way to set up your finances and structure your business assets.
Be ambitious but realistic. Get out that new diary and schedule time throughout the year to work on your business; monitoring progress and adjusting the plan.
Prices for 2019
OK I know this is a painful one and most business owners worry that increasing prices could make customers leave. Yet, the purpose of a business to make a profit and if prices don’t go up, at least in line with inflation, you will be, in effect making less than last year.
Key things to consider here are:
Will your own costs increase (check any supply contracts) and if so by how much?
When was the last time prices increased? What was the justification?
What changes have you implemented within the business in the past year that has added/improved to the customer experience or service provided?
If you are going to increase your prices then be organised. Consider the best way to communicate to all customers explaining what the increase will be, why prices are going up and when this will take effect.
Customer hate stealth increases.
Be upfront and open, if your customers value your product/service then a reasonable increase should not damage that relationship.
Polish the shop window - your website
Unless you have a retail premises, your website is basically your shop window. Often it's the first impression that potential customers get of your business - Is it still up to date and looking active? Whilst you may not need a major overhaul, perhaps it’s time for a refresh. Simple updates can include
Changing photographs and/or adding video
Adding recent testimonials
Updating the news sections
Creating some new content for your blog to release over the next couple of months.
Show your customers some love - it's not about the money
This doesn’t have to be a big gesture but make it personal. A hand-written card, noting something you have achieved together this year, or that you are looking forward to next year, can make all the difference.
If you are giving gifts, don’t simply order 20 bottles of wine, even for the one you know doesn’t drink. It is far more valuable to give something relative to your relationship or that offers an opportunity to enhance it. (Think notepads, tea selections, business books even a toiletry bag for that constant business traveler)
Finally, say 'Thank You' to your supporters & cheerleaders
You know who they are from suppliers to collaborators, mentors, friends and family – the ones who kept you going through the ups and downs. Now is the season to show them how important they are and to keep them in your corner for the year ahead.
Then close your laptop, mute your social media and, to quote Mark from Love Actually ‘Enough, enough now’ (sorry but it is Christmas) – and take some time off.