The end of the year is a great time to start thinking about what you want to do differently next year.
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If you are thinking about business New Year's resolutions, we're here to help you out.
Here's what we think entrepreneurs should be doing to enjoy a more prosperous and productive 2008.
1. Give Your Prices and Yourself a Raise
When was the last time you raised your prices? Evaluate your cost of doing business and reassess your pricing. Small businesses are notorious for undercharging for their products and services, so there's a good chance you are due for an increase. This is the year to go for it, and try to take a little more out of the business for yourself.
2. Get a Grip on Your Finances
If you haven't already done so, set up a Keogh or an SEP IRA. That's a tax-free retirement vehicle for small business – it's critical that you start saving for retirement as early as possible. Resolve to talk to your accountant about other tax breaks for your business. This is the year to get on top of your business and personal finances. Don't put it off another year!
3. Get and Stay Focused
In order to succeed, you need to know what you want, choose how you are going to get there and then stay focused on achieving your objectives. Don't allow yourself to be distracted. This year, resolve to set goals, stay focused and achieve your goals!
4. Get Your Employees More Involved
Share your vision with your employees and encourage them to adopt it as their own. Make sure they understand their role and the benefits they'll enjoy as a result of their efforts. Doing it alone won't get you very far. With a strong and motivated team, you can achieve just about anything.
5. Think Strategically, Get Creative
Set aside time each week to think about new ideas and initiatives for your company. Brainstorm with your staff on "crazy" ideas for the business – some of them may not be so crazy after all. By challenging your mind and clearing it of the daily routine, you will probably come up with creative approaches and new ways to solve problems, capture customers or just bring a better quality of life to your business.
6. Know and Appreciate Your Customers
Learn as much as you can about existing and new customers. Find out who they are, how to communicate with them and what they need from you. Build a strong personal relationship with your customers. Something as basic as a good old-fashioned "thank you for your business" can go a long way in building a rewarding long-term relationship. Stay in touch regularly through mailings, e-mail, faxes, newsletters or personal visits so you and your business stay top of mind.
7. Read More, Learn More
Increase your knowledge, or you will decrease it. Take the time to read books, newspapers, and magazines. Schedule time to regularly visit news and information sites on the Internet. Information is power and can affect your business by helping you to provide value to your customers, inspiring new ideas and leading to new prospective markets to expand your business.
8. Upgrade Your Technology
Invest the time it takes to learn how to make the most of technology. Commit to make technology second nature in all aspects of your business and reap the rewards over the long-term in on-the-job ease, efficiency, profitability and enjoyment for you and your employees.
9. Expand Your Online Marketing Presence
If – god forbid – you still don't have a website, make a resolution to finally get a website. It is a great way to promote your business and sell your wares. It's also a good idea to tryout online advertising – setup a Google Adwords account, for example, and see if you can turn traffic into revenues.
The web isn't a cure-all, mind you. Don't abandon traditionally effective tools. Continue to create and distribute brochures, newsletters, postcards, fliers and advertisements to get the word out about what you have to offer. One message delivered in multiple ways can effectively grab the attention of customers and potential clients.
10. Consider Partnership Marketing Opportunities
Partner with associated companies so that you can share information, clients, and opportunities. For example, if you run a wine store, think about cross-marketing with a gourmet foods store. Link to each other's websites and increase the service and excitement you currently offer your customers. Build those relationships to build your business.
11. Bring Balance and Fun to Your Life
Being a business success means nothing if you are unhappy. Don't lose sight of the joy of being your own boss by becoming a slave to your business. Take time out for a vacation this year and insist on scheduling time to spend with your family and friends.
Time away from your work – whether pursuing a hobby or spending quality time with loved ones -- can be the best thing that you do to bring vital creative energy back to office and maintain harmony in your life.