QuickBizBreak by david weaver

Take a quick break from your biz to ponder new ideas and strategies that will turbocharge your business.

10 Business Strategies for the New Year

Posted by QuickBizBreak on December 2, 2010

How does 2011 look for business? The best answer is perhaps the age-old response ‘it depends’. And that’s probably the good news. This time last year, most would agree that the economy was still in the dumps with only fleeting thoughts of recovery in 2010. I’m seeing more optimism this time around but mixed with the realization that we may never see the economy as robust as it was the decade or so prior to bailouts, falling stock and real estate values and the tanking of consumer confidence.

So yes, it depends upon your industry, the length of time you’ve been in business, your cash position, your marketing prowess and a lot of other variables. Regardless of where you fall within those areas, here are 10 areas that every business should look at in preparation for 2011:

1) Strategic Planning – Whatever your expectations were for 2010 and indeed, for the past couple of years and beyond, they are probably different know. Challenge the assumptions you had from previous years. Where is the market going? Who can you partner with? Is there an ancillary market or ancillary products/services you can offer? Leave no stone unturned. A good strategic plan will keep you focused for the year to come while watching for new opportunities within your area of expertise.

2) Quit Doing What Doesn’t Work – Sounds obvious but you might be surprised at the number of people who continue to beat their collective heads against the wall trying the same old things (remember the definition of insanity?). The corollary to this concept, of course, is to focus on what works and that is the real key. What are your most profitable products or services? Why are they the most profitable? What can you do to expand within this area of profitability?

3) Brainstorm – You may note a recurring theme here. This is no time to be afraid to ask for help. There is nothing wrong with asking for suggestions from your employees. When was the last time you surveyed your customers or had a client roundtable discussion? Not only can new ideas come from this type of exchange but the interaction and involvement with customers and employees show both sides how important they are to the success of the company.

4) Know Who to Fire – Customers, that is. I’ve talked with so many business owners who keep catering to their worst customers who continue to be a drain on resources, affecting both personnel and finances. My wife says you have to be careful when you encounter what she refers to as a ‘black hole’ personality type at a dinner party. They suck anyone close to them into a negative conversation or no conversation at all. Customers can be a ‘black hole’ as well. At a dinner party you have to tolerate bad guests. You don’t have to tolerate bad customers, especially the ones that aren’t paying their bills.

5) Leverage Your Network – In good times, business seems to roll through the door. In difficult times, it takes hard work and a lot of it. Take advantage of your network and let them be relationship brokers on your behalf. A third party can offer introductions in a non-threatening way that doesn’t come across as a sales call, nor should it be. This is about helping each other connect. Some connections lead to business, some lead to referrals and some lead nowhere, at least initially. It’s all good if it gets people talking and working together. People like helping people as long as it is reciprocal. Just watch out for the ‘black holes’…

6) Break Through the Barriers – In this type of economy, customers are always looking for better deals. What can you do that breaks through traditional barriers, excites the customer, delivers the unexpected? Provide something stellar and watch your customers become advocates for your business. I observed closely as a new frozen yogurt shop opened in our area just as the season changed and cold weather hit. What a lousy time to open a frozen-anything eatery. Yet, the product is so good that word spread instantly. Every time we’re there, we see friends and acquaintances, even with winter weather upon us. I know my wife alone encouraged a dozen or so families to try it out. Multiply that by 20 raving fans and you’ve developed a nice little core business.

7) Engage Your Employees – I talked with the owner of one of the largest financial management practices in our area. She can’t understand why her employees aren’t meeting her expectations. Then I learned that she rolls in around 10am each day, leaves by 4 in the afternoon and takes every Friday afternoon off. I’ve seen it in other businesses as well where senior employees come and go on their own schedule and newer employees simply mirror the behavior. Not exactly great for productivity. In both instances, expectations need to be clear, roles defined and understood and performance standards in place for each level of employee and management. Including owners. It’s our responsibility to encourage and engage our employees so they understand what success looks like for them as well as the organization. They also need to know what the prize looks like when success is realized.

8) Financial Management – This is a subject that some owners would rather ignore than face. Believe me, the big bear in front of you doesn’t go away if you cover your eyes. If you don’t understand your company financials, sit down with your accountant (hiring an accountant would actually be a great first step) and have them explain the basics – Balance Sheet (Assets & Liabilities), Income (Profit & Loss) Statement and Cash Flow Statement (movement of cash through the business). There are books and short courses available that can also help you here – let Google be your friend.

9) Negotiate Deals – From rent to purchasing supplies to locking in long-term purchase contracts, many vendors are willing to negotiate to maintain customer retention, even if their profitability suffers. Retailers can upgrade space for the same or less than they’ve been paying in many cases. Bulk ordering can improve pricing but I’d rather see businesses place smaller orders while negotiating bulk rates unless it’s raw materials that you know you will use in the long term. Banks are still tight with their money but the better financial records you maintain, the better the improvement in sales and receivables, the better chance you have at negotiating a loan if you really need extra capital.

9.5) Bonus! – It’s really number 10 but by calling it 9.5, you feel like you’re getting a bit extra, right? Let’s hope so. I wanted to call this “Know What You Can Steal” but that sounds a bit wayward. The economy isn’t really expanding so stealing customers from your competitors is the one place to find new business while retaining your current customer/client base. It’s also a great time to steal the very best employees you can find. If you have done a great job at numbers 1 through 9, you should have a great environment to offer new employees – a solid, profitable company with a good future.

10) Surprise! – There really is a 10. How do you relay your marketing message? Website, social media, PR, advertising,coupons? All great avenues, when appropriate. Consider adding a video component to your marketing activities. I know a good platform that makes it easy. For this or any other area where you might have questions or need help, give me a call.

To learn more about video marketing, click here –> Video Marketing Made Easy

David Weaver    678.620.3990

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3 Responses to “10 Business Strategies for the New Year”

  1. All good advice, David, thank you! If I may add another strategy, it would be “Know WHY you want to do something in your business.” In my role as marketing consultant, I talk to many business owners that say they need a new brochure, a new Web site, or need to attend a trade show without a clear idea of what the goals are, what would make that venture a success, or how it fits into the overall business plan. Have a strategic plan in mind before making these tactical decisions. For help with that strategic plan, see David!

    • Excellent advice, Tara! I met with someone recently who spent a lot of money reworking their website just because they felt it needed a ‘refresh’. No strategy there and ultimately, it didn’t help bring in additional business – their real goal. Oh, and for marketing communications strategy – call Tara at 770-552-6033.

  2. I agree with Tara, this is all good advice and if I, too, may add yet another strategy it would be to operate from a place of JOY. It’s all well and good to follow the rules as it were but if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing that shows up in both product and personal well-being.

    Jackson Dunes
    Pug At The Beach ~ Where the Dalai Lama and Jimmy Buffett meet for lunch.

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