As humans, we’re continually looking to improve and advance. Whether it’s trying to eat better, to quit smoking once and for all, to spend less money, or to spend more time with family and friends, we formally or informally create our own goals — optimistic that we’ll stick to them this year.In this light, I’ve assembled my top 10 New Year’s resolutions for the small business owner.
1. Go small.You want customers to support the concept of small business, right? This means you should adopt a small business mindset at your own business too. Analyze your current vendors and service providers for opportunities to “downsize.” If you find any opportunities to support a small business instead, whether virtual or brick and mortar, aim to switch at least one vendor or supplier.
2. Go mobile. By 2015, more U.S. Internet users will access the web through mobile devices than through PCs. On average, 15%of all searches on Google today are from a mobile device. How well are you catering to this mobile population? Make 2012 the year you optimize your search marketing, email marketing and website to focus on this growing mobile community.
3. Go local. These mobile users are constantly interacting with things and places that physically surround them. Microsoft reported that 53% of mobile searches on Bing have a local intent. The online world has become an essential place for businesses to connect with their local community. Make sure your business has a local listing on key search engines: Google Places, Bing maps, and Yahoo maps.
4. Learn how to delegate and do more of it. When you’re just starting out and times are tough, it’s natural to tighten the purse strings. However, consider what you could gain by handing over certain tasks to contractors, virtual assistants or full-time employees. By relinquishing control of administrative tasks or company blog updates, you’ll free up time for what’s ultimately going to keep you in business: bringing in revenue.
5. Invest in one new customer touch point. Whether it’s blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, mobile coupons or QR codes, new ways to connect with customers seem to pop up daily. As a small business owner, you don’t have to excel in every new technology or network that comes along, but you should try to be wherever your customers are. Ask your current customers where/how they’d like to connect with you, then spend some time in 2012 to make it happen.
6. Refresh your website. In the race to master new social media tools, don’t overlook your own website. After all, social media efforts like Twitter campaigns end up driving traffic somewhere, right? It doesn’t make any sense to build a beautiful and savvy Facebook presence that funnels people to a boring, inaccurate, and out-of-date website. Keep it current and engaging!
7. Protect your assets with an LLC or corporation. While legal fine print may not be the most glamorous part of your business, forming an LLC or corporation can be critical to your business and personal financial health. These business structures protect your personal assets from any company liabilities. That is, if your business is sued or has bad debt, your personal property may be shielded from legal repercussions. Keep in mind that creditor judgments can last a total of 22 years, so you’re protecting not just what you own today, but whatever assets you’ll gain in the future.
8. Get your books ready for tax time early. Are you notorious for waiting until the last minute to organize and file your taxes? Do you find yourself wading through emails, or scrounging through your car to find stray business receipts? Don’t wait until April to start on your 2011 tax forms. Start fresh in 2012 by organizing your books from day one (even if that means outsourcing your accounting).
9. Social network in the real world. Whether the plumber recommends a carpenter or the web designer recommends a copywriter, business is driven by referrals and connections. In 2012, put some effort into networking by signing up for an industry conference or seeking out a local meetup group. These are invaluable ways to develop relationships and share advice with fellow entrepreneurs and small business owners.
10. Put time for you on the calendar. As an entrepreneur, remember that you’re solely responsible for your own motivation, productivity and well-being. There’s no boss to pat you on the back or give you a raise. It’s up to you to keep yourself motivated and inspired. In 2012 be sure to reward yourself for specific milestones like a big client win, meeting a tough deadline, or working “overtime” for multiple nights on end.
Sticking to 10 resolutions is a lofty goal for anyone. Follow the tips that ring true for your situation, and adjust as needed. Do you have other resolutions for your business in 2012?