by Steve Houston
With last year now in the rearview mirror and a new year stretching ahead, it’s a good time to assess where you just came from – and decide where you want to go – with your business. Here are 5 key issues to review right now:
Business Plan. Last year, did you get to do everything you wanted to in your business? What helped you make it happen – or what kept you from accomplishing it? Do your business objectives still align with the markets you compete in? Will those goals still help you take your business where you want it to go? If you aren’t sure, start with a broad view of it, break it down into specific, measurable pieces, and then make the needed adjustments as you move forward with it through the year.
Marketing Strategy. The lifeblood of every business is effective marketing. The results your business gets will only be as good as how much you invest in it and the strategies you use. More options exist now than ever before – both online and offline – and it can be confusing for the typically hyper-busy company owner. Focus on implementing proven foundational strategies like reputation management and video marketing first. Build on top of those as you go and you should see the kind of returns you want from your valuable marketing spend.
Human Capital and Automation. Your people are what make your business run on a daily basis so treat them accordingly. Help them keep their skills sharp by encouraging an environment of constant learning. Make your team strong and competitive by rewarding true achievers, and don’t be reluctant to prune under-achievers; that’s how championship teams are built. Change is the only constant in business, as the old cliché goes, so show your commitment to it by nurturing creativity and flexibility in your corporate culture. Automate or eliminate as many low-value, repetitive tasks as you can, and reward excellence when you find it.
Expense Management. “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you’re talking about real money,” a politician once famously said. Well, your business may not be spending billions of dollars, but a few hundred here and a few thousand there in unnecessary expenses can ruin your bottom line. Actively search for and eliminate waste wherever possible. Challenge your team to behave as if they themselves owned the business and had to authorize every expenditure. Expense management is everyone’s responsibility.
Finding Competitive Advantages. Did you know the first type of business to implement a customer drive-up window wasn’t a fast food company? It was City Center Bank in 1928 in St. Louis, yet it wasn’t long before that simple model started being adopted by restaurant operators and other businesses nationwide. Look around. What are other industries doing? Do any of their methods offer potential competitive breakthroughs for your type of business? Sometimes it’s an existing idea, re-applied in a different market, which can give a company a new edge over its local competitors.
Paying attention to these 5 key issues now will help you take your business to the next level as you get further into this new opportunity-rich year.