The Time Square ball has been dropped, the champaign has been drunk, and the streamers have been thrown.
We are now officially in 2023 and most of us are in that determined phase of moving forward with our New Year’s resolutions. Some of us aspire to quit smoking. Others want to lose weight. Some of us want to make changes to our personal life, while some of us are hell bent on changing our professional lives. And a small portion of us ring in the New Year by resolving to do it all. A noble goal, undoubtedly, but probably hard to maintain, particularly when the odds are not in your favor.
According to this article, only 9% of the population successfully keeps their New Year’s resolutions with 23% of people quitting by the end of the first week and 64% after the first month.
The main reason so many of us give up so abruptly is that we set the bar too high, trying to attain goals that can’t happen right away or aren’t in our wheelhouse. For example, if your New Year’s resolution is to grow your business, what you need to do is set smaller goals that are realistic and can be implemented right away. Success doesn’t happen overnight. However, these eight steps are a great way to begin or maintain your company’s success – particularly with a recession looming over us.
1.Don’t Let Fear Dictate Who You Hire & How You Treat Your Employees
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the current employment rate is at an all-time high for the last decade.
However, that nice little drop in the graph could skyrocket again at any time, particularly with the economy being as precarious as it is. Generally, when the market does this, business owners and CEOs panic and cut employees, wages, and/or bonuses, opting to either do everything themselves, hire cheaper (read: less qualified) help, or put all the work on the shoulders of the employees remaining. DO NOT DO THIS.
When you take any of these precautions, productivity and customer service almost always plumet. And two groups of people that are incredibly crucial to the success of your business are your employees and your customers. Obviously, you need customers to feel like they are on the receiving end of excellent service. In order to achieve this, you need your staff to really enjoy their job and want to put in the effort to please your clientele. When you stop paying employees what they’re worth (or, conversely, make them take on too many responsibilities), they either quit or stop trying.
But it’s important to remember that it’s not just about the pay. It’s equally important that you create a fun and safe environment for staff members. Studies show that the leading reason people leave high-paying jobs is due to stress. So, even if you are paying your employees well, it’s just as important that you create an enjoyable atmosphere where workers feel appreciated.
You may be wondering, “How do I create a better work environment for my employees? I can’t control the type of work they have to perform. That’s their job!”
True. However, there are a lot of initiatives, activities, and flexibility you can offer that make staff members more tolerant of the stressful aspects of their jobs. Here are a few things you can offer that will help retain employees.
Offer Better Benefits
According to Yoh, 50% of employed Americans would leave their current job for better benefits. This might be an impossible endeavor for many small business owners, but keep in mind that benefits don’t have to include an IRA or health insurance (though that certainly would help!). You can also offer additional vacation days, team outings, a free lunch every other Friday, and/or weekly raffles.
More Flexibility with Working Hours
When Covid hit, the world was forever changed. Many people were forced to work from home and guess what? Most companies reported no change in work productivity while many reported increased levels of productivity. There are a whole host of reasons why these reports make sense, but if your business is located in a large metropolitan city and your workers deal with traffic during their commute and lunch break, that in and of itself should be enough of a reason to offer a work-from-home alternative.
Have a business that requires on-site labor? You may want to consider shortening their workdays. This report (buttressed by a slew of other studies) attests that 5-hour workdays prove more productive than the standard 8.
Offer More Help for Parents
If you are the proud owner of a little human, then you are likely aware of parenthood being your other full-time job. Aside from having to taxi kids to school, doctor’s appointments, recitals, teacher-parent conferences, and extra-curricular activities, you also need to be available when they get sick or sustain an injury.
Unfortunately, parents must manage two full-time jobs with limited hours, and that can cause additional stress when it comes to performing their actual paying job. In fact, reports show that pregnant women and moms are severely discriminated against in the workplace, with men and childless women being favored for employment opportunities. An incredibly thoughtful New Year’s resolution you can make is being more tolerant to the needs of your parent employees. Some companies even offer daycare services for their staff. While that may not be an expense you can incur, there are other measures you can take to ensure the mothers and fathers in your company feel supported and less burdened.
Bottom line: There are always areas where you can restrict finances in your business, but the treatment of your employees is never one of those. Plus, turnover is expensive and unsustainable.
2. Do Not Cut Out Budgets for Marketing
Research has repeatedly proven that companies that continue to invest in their marketing efforts through recessions emerge stronger in the aftermath than companies who choose to halt their marketing plans. The reason for this is two-fold: 1) You still need to make money during an economic standstill and, if you are clever with your marketing strategies, people will still feel a need to buy your product. 2) When the recession inevitably ends, people are more likely to remember your brand because others have diminished their advertising and promotional endeavors. Need ideas for inexpensive yet effective marketing strategies? Click here.
3. Update Your Business Plan and S.O.P.s
When you are new to running a business, your enthusiasm, dedication, and desire for perfection usually engenders long hours and sleepless nights. During this phase in your company’s development, you are usually engrossed in creating a proper business plan and instilling standard operating procedures.
But after a few years, it’s common for entrepreneurs to forgo keeping up with these things, opting instead to regain some semblance of a personal life and sleep schedule. And that’s all well and good – you can’t let your professional agency overpower your personal agency – but what happens is that rules and regulations can go to the wayside and cause a lot of problems for new hires. It also can devalue your business when you go to sell it. M&As and banks like to see a solid business plan as well as strong SOPs.
The beginning of the year is a good time to revisit your business plan and SOPs to determine if updates are necessary to ensure smooth sailing in 2023.
4. Invest Your Money in Technology
Remember that part where we said you must invest in your employees? We still stand by this statement, but we should have added the caveat “…unless you find a software program or app that streamlines certain tasks more effectively/economically.”
The human element in a business is important – 70% of customers maintain that they prefer human interaction over a bot. However, there are certain tasks that technology can just do faster and better. SaaS programs have been monumentally instrumental in helping many businesses schedule appointments, send mass emails, collect leads, communicate basic information with customers, collect data & analytics, allow employees to work whenever/wherever… the list goes on.
SaaS programs should be implemented for jobs that don’t require a lot of interaction/communication with your clientele. And while some can have high subscription price tags, there are plenty of free or inexpensive apps available to help you streamline processes.
In fact, technology was literally a business-saver when Covid hit. Automated programs allowed certain companies to continue doing business – only virtually. For example, the popularity of Zoom pre-Covid was steadily rising but when the pandemic hit, their stock skyrocketed. Zoom single-handedly saved millions of jobs and changed the landscape of the standard work-environment, allowing many employees and business owners to work-from-home.
Apps like Hubspot and Mailchimp allow for better communication and data analytics with businesses and customers. Hootsuite and Sprout Social can blast posts to all your social media platforms, freeing employee time to focus on other projects. And programs like Jasper, Grammarly Business, and Writesonic can formulate entire blogs and web content for you in a matter of minutes. (Shhh… don’t tell our boss).
While, admittedly, some of these programs are expensive, it’s important to consider how many hours an employee would spend on the same tasks. From there, you can determine what is more cost-effective with produces better ROI for your business.
The above quote is true regarding nearly all aspects of your life, but it’s particularly true when it comes to business.
As a business owner, one of the main things you should be vigilant about is determining the best time to introduce new/better services and products.
If your company happens to sell products, you are probably aware of the Product Life Cycle.
If you aren’t familiar, the concept is that a product has a certain “life cycle” when it is introduced to the consumer market. Once your product has hit the “maturity” stage, you want to introduce a new or improved product to your inventory. This is because your product will eventually be replaced by either better replicas or similar products from competitors and you want to use your popularity while it is still hot to add another product to your line.
This also applies to businesses that provide services. Always be thinking to yourself, “What can I add to my business model that will give my company more value?” Because if you remain stagnant with your services, there will be a new business that will take your clients due to them offering new and exciting things. The willingness to take risks is an important characteristic for any entrepreneur.
5. Networking and Learning Should Be Part of Your Business Plan
Stepping outside your comfort zone also means learning and networking more.
We get it – many people are shy or introverted. So, if you don’t have the mental stamina or desire to attend conferences and meet-ups, hire someone that does. Social media marketing and ads are effective, but not nearly as influential as social interactions. If you make yourself more available to the public, and can come across as authentic, charismatic, and knowledgeable, you’ll likely see an increase in referrals and walk-ins.
To hold to such a commitment in 2023, it’s good to set small goals for each month so it doesn’t feel so intimidating. In January, commit to attending one local business meet-up and one virtual webinar. In February, plan to attend 2 local meetups and sponsor a local event. In March, find a large, out-of-state seller conference to attend. In April, offer to speak at one of these events. By the end of 2023, networking and acquiring more knowledge will come easily to you. You’ll likely see your business grow and you’ll be more comfortable attending such events.
6. Understand Your Audience Through-and-Through
One of the biggest mistakes we see business owners make is deciding their demographic of the company prior to its launch and assuming it stays stagnant. The reality is that you don’t get to decide who uses your brand and its services/products. The market, location, price range, and other factors determine this and it’s likely to change every year. As such, it’s important that you are constantly updating your marketing strategies to meet the desires of your target audience.
Using Facebook, Google, and TikTok analytics for social media advertising is a great way to decipher who is interested in your products.
Committing to #5 (a.k.a. networking) is also a great hands-on strategy in deciphering who is interested in your products or services.
Bottom line: Your marketing efforts with return no ROI if you aren’t granularly aware of who your audience is.
7. Maintain an Ethical Code of Conduct No Matter What
In a world full of corporate scandals, lies, and greed, it’s pretty easy to overlook unethical conduct in order to make a buck. The problem is that it will eventually catch up with you and put your business in serious jeopardy.
With unlimited access to the internet, it’s far less easy for companies to get away with fraudulence and poor treatment of workers and customers. You needn’t look any farther than these top, world-wide conglomerates to see how quickly unethical practices can come into the spotlight.
Furthermore, we’re living in a generation that places high value on social justice and ethical treatment, so it is a good rule of thumb to treat your employees and customers the way you would treat your family members.
As a final thought, consider how much weight reviews and testimonials hold. Most consumers are not shy about lambasting a company who they feel mistreated them or showed questionable behavior. It’s irrelevant if you were just having a bad day or said customer doesn’t have the full story – potential customers will see that bad review and second guess becoming a patron of your business.
Still not convinced that you should practice unadulterated ethics while running your company? Take a moment to watch this Ted Talk from a Fortune 500 business owner. Great Leaders Do What Drug Addicts Do | Michael Brody-Waite | TEDxNashville
8. Protect Your Business and Assets at All Costs
We live in a sue-ready society. Don’t believe us? Head on over here to see an exemplary list of the ridiculous things businesses have been sued for.
Most people have insurance for their car, their home, and their health. Many even have life insurance. And yet, when it comes to the very thing that maintains one’s livelihood – their business – a lot of people opt for little to no coverage.
Even more perplexing is what kind of insurance policies entrepreneurs purchase.
Look, we understand how monotonous shopping for insurance is and how tedious it is to look through all those coverage documents. But what ends up happening is that business owners blindly acquire policies that their state or type of business or platform requires, without acknowledging what it doesn’t cover and where there may be gaps.
Take for example an Amazon seller. To sell on Amazon’s marketplace, the conglomerate requires that you have general liability and product liability insurance. That’s simply because, if your business or product was to cause injury or harm to a customer or their property, Amazon would get sued for it.
Don’t get us wrong – it’s incredibly important that you carry general and product liability insurance. But lawsuits are few and far between. What about all the other freak accidents that could happen with your company? What would you do if….
An employee sues you for injury on the job?
Your warehouse’s insurance wasn’t renewed, and thousands of your units were damaged?
The ship your cargo was on sunk and you lost a large shipment of products?
There was a recall on one of your products and you had to refund all your buyers?
Your computer system was hacked, and personal client information was compromised?
Because we’re trying to stick with our New Year’s resolution of being positive, we’ll end it here instead of listing out the hundreds of other things that could go wrong. The point is that SMBs are prone to any number of these incidents, and if you don’t have the proper insurance coverage for these situations, you’ll either have to pay-out-of-pocket or claim bankruptcy. Or both.
The bottom line: Business insurance is there to ensure that your company, your finances, and your assets remain intact when life’ s freak accidents come knocking at your door. So, even if you currently have insurance policies for your business, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have your insurance agent go over your current plan in order to weed out any holes or gaps in your coverage.
Running a business requires a lot of juggling, management, and making the right calls. If your New Year’s resolution was to grow your business, don’t set yourself up for failure by taking on too much. Begin implementing these eight manageable steps now to set your business up for success in the future. These practices are important steppingstones in keeping your business afloat and growing it. Happy 2023!
1. Use the “golden rule” with your employees. Turnover is very timely and expensive when you don’t. Consider offering incentives and bonuses to your current staff. Don’t underpay or overwork them for that may result in a lot of burnout and loss. Consider allowing your employees to work-from-home, have flexible schedules (particularly if they have kids), and enjoying a supportive and fun work environment.
2. Even if we go into a recession (which we likely will), don’t cut your marketing budget! Continued advertisements and promotions are a must. Studies show that companies who curtail marketing efforts during an economic crisis have a much harder time bouncing back when the economy evens out.
3. Update your business plan and your SOPs. Not only does this incite new ideas for marketing and services, but it helps ensure an easier onboarding process for new help and it increases the valuation of your company when you go to sell it.
4. Consider streamlining processes and interactions with technology. While it is always important to maintain a human element with any kind of business, sophisticated SaaS programs and apps have made it easier for businesses to outsource many menial tasks. This cuts back on having to hire more employees and allows you to scale your business more efficiently.
5. Get out of your comfort zone and commit to attending more conferences and meet-ups. Firstly, every market is always evolving, so it never hurts to get in front of changes in your market as well as be knowledgeable in your field. Plus, networking is important when it comes to growing your business and making connections. Remember: word of mouth is the best free advertising you can get.
6. Geofencing, Facebook look-a-like audiences, and Google analytics are great tools to granular establish your target audience. Every year or so, your targeted demographic will likely change a bit and it’s critical to the success of your business that you have a firm understanding of your client’s hobbies, interests, shopping behavior, religious beliefs, spending habits, and needs. Knowing just the sex/age/location of your shoppers simply won’t cut it in today’s competitive marketing landscape.
7. Don’t let money and power shadow your morals. Shady and even illegal practices will catch up with you eventually. Whether it’s tax evasion, price gouging, using black-hat tricks to show up on the first page, discriminating against women employees, sexual harassment, or just not treating your employees with respect are all things to actively avoid. Remember, your company is under the microscope in today’s technology-driven world. Bad PR can make or break a business.
8. If you don’t have insurance to cover your products, your employees, and your clientele, this should be first on your list of resolutions. You could lose everything in a matter of minutes over a natural disaster or a lawsuit. If you already have insurance, request a meeting with your insurance agent to make sure there are no gaps in your coverage. Sure, insurance is one of those things you rarely need, but when you do need it, you REALLY need it.