Resolved to do better in 2015? Consider these tips

Matt Varilek
Matt Varilek

Like personal resolutions to eat healthy or get fit, New Year’s resolutions for small business owners can lead to good things. A survey conducted by Constant Contact found that 53 percent of small business owners make New Year’s resolutions to boost their operations.

Consider the following ideas from the U.S. Small Business Administration network of small business experts for your own list of resolutions in 2015:

Give your business plan a face-lift. Business plans offer a useful tool for anticipating scenarios and how your business will respond. But even the finest forecasters get some predictions wrong. Consider your business plan a living document and review it regularly. Update the plan to reflect how the business has evolved in terms of technology, product diversification, marketing strategies and owner experience.

Understand the Affordable Health Care Act (ACA). Small firms with fewer than 50 employees aren’t required by the ACA to provide health insurance to their employees. That’s 96 percent of all businesses. However, businesses that voluntarily choose to provide coverage have the option of doing so through each state’s small business health insurance marketplace. Employers with 100 or more full-time employees now have specific Employer Shared Responsibility Rule (ESRR) requirements. Employers with 50 to 99 full-time equivalent employees have until 2016 before the ESRR applies.

Get a financial checkup. Business owners should review their company’s profit and loss statements, balance sheets and other relevant financial indicators on a regular basis. For many, this is second nature. But for some, a review of the company’s financial health is long overdue.  Like driving without a dashboard, failure to study your financials can lead to missed opportunities or more serious problems.

Take a hard look at what worked and what didn’t. Did you buy too much of the wrong inventory? Did you make hiring decisions that hurt the business? Are you working too many hours at the business and need to hire more help? Are you putting too many hours into the business and neglecting your family? Should you create a new marketing strategy or revamp last year’s model?  It’s easier said than done, but confronting these tough questions in an honest way can lead to continuous improvement and great success.

Find a mentor you trust. Mentors can provide a fresh perspective on tough issues like the ones mentioned above. They can also provide business owners with a wide range of advice on business strategies, financial issues and common sense solutions to everyday problems. They provide someone you can discuss sensitive issues with in confidence. Consider using a SCORE or Small Business Development Center (SBDC) counselor to fill this role. They’re experienced. They’re confidential. And in most cases, they’re free.

Embrace online sales and social media. A 2013 study by Forrester Research Inc. showed that by 2017, nearly 60 percent of all U.S. retail sales will involve the Web. This trend only seems to be accelerating. Successful small firms maintain a Web presence where customers can purchase items online or find a retail location. The cost of creating a Web presence is far outweighed by the potential new customers ready to buy your products or services online, often from markets well outside your geographic area. Let 2015 be the year you create or refresh your business’ Web presence.

Embrace innovation and creativity. Differentiate your small business from the competition by embracing innovation and creativity every day. Feature the products that can’t be found at the local mega mall. Create the kind of unique customer experience that serves as a destination for shoppers not content with pointing and clicking in solitude.

For more information on how the SBA can help your business keep its New Year’s resolutions, visit www.sba.gov or call the Colorado district office at (303) 844-2607.