Optimism is slowly creeping back into the entrepreneurial mind-set. Indications abound that the small business community will see a rebound in 2011. Here are some creative ideas to get your business in shape to take advantage of the improving climate.
We often talk about year-end planning but to me, that’s a misnomer.
As we get set to turn the page on another calendar year – for many businesses, the fiscal calendar year – I would prefer to use the term year-ahead planning. After all, jet planes don’t have rear-view mirrors and if we want to prepare our businesses for take-off, we need to have a flight plan and know where we want to land.
It is easy to become over-absorbed in the day-to-day activities of running our businesses and overlook planning for the future. That would be a shame, because 2011 is poised to be a far better business year than many of us may be expecting. I really appreciate the way Crain’s New York Business phrased it: “things are often better than they look, and if looked at optimistically, we can grow.”
What are their grounds for optimism?
First of all, businesses enjoyed a decent 2010. Nationwide, Crain’s cited the latest survey by Ink from JP Morgan Chase’s business card division. Fully 64% of small business owners projected that their firms would either meet or exceed both revenue and profit goals for fiscal 2010. And in a recent survey, 41% of the members of Focus.com, an online network for small business owners, which includes 78,000 New York City companies and executives, said they already increased revenue in 2010 compared with 2009.
True, economic uncertainty hangs in the air. Housing prices haven’t bounced back and unemployment is stubbornly high, but there are positive signs coming from Washington. A new spirit of cooperation and bipartisanship emerged right before Congress adjourned, resulting in a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts. Overall, we may not have much influence over the goings-on in Washington, but I agree with Scott Albro, founder and chief executive of Focus Inc. who said, “Small business owners should take ownership of the things they can control.”
One area within your grasp is to reach out to colleagues, customers and suppliers, or to other people with an interest in your business and invite them to join your company’s board of directors. This can be a far more valuable step than just plain networking. While networking is important, sometimes we tend to shake a lot of hands and share short introductions and snippets of conversation while looking around to see who else is in attendance that we might want to talk to. By establishing, or expanding a board, you are pooling talent and experience in an organized fashion with people who want to see you succeed. Having strategic partners, literally on-board, can provide you with new sources of valuable information and insight.
As business expands in the new calendar year, you are likely, at some point, to face hiring decisions. Before taking on new fixed costs, it pays to consider tapping into the burgeoning freelance market. This works especially well for seasonal businesses, and in general, it affords you with the opportunity to test how well the worker fits in and how much they can contribute, before making a full-time commitment.
Finally, remember to leverage your time appropriately. My good friend and noted business financial advisor, Jonathan Gassman CAP, CFP, CPA, (yeah, I love those Roshei Teiveis! Makes him sound pretty chashuv!) is always pounding the table about Strategic Coach – a training course for entrepreneurs – which teaches business owners how to “multiply” themselves. While we can’t (yet!) clone ourselves to be in two places or do two things at once, we can however implement time-saving technologies, utilize effective teamwork and delegate tasks to free ourselves to grow our businesses.
There’s no such thing anymore as business as usual. If we view the hard times we have recently experienced as an opportunity to step in and provide the products, services, and experiences that clients really want, then Bezras Hashem, the coming fiscal year will be our best ever.
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