While many business owners are evaluating the impact of 2009 on their operations, I say this, savvy readers: Get your tail in gear; there is much work to be done and worrying about this last year is merely a distraction keeping you from your goals. There is no shortage of bad news, but you’re still standing-be grateful. Some luck could be involved, but to avoid becoming a statistic in the next decade, it’s time you prepared a plan of attack. I’ve compiled a brief outline of things to make you more profitable and fleet-footed in 2010:
To Do List: Use it, print it, churn it. There are nifty free ones and you’re big kid now; Google it and pick the one you’ll use. I like Tada.
Slash and Burn:If you’re currently providing a good or service that is not in demand, or has had waning interest from your customers, it might be time to can it. If it can be re-engineered easily or in a way that makes it sizzle, revamp it, however, don’t paralyze your business by overthinking it. Move on it or table it.
Make a schedule: Your marketing, training, team calls, promotions or meetings; scheduling ahead assures you will work toward the goal. Set up as much as you can in advance; it can always be changed later.
Keep a handle on things: Use a Project Management tool to keep things (and associated people) on track and informed. I’m still evaluating several PM products, but my favorite at the moment is Zoho Projects. ManyMoon and Deskaway both show some promise.
Assemble your toolbox: Web applications, software, hardware, systems; you can never be too thorough here. Keep what makes you money and makes your work easier, but rid your business of those things that are considered an “albatross”. Make no excuses here and be ready to adapt. Sometimes getting a leg up means sharpening the ax and learning some new tricks, so be flexible. One more thing: if you have a routine that could better be done with a computer application, get one made. Two local companies I love that are doing this: Syneticus and Foraker.
Brainstorm as if your life depends upon it: You have ideas, right? (I’ll give you a copywriter’s secret here…) Ink them. No need to be fancy, just get them down on paper. Delete nothing, don’t even worry about what order you put it in, nothing. Just get it down in writing. In a couple weeks, reflect on these things. Which ones could bring dough in the door immediately, or at least soon? How many could really work? Implement the easiest first. The others? Hold on to them until time warrants their attention. A big mistake many businesses make is not having “the next thing” ready to go, which sometimes is really just “the improved thing.” The point is to always be thinking, but always also be writing it down.You never know when you’ll need to put one of those gems into action.
Hire as if you’re hiring your replacement: Sounds counterintuitive, right? But in reality, when you hire the best you can, you’ll surprise yourself with how much more efficient and profitable this addition can be to your company. If you hire on the cheap, you will spend oodles in training, unnecessary managing, and constant “how you doing here?” checkins. Save yourself some grief and hire the best you can afford, whether that’s an employee or a consultant.
Get people talking about you and listen: This is a great time of year to begin getting your brand out there in bigger and better ways. I don’t mean running lame advertisements or TV and radio spots. I’m talking about sustainable, affordable exposure and interaction. Shore up all the social media spaces you should be in and make sure to make your brand flexible, so it’s still recognizable. Tend those spaces like they’re your garden. Sponsor some local events, even small ones and truly become a resource in your community, become part of local initiatives, and truly listen to your customers. Support, teach, share, listen. Repeat.
That’s my short list. Use just one, you’ll see some improvement. Use all 8 and you’ll make Chuck Norris jealous.
(Photo Credit: AngelaTChou)