Business owners have faced a very difficult twelve months. A seemingly apocalyptic range of factors and events have combined to make for a particularly unpleasant climate.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Despite the litany of bad news, there are still opportunities for forward-thinking businesses to thrive.
Here are some top tips to help you fulfil your firm’s potential in 2012.
1. Remember what you do best
It’s easy to get sidetracked as a business owner. Try to focus on what you do best, and spend as much of your time as possible doing it. Similarly, try to concentrate on your core business. Your time is precious, and you should utilise it in the most efficient way possible.
2. ... but look for expansion opportunities
That doesn’t mean, though, that you can’t look for potential opportunities for expansion. If an exciting possibility arises, you should be prepared to investigate. With some businesses struggling to survive, 2012 could provide opportunities to build your market share.
3. Make a plan
A good business plan is the cornerstone of any successful organisation. Take some time to set out your plans for the next year or two. This doesn’t have to be the be all and end all - you shouldn’t feel shackled by your business plan. Rather, it should be a living document that grows and changes with your business.
4. Delegate when necessary
Delegation is a key skill for business owners. Learn to recognise when the time is right to delegate – and remember that you simply can’t do everything yourself. Knowing when to let go is one of the most important skills any business owner can develop.
5. Think about marketing
With the economic climate as it is, many businesses are cutting back on costs – and all too frequently this means cutting back on marketing. If anything, you should consider boosting your marketing efforts during a downturn. You will need to fight even harder for every pound, and your marketing efforts should reflect this.
6. Don't forget offline
While technology is great, you shouldn’t forget the power of offline networks. Networking has become a bit of a dirty word – but a face-to-face meeting can often be worth a hundred emails.
7. Keep an eye on costs
There is a lot to be said for the mindset of the startup. The enforced frugality of the bootstrapped business is a good lesson for general financial management. Take some time to consider where you can reduce your overheads – but make sure that you don’t hurt your business in the process.
8. Think about hiring
Could 2012 be the year that you become an employer? Successful businesses rely on great teams, and recruitment can be vital if you are to fulfil your firm’s potential. Read about the financial implications of taking on your first employee – and dispel some common recruitment myths.
9. Don't forget the books
It’s dull, but bookkeeping is one of the most important tasks facing any business owner. Take some time to make sure that your paperwork is in order, in anticipation of January’s Self Assessment deadline.
10. Set aside your tax
On the subject of tax: there are few things worse than the creeping realisation that you have a tax bill you can’t pay. If this sounds familiar, make a New Year’s resolution right now to set aside your tax every month, without fail.
11. Stay healthy
The importance of health is often overlooked. As an entrepreneur you need to be in good shape, both physically and mentally. Try to get some exercise every day, and make sure that you drink enough water. Read some more tips on entrepreneur health.
12. Don't let the news get you down
The constant gloom can be disheartening. But remember, even the most unpleasant economic climates provide opportunities to thrive. By concentrating on what you do best, and by making sure that you have the fundamentals sorted out, you can maximise your chances of success.