2014 small business action plan

It's January, it's wet and it's the end of week one. Shake off the blues with your own four step action plan. 

I don’t really believe in new year’s resolutions. But then, I didn’t believe in making wishes on birthday cake candles, either, and my last one came (and is still very much) true. I’m obviously not going to tell you what it was.

That’s my personal attitude, but when it comes to business and the year ahead, a solid set of goals can be a great way of shaking off the winter trappings, clearing your head, and making way for tangible success. Plus, I’m all for structure. And the ‘manageable, bite-size chunks’ stuff. So I say, why not cut your set of goals into four? One for each quarter, or season if you prefer. Even if you don’t tick them all off, inroads can be invaluable. Say you do this for the next three years. That’s 12 jobs done, or goals you’ve gone for. I say that can’t hurt any business - check out my starter for 10 below…

1. revamp those comms

Whatever your business, you’ll need to communicate with somebody, even if only every now and again. How you talk to your customers, whether it’s for marketing and promotion or customer services and queries, defines how people see and feel about your business.

What you need to communicate will obviously vary, but putting a decent amount of thought behind it should be a given. That doesn’t mean making it wordy or complicated – I’d start by getting out one of every piece of communication you send out, getting them into order, and start seeing them from the customer point of view. Do they need re-writing? Is everything clear? Are there any easy mistakes to correct, and would a second opinion be worth a spin? Pulling together a file (paper or digital) of the comms you send, and giving it a regular audit isn’t just smart, it’s immensely satisfying too.

2. launch a new product

My old boss once told me that her best ideas came when doing her teeth. We all have sparks of brilliance every now and again, and if you’re itching to build or promote something new, keep an eye on your products and services to see what works well, and what could be improved. For example, my favourite local fish & chippie has started doing OAP lunches as a nice tidy deal – cod, chips, mushy peas and a bread roll, plus tea or coffee for a fiver. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m told it’s gone down a treat.

Try things out, and let go if they don’t yield after a set date. If someone asks why you’ve removed the service or product, be honest. They may go off and drum up demand. And on that note …

3. clear out the rubbish

Not literally (although doing the bins brings its own benefits). Are there old phone numbers and adverts hanging around, out of date website content, or even a product that just never, ever sells, despite taking bets on who’ll sell one every start of the year? In all the small businesses I’ve worked in, I can confidently say yes, to the whole lot. And in our case, the non-seller was a tinned pie (which apparently was fine, because they keep for ages). Hanging onto old stuff through an umbilical belief that one day it will sell isn’t just silly, it can drag down your brand and image, and add clutter. If you really can’t face parting with it, make it into a shop legend/feature.

4. enter for an award

Whether you’re a farm shop, plumber, pub or freelance writer, getting recognised by professional peers and celebrated on a grand scale can do incredible things to your business. I was lucky enough to be at the Startups 2013 Awards this year, and witnessed a whole afternoon of hard-earned recognition and inspirational stories. As sponsors, Simply Business were in the thick of it, sharing tables with shortlisted entrants. I was at the right table – the chaps next to me were from Driver Hire, Colchester, and took home the award for Franchisee of the Year, for their transport and logistics industry staffing solutions success story. 

So before you do anything else, why not start there? If your business fits the criteria, register your interest today, and start thinking about your entry. You can tick off the other three when the leaves start to come out.

Get a headstart on Startups Awards 2014

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