Making this Year Better Than Last
For business owners, starting a new year serves as a time for reflection on the previous year, as well as an opportunity to set new goals. Considering the previous year and identifying areas for improvement are crucial steps when looking to build a strong foundation.
After the hustle of the holiday season, business owners often find themselves asking, How do I make this year better than the last? Here are some suggestions about what business owners should consider as they move through a new year:
- Assess your company’s performance compared to the overall market. When analyzing your company’s performance over the past year, it is important to consider how it performed in relation to the market as a whole. For example, if the market was up 10 percent, and your business was only up four percent, you may not have had as strong of a year as you think. Heading into the new year, what can you do differently to grow appropriately and stay in line with market performance, or perhaps, even exceed market standards? Consider what you are hearing about the market from vendors in order to stay up to date on trends.
- Determine how the market affected your results. Similarly, if your business performed well in a strong market, will it still be able to sustain itself if the following year is not as strong? What trends in the market helped and hindered your business? Acknowledging the market as a large factor of your company’s overall performance allows you to create a backup plan if the market is not as strong. If you did have a strong year, perhaps you should re-invest some of the capital you earned back into your company. As a business owner, it is important to evaluate if now is the right time to invest in order to continue to grow by upgrading equipment or purchasing a new facility.
- Identify market trends. From social media to online shopping, market trends are constantly evolving as a result of consumer demands. It is important to keep up with market trends in order to be able to best service your customers and their needs. One of the most beneficial platforms business owners can take advantage of is social media and developing a business presence online. Ensure you are staying relevant to industry standards when it comes to market trends. For example, many consumers do a little research online before coming into the store; is your website user-friendly and up to date to accommodate a successful customer experience? Does your social media complement your website and in-store experience?
- Keep your employees engaged. It is easy to become content doing the same things day in and day out. What are you doing to challenge employees? How are you keeping them motivated? While some employees are motivated by monetary compensation, other leaders find that employees continue to be motivated by practicing things they enjoy. For example, if you have an employee that is talented in social media, it is crucial to utilize their skills to continue to develop your business. Not only are you saving the cost of hiring someone to design a social media plan, but you are keeping your employee engaged as well as capitalizing on their talent. Having the right talent in the right place can help your business grow and sustain in numerous ways.
- Recognize the importance of gaining and maintaining customers. As markets and trends fluctuate, it is important to keep your customers and their needs in mind. Understand that you can never underestimate the power of customer experience, and the value of an interaction between your employee and the customer is irreplaceable. It is also important to understand that while you are constantly working to attract new customers, it is equally as important to retain your client base. It is a common mistake for business owners to invest in social media platforms and trendy new methods to attract a new clientele, leaving their loyal customers in the dark. Maintain a balance with your new customers and older customers in order to develop the largest customer base possible.
- Continue to learn as a business leader. It does not matter how long you have owned a business or how much you have mastered your industry; it is always important to learn more, as the market is always evolving. Growing your business acumen as a leader in a company is one of the most beneficial steps you can take to ensure you have a successful year. Whether you choose to participate in an industry conference, network in your local market, or subscribe to a daily newsletter, the ongoing effort of developing as a leader and an individual is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your business and yourself.
Lyon is Senior Vice President, Wells Fargo Commercial Distribution Finance (CDF), and an expert on independent retail best practices. Wells Fargo CDF delivers inventory financing solutions and services for manufacturers, distributors, and independent retailers in the electronics, appliances, furniture, and music industries.