What positive business habits should you be seeking to foster in 2014?
Everyone has New Year resolutions, whether they state them publicly or keep them private: that is, after all, why you see more joggers out despite the January weather! When you’re running your own business, you almost certainly have a list of changes that you want to make in 2014. But which aspirations should you be prioritising?
Far too many businesses only take their cash-flow seriously when a problem has become apparent. By that time, it’s usually too late to fix the situation without upheaval and considerable stress. This year, paying attention to your cash-flow, even when things are going swimmingly, will pay dividends. Take action to address the situation whenever a client is falling behind, even if it’s not causing tangible problems for your business – because you can guarantee that a few clients picking up bad payment habits will.
Challenge Your Staff
A new year will doubtless lead your employees to take stock of their lives and careers. Also, now that Ireland has shifted into recovery mode, ambitious people have rising expectations. It costs you nothing to talk with your employees about their medium to long-term goals, and to informally discuss how they could achieve them within your business. If you can hang on to capable, motivated people, your company will benefit in immeasurable ways.
Show Customer Appreciation
Like your employees, your key clients will be evaluating things at this time of, and a little love-bombing – provided it’s not over the top – is worthwhile. If you can, try to organise some informal meetings with your customers to get feedback on how they find your products or services. In an open discussion, they may bring up issues that are easily fixable – and nothing helps to cement a business relationship like a problem solved.
Learn to Delegate
If you are running a small business, you are always tempted to do everything – from sales to delivery and cash collection, you instinctively feel that you are more capable and invested in tasks than your employees. But there’s a reason why you have a team: you can’t do it all. If you are going to enjoy any work-life balance in 2014 – and have time to work ‘on’ the business rather than ‘in’ the business – then you need to trust people to get on with their jobs. Some oversight and accountability for targets is helpful, but trying to do everything will frustrate competent employees and run you into the ground.
Tap Into Technology
Sheer inertia keeps many businesses from using technology to work more productively. A fear of substantial front-end investment also deters some owner-managers, but many useful business tools require little or no spend to set up. UsingGoogle Docs to collaborate on documents, a tool like Asana to assign tasks and responsibilities or even Skype for instant message conversations when working remotely will save your business a lot of time and be very simple to adopt. So investigate the possibilities of free or cost-effective applications and technology this year.
Businesspeople are realistic: 2014 won’t mark a return to the days of easy money. But making these positive changes should help your company improve markedly for the new year.