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6 New Year's business resolutions for 2015

Giving up smoking, drinking and trying to get fit – these might be some of your personal New Year’s resolutions this year, but what about making some for your business too?

We look at some of the resolutions small business experts recommend we adopt for 2015 and some of the ones actual business owners are making this year to ensure their business runs more smoothly.

1. Learn from last year’s lessons

It might be getting paid on time or finding new customers so that your business is less reliant on one major client, but how could you shake things up this year?

Putting together a list of last year’s problems could pave the way for a better 2015, says Neeta Patel, chief executive of the New Entrepreneurs Foundation.

“Create a list of little niggles, issues and lessons learned throughout the last year - however big or small – and come up with a way to eliminate them going forward,” she said.

“New businesses will have all kinds of teething problems, of course, but it’s how you deal with these issues and overcome them that will keep your businesses moving forward.”

As such, Agi Eugenio, managing director of buy-to-let investment firm Northstar Homes, plans to ask “better questions” of himself this year.

“Things still remain highly competitive in the property sector – so my New Year resolution is to ask better quality questions of both myself and the market I'm in to try elicit better answers,” he said. “I know through experience the answers are always to be found in the questions!”

2. Go back to the drawing board

Feeling like you’ve gone off on a business tangent recently and need to go back to basics? Then, why not dust off your original business plan and reassess where you are?

“Take some time to look back at it and see if your business needs to be re-aligned, or your plan simply needs updating,” said Neeta.

“Either way, it will really help focus your mind on why you set up your business in the first place and what your original ambitions were. Does your business live up to your early plans? If not, now is the time to make any changes that should be made.”

3. Focus on ‘good’ clients, not ‘sexy’ ones

Having a long list of big name clients can be appealing but, while the logos may look impressive on your website, are they really the best customers to rely on for bread and butter sales? Mark Melford of Captive Media, an award-winning digital media start-up, says that this year he is focusing his sales drive on ‘good’ clients, rather than ‘big’ ones.

“As a small company you want to win the biggest and best clients and we’ve been fortunate to work with blue chip brands such as Guinness and Twentieth Century Fox,” he said.

“But the downside is that bigger companies are also often the slowest to decide. Our New Year’s resolution is to place more sales emphasis not on big clients, but on ‘good’ ones - good meaning fast to decide, and likely to buy repeatedly.”

As part of this, says Neeta, it’s a good idea to review your customers from last year and think about how you can incentivise them to ensure they continue to do business with you.

“It doesn’t have to be a huge reward, but as a small business, chances are you can personalise it to suit their needs and buying power,” she said.

4. Revitalise your marketing strategy

“People buy your ‘Why’,” says Lucy Whittington, author of Find Your Thing: How to Discover What You Do Best, Own it and Get Known for it, published in February. “We want to know your story – it really is your best salesperson.

“When you ‘know’ why a person or business does what it does and why it does it that way, you are much more connected to them (and much more likely to buy from them).

“If you don’t give us ‘why’ details then all we’ve got to go on as a differentiator between you and your competition is price – and that’s not a good way to sell.”

Bearing that advice in mind, are you doing all you could to engage with your customers from a marketing point of view? As part of that, you might find that you need to blow the cobwebs off your social media accounts, says Neeta.

“With an ever-growing digital world, it’s important to keep up with your customers, and adapt your marketing and social media to ensure you have the best engagement with your customers,” she said.

“Keep an eye on competitors, new trends, and customer habits – they change constantly. Keep your content fresh.”

5. Review your staff’s performance

Take a good hard look at how your employees are performing and whether there is anything you can do to improve it. Could they benefit from some training and development or do you need extra staff?

“You should regularly be taking a look at how your employees are performing and identify any gaps in their training and professional development,” said Neeta.

“If they are not contributing to the business and to your profits, it’s time to shake things up. Think about each member of staff, and how your business would suffer if each took a month-long holiday – could you cope? If the answer is ‘yes’, for any of them, why is that? Do they need more training?

“Is the role now redundant, or is it that the person in the role is not performing. Or, maybe you just need more staff. Are your employees swamped or do you have a high turnover of staff? The New Year is a great time for new recruitment, so chances are, you’ll find some great candidates if you do have to let someone go.”

6. Think beyond your current horizons

Once you’ve examined the concerns and niggles from last year, and gone back to review your original business plan, it could throw up new ideas about your business strategy.

Could there be other services you could be offering or are there new markets that you could investigate that are as yet untapped? Is there a new skill you could learn that would boost your business?

Dan Page, marketing manager of Opposable Games, an award-winning games developer, says his firm plans to look beyond existing markets this year.

“This year our key focus is make a significant impact in the virtual reality scene – last week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas again highlighted its potential,” he said.

“As a company we're aiming to reach further afield to companies that might not think about how their business would benefit from using games technology.”

Meanwhile, Richard Kingdon, MD of City Beacon, the City of London’s only addiction counselling service, says he’s looking to provide long-term support for clients after they’ve finished receiving their immediate counselling sessions.

"For our clients ‘stopping’ their addictive behaviour isn’t the problem – instead, it’s about developing the skills and strategies they need to stay ‘stopped’ every hour of every day,” he said.

“For 2015 we're committing more time and resources to provide on-going help and support long after our clients’ coaching sessions have finished.”

Alternatively, are there services or products that you are offering that are no longer worth the bother? Author Lucy Whittington says business people should “stop” doing what they’re good at and doing what they’re “brilliant at instead”.

“Everyone has something they are brilliant at and do so effortlessly you might even feel ‘bad’ you’re being paid for it,” she said. “Why work hard doing lots of things you’re good at, when you can just do what you’re brilliant at instead (and it’s easy). The trick of course with this is working out what that brilliant thing is in the first place…”