Many small business owners give up in the month of December. With all the distractions of holiday shopping and good cheer, the constant refrain from many prospects and customers is “let’s look at it after January 1st”. Sound familiar?
While we can’t control their actions, there are 10 steps that every small business owner can take to finish out the year and begin a new one profitably.
1. Meet With Your Customers: This is the easiest time of year to reach your customers or prospects. Everyone is in the office at least until Dec. 17 with few things on the calendar. Call or email them to set up a visit. You will be surprised how simple it will be to meet and talk with them to build on your business relationship.
2. Hire Your 2011 Staff Now. Several people are still looking, but there are few job openings this time of year. Be one of those companies that is hiring! Get those new people in place and trained so they can be productive Jan. 1. You will also have a very thankful and loyal employee because, having found a job, they can enjoy the holiday cheer too.
3. Give Employee and Customer Gifts. This is the season of giving. Take a moment and be grateful for what you have instead of always chasing what you want. Employees and customers are the most important assets of your business. Treat them to a thank you gift. It does not have to be expensive, just a small something with a handwritten note. This year, I have been giving away “Emergency Clown Noses” to help customers when business gets tough.
4. Make 2010 Year End Plans. Make a list of the business deals you want to get closed before year end to help customers make their targets. Framed this way, your goals are still in sync with theirs. Some customers may have “use or lose” budgets that they can pay for in 2010 for 2011 projects. You won’t know unless you ask. What business can you close this year that will begin next year to give a financial head start on 2011?
5. Lose the “Lookie- Loos.” Prospecting for new sales is expensive. Fill your funnel with people that will actually buy from you. Have you been working on prospects that no longer return your phone calls or emails? Cut them from your short list and put them back into your marketing funnel to be contact at a much later date. Only call on prospects where you know: a) the pain you solve for them b) their budget and c) who can make the buy decision.
6. Crowdsource Your Customers. Survey your customers on what challenges they face for 2011 and ask how you can help. No guessing on what your company needs to focus on. If you ask, customers will tell the solutions they require. Your company needs only to figure out how to provide it effectively at a profit.
7. Strategize with Your Team for 2011. This is the month to think big. Take time to meet with the key people in your organization away from the office. What is the overall goal for 2011? Get focused by restating the pain your business solves and who has the money to solve the pain. What will you do the same and what will you do different next year? What changes in the market place are happening that you can take advantage of? What are the biggest threats to your business? Get everyone in your organization to set a big stretch goal for their department. The more outrageous the better!
8. Invest in Your Company. All business owners are “shoemaker’s children” when it comes to investing in their own skills and company infrastructure. What types of investments are you going to make to improve yourself and your employee’s skills? What types of infrastructure investments will you make to leverage your employee productivity? Skills and infrastructure together form a winning team.
9. Make Personal Resolutions You Can Keep. As business owners, we all have trouble setting limits and blending our personal with our professional lives. Commit that in 2011 you will plan a vacation with friends or family of at least goes a week. That’s right…Seven whole days! During the rest of the year, set limits on places or times where you will not allow business to intrude like the gym or family dinners. Also, it’s time to stop sleeping with your iPhone.
10. Call the Accountant: Remember, it’s not what you make, it’s what you get to keep. Now is the time to talk to your accountant and plan what expenses you can legally move into this year and which revenue items you can push to 2011. Also, ask which laws and tax rates are changing (including health care) that will effect your business in 2010 vs 2011.
What actions are you going to take before the end of the year?
Barry Moltz gets small business owners unstuck. With decades of entrepreneurial ventures as well as consulting countless other entrepreneurs, Barry has discovered the formula to get business owners marching forward.