It’s this time of the year again. Like 45% of Americans, you have made New Year’s Resolutions, likely to involve losing weight, getting organized, saving money or enjoying life to the fullest. But what about your business? If you haven’t already, it’s time to take stock, analyze what went well in 2013 what you need to improve, and plan for 2014.
Here are ten New Year resolutions that will help your small business be in top shape for the new year.
1. Be More Agile
It’s got to be the buzzword of 2013, but it’s not to say it can’t be applied in a practical manner and benefit your business. Initially adopted for a specific methodology of software development, agility can be applied to project delivery, staff management or even relationships with customers. The four principles supporting agility?
- Prioritize individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Focus on producing a working solution rather than comprehensive documentation
- Favor customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Be responsive to change
2. Boost Your Staff’s Skills
As the business landscape is changing more and more rapidly – particularly due to the impact of new tech on customers expectations and staff behavior – being responsive requires a certain level of flexibility and vision from your employees. Establish a training plan for the course of 2014 around the areas that have dramatically changed in the past few years and include everyone, from the receptionist to the IT director.
3. Make The Most Of Your Data
You might have heard: the global data supply reached 2.8 zettabytes (ZB) in 2012, and yet only 0.5% of it is being analyzed. When virtually any amount of data can be processed and stored in the Cloud, there are huge opportunities to understand your customers and market better. If you haven’t already, it’s time to create a data-powered business and marketing strategy.
4. Offer A Broad Payment Eco-system To Your Customers
As payment platforms continue to evolve, customers are increasingly looking into easier and safer ways to purchase. Now that PayPal has become a mainstream way to purchase online without sharing financial information directly with retailers, mobile payment is the next big thing, whether it’s contactless Near Field Communication, direct mobile billing or mobile web payment.
5. Improve Your Digital Security
The internet is now at the core of operations for many small businesses, and ensuring the security of your systems is essential. Yet, a staggering 76% of UK small businesses reported a cyber-breach in 2012, and the trend is similar in other countries. Is the protective software you use up to date? Do your staff use strong passwords? Is sensitive data encrypted? Taking an IT security health check is a good way to find out where to start.
6. Review Collaborations With Third Parties
Whilst assessing the state of your online security between your four walls is essential, it’s equally important to ensure your suppliers are also working in a safe and secure online environment. For instance, make sure your cloud services provider can guarantee the security of your data, and has a strategy in place in case of security breach.
7. Write A BYOD Policy
According to Verizon’s paper Bring Your Own Device: The Facts and the Future published earlier this year, over 60% of workers report using a personal device at least once a day in their work, with 44% using a personal smartphone in their job. However, relatively few companies regulate use of personal devices, which can lead to huge risks on the security of their data and networks. Whether you like it or not, your employees will increasingly use their own phones or tablets to access business data, so start to formulize what they can and can’t do.
8. Invest In Business Apps
As smartphones are increasingly being used at work, so are apps. Instead of leaving it to your employees to source the apps they’ll use to access their emails, calendars and files, provide them with company’s approved apps. From document editing on the go to conferencing via text messages, business apps can really improve the productivity of your business.
9. Make The Internet Of Things Work For Your Business
While looking at tech, why not try to identify ways to save time, improve processes or simply make life in your office more fun through Internet-connected devices? From intelligent heating to assets tracking, identify areas where efficiency could be improved, and if there isn’t an IoT app for it already, there will probably be one soon.
10. Look For Innovative Ways To Raise Money
Finally, if like many of the small businesses who applied for credit, you’ve been turned down by your bank, do not despair. Alternative ways of raising money are increasingly available, and crowd-funding has for instance raised more than £1 billion for UK small and medium-sized enterprises last year.Of course, don’t forget to inquire about the regulation in place in your country, and get professional advice to mitigate risk.
Sabelline Chicot is a digital writer and editor covering small business and entrepreneurship matters. With five years’ experience in the tech and digital industries spent in editorial and marketing roles, Sabelline developed a passion for new technologies, and the great potential they offer to small businesses. You can find her on Twitter at @sabellinechicot and on Google+ at plus.google.com/+SabellineChicot.
Image courtesy Lloyd Thrap