December 21, 2011
By Michael Kline
The one thing I’m quitting for New Year’s, is resolutions. In my experience, nothing has been a bigger waste of breath than making personal resolutions tied to the calendar year. I’ve found that making personal changes is most effective when tied to something more personal than the calendar. A better motivator might be a health challenge, or a major life change, losing a job, having a child, losing someone close to you, turning another decade older, or finally realizing how much you want to make a change. At these points in our life, we can make a decision and a commitment to personal changes.
Business changes however, are tied to the calendar because business results are tied to the calendar. While some have a fiscal year ending at some other time of year, but for most of us, it coincides with the New Calendar year. So New Year’s resolutions make sense for business. We sometimes call it planning! The truth is, the overwhelming majority of our small businesses do not have a written plan anyway, so obviously there are no changes to make in the plan for the New Year. There should be.
For those of you who haven’t been monitoring your books all along, it’s time to review our financial position at the end of the year, with critical eyes. It’s time (actually past time, but better late than never) to review marketing efforts, traffic, closing ratios, inventory, return on inventory, payroll, productivity, customer buying patterns… all the clues available to you to strategize for better results next year.
Let’s take inventory for example. How much inventory do you have? How much of it is old inventory that is not turning over like it should? What are you going to do about it? While Christmas shopping at our local merchants, I found a piece of merchandise in a store in N. Conway that was at least five (yes, 5) years old – I know because I sold the item wholesale to the shop keeper over five years ago! I knew then it was a bad idea, but they insisted they could sell it. After all this time, it still sits on the shelf, at full retail! Sell it at cost, or even below cost, so you can reinvest that money into new inventory that will sell! It’s amazing how many otherwise-intelligent business people will not let go of their need to make a profit on an item, thus keeping them from making a profit on their inventory in general!
Whether you work in the trades, professional services or hospitality, you have to worry about finding customers. So who were your best customers last year? Not the biggest, but the best – sometimes, our biggest customers are not the most profitable. What do your most profitable customers have in common? How can you find more of them next year? What new technology exists that might help? Is your target audience on Twitter and Facebook? While analyzing payroll expense, (you are, aren’t you?) maybe you can find an employee to take on social media projects in slow times. What’s that? To boost productivity, you banned the use of Facebook at work? Perhaps requiring Facebook for five - twenty minutes a day to have an employee post and manage your business Facebook presence could be a better investment of down time. Personally, I’ve bought ads for two of our stores on Facebook and have not gotten positive results, but I have made business contacts and made profitable relationships from Facebook.
What new things do you want to learn to improve results in 2011? Do you get energized when you attend seminars? Are there local classes being offered that might help? Have you considered “Leadership MWV” for yourself or a key employee? The leadership program put on by the MWV Chamber and the MWVEC expands our leadership pool in the valley while positioning you in the community in a positive and contributing way.
I’m all for dieting, exercising, quitting smoking and all the usual suspects, but you’ll do those things when you are ready to do them. The calendar, however, dictates that the new business year is starting with or without your motivation, and it’s your job to deal with it. Now is the time to think about this year’s results and what you want to be different about results in 2011. Your Entreprenologist can help you focus on your desired results and plan accordingly. I hope you have an amazing and prosperous New Year, filled with happiness and good health!