Business News for 5th January 2010 :: Kick start the new year

1. Stay in front of customers and prospects. A critical lesson of 2009 is that each and every customer is important. That means calling, e-mailing, visiting, listening. Increase your marketing efforts -- whether online, word-of-mouth, at trade shows. Make yourself continually visible to your customers.

2. Exploit your strengths. One of the most important lessons of 2009 is that successful people concentrate more on their strengths than worry about their weaknesses. In 2010, examine what gives you a true competitive advantage, what makes you special. Build your business in ways that leverages your strengths as much as possible.

3. Seize opportunities. The recession of the last couple of years left your competitors weakened, your customers looking for change, great employees willing to work for less. As the economy improves (hopefully!), aggressively go after new business before new competitors emerge. Now is the time to be bold!

4. Go to the cloud. Switch more of your business applications to be Internet-based -- rather than based on a server or desktop. Yes, there's usually a monthly charge, but there's continual upgrades at no extra charge, backup/security (if you choose a highly reliable provider), and access anywhere there's an Internet connection.

5. Learn more about social networking. Social networking is the hot new thing. Much is hype; some is realistic. Learn enough about these to see whether it's worth your time and money to develop a social networking strategy for your particular business. Create a profile on LinkedIn, start a Facebook page, check out Twitter. These may not be appropriate for your business, but you should know what they're about before just dismissing them out of hand.

6. Start an e-mail newsletter if you don't already have one. Send it out more frequently if you do. Make sure there's always something of value to the reader -- otherwise it's going straight to their junk e-mail box.

7. Put more money away for retirement. Overwhelmingly, entrepreneurs depend primarily on their businesses to fund their retirement. They intend to sell their company -- or keep working forever. The year 2009 showed that the value and security of a company can drop precipitously, and relying entirely on your business for long-term security may not be realistic. You need other money -- and other investments -- than just the value and cash flow of your business. Maximize your retirement contributions every year.

8. Get greener and save money. Turn off all equipment over night and on weekends. Use both sides when printing (often the "duplex" setting in your print set-up). Reduce unnecessary car trips. Encourage the use of public transportation.

9. Get closer to a banker and reduce debt. Most businesses (especially growing companies) use some form of debt to run their businesses. Without a line-of-credit, you’d have a much smaller company. But many also rely on credit cards. In 2009, credit card companies significantly raised interest rates -- some as high as 29 percent! Take a good, hard look at your debt. Find better --lower rate -- financing methods and reduce total debt.

10. Backup, backup, backup. Make sure your data and documents are secure. The unexpected happens. Find an easy, reliable way to regularly back up your data.

Finally, the Business Link team is here to help you achieve your business aims and aspirations in 2010, so please don’t hesitate to call if we can be of any help in any way at any time.

Sincere best wishes for 2010.

Stephen

*Rhonda Abrams is the president of The Planning Shop, publisher of books for entrepreneurs.

Stephen Herman

Business Adviser

Business Link

Phone: 0845 641 9820

Mobile: 07825 189263

Business Link… the place to go for business support
Online: www.businesslink.gov.uk/east
On the phone: 08457 17 16 15

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