2017 will be a challenging year for smaller businesses, just like any other, but by making and sticking to some strong resolutions, you should give yourself the best possible chance of making it a prosperous one.
But what resolutions should you make? To help guide you, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has some prompts.
- Be firm over payments
Cash flow is one major issue that could cause you to collapse, or see you operating in a straightjacket, unable to invest in and grow your business. An FSB survey recently found that only 12% of small businesses have customers who pay on time. Resolve to request payment according to your terms and conditions whenever you can, referencing your right to levy charges and interests on late payments, in line with Government legislation governing the payment of commercial debts. This is something 79% of small businesses currently choose not to do. More information can be found at http://promptpaymentcode.org.uk/
- Stay legal
If you are an employer, you will be obliged to offer a Workplace Pension, as from your business’s staging date. Make sure you know when that is and allow plenty of time to set up your business’s pension scheme. If you need help, talk to the Pensions Regulator (http://www.thepensionsregulator.gov.uk) or turn to FSB Workplace Pensions, which offers advice to FSB members and helps them set up a scheme. It will even keep you compliant, on an ongoing basis, if you opt to take out a Premier service. You can also join webinars that will talk you through the process and make your legal obligations clear.
- Save for a rainy day
Smaller businesses can experience sizeable peaks and troughs in customer demand, so resolve to bank money during the peaks, to help tide the business over in harder times. Whilst banking any profits, check out your bank charges. How much would free banking – as enjoyed by FSB members – contribute valuable extra cash into your business? Make a note to review your 2016 bank statements and tot up how much you paid in bank charges. You could be shocked.
- Speed up
How much extra capacity could your business have if it operated on superfast fibre broadband? If you don’t know, resolve to find out. Every freed-up hour gives you extra time to generate sales and focus on business planning, according to FSB Communications. Ofcom estimates that one-fifth of businesses are unhappy with their broadband speed, yet 78% of businesses use a broadband connection to participate in the digital economy (FSB Survey). Don’t be apathetic about finding another provider. Find out what speeds you could access and how this could improve your business operationally.
- Monitor your online profile
Have you any idea what perception of your business customers can gain simply by reading about you online? You may have resolved to find out, but broken that resolution through lack of time and resource. Some smaller businesses are now gaining a competitive edge over you, by doing it at the touch of a button, thanks to FSB Business Profiling. Why not join them, get two free reports and receive valuable advice on how to improve your digital persona – a picture that will be built up through an analysis of your website, social media accounts, information held by credit referencing agencies and Companies House, and online comments.
- Safeguard your business
FSB says a worrying 66% of smaller businesses have been victims of cyber crime in the last two years. Resolve to get your house in order by reviewing your passwords and assessing if these are too easy to guess. Change them regularly and always devise new passwords when any employee with password permissions leaves. Don’t be caught out by phishing emails asking you to verify your account and don’t leave supplier invoices on view. Establish strong firewalls and back up your data continuously. Visit www.cyberaware.gov.uk for help with your cyber security.
- Don’t waste your energy
A new energy tariff could save your business thousands, so keep a keen eye on your energy costs and ask an expert to help find you a better deal, if needs be. Cutting overheads like your energy bills could make a big difference in 2017, so either shop around yourself, or let experts like FSB Energy use their bill checker facility to assess whether you are paying dear for your electricity and gas.
Networking is a great way to build your business, so resolve to give time to this in 2017. You could not only find more customers, but meet potential employees, share best practice and source new suppliers. It should also spark new ideas for your business and help you glean feedback about your business proposition. View networking as a means to reap benefits that you could not afford to pay for and you will become much more eager to head to meetings in 2017, even if you have to get out of your comfort zone to take advantage of the opportunities, by meeting people face to face.
- Understand your obligations
When you become an employer, many different legal obligations fall upon you and knowing how to comply with these can become difficult and time-consuming. Make use of legal and health and safety helplines that talk you through legislation governing your sector and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Using templates that you can adapt to your business’s specific needs can save you many hours, so take advantage of them.
- Think ahead
Always plan ahead of where you are at any one moment in time, making contingencies for the future and what it may bring. Ensure you have a business continuity plan that will swing into operation should one of your worst possible scenarios arise and also consider your exit strategy and how you can get your business fit for sale, if that is your plan. Whilst 2017 is upon us, don’t forget that your business plan should be taking you at least to the end of the decade, if not further ahead!
For more information about how FSB could help you achieve your New Year’s Resolutions, visit www.fsb.org.uk. You can also follow FSB on Twitter @fsb_policy