I know, I know. It’s hard to start thinking about the New Year when we’re stuck in the middle of the hectic holidays. But with January 1 right around the corner, now is the perfect time to reflect on how to grow your business in 2016.
As a fellow small business owners and solopreneur, I know first-hand how tricky it can be to even find the time to think about business development. Some days we’re so busy juggling our current client demands, big picture goals — publishing great thought leadership articles, going after a dream client — take a back seat to a ringing phone or email deluge. One trick I’ve learned the hard way over the years? Taking advantage of free or low-cost apps and services to manage the “background noise” associated with day-to-day operations.
This year, resolve to minimize stress and make your life that much easier. Get started with this handy New Year’s Resolutions checklist for small businesses:
Resolution #1: Do More with Social Media
Have a Facebook account but rarely use it? Wish you had time to actually respond to customer tweets or finally get your Instagram up and running? Take the pain out of social media management with Hootsuite Pro. Designed specifically for small and medium-sized businesses, Hootsuite Pro is packed with intuitive features that make it simple to manage, engage and measure your social media activity without losing a huge chunk of your day to the Twittersphere.
Your to-do: Getting active on multiple social media channels at once can be overwhelming. Start by focusing your attention on one network. Sign up for Hootsuite’s free, 30-day trial. Use the service to schedule your posts in advance and hone in on relevant conversations about your brand. Analyze campaign performance: which posts resulted in the most follower engagement? How can you use this feedback to strengthen your social media activity?
Resolution #2: Stop Wasting Time and Money on Ad Hoc Accounting
This is a big one, folks. Do you find yourself scrambling for receipts come tax time? Are you still manually tracking expenses in a Google doc or Excel chart? Do you promise every year to finally get a better system in place but never seem to get around to hiring an accountant? Put an end to the bookkeeping madness with affordable (or free!) accounting solutions. Both Wave and Freshbooks are simple and intuitive to use with thousands of satisfied small business customers.
Your to-do: Get started with either Wave or Freshbooks (I’m a fan of both). These cloud-based accounting solutions are built specifically to make life easier for small business owners, helping us stay organized and get paid. Track time, log expenses, send automatic client invoices, and more. Plus, both Wave and Freshbooks offer credit card processing for even faster payment.
Resolution #3: Get a Leg Up on the Competition with Continuing Education
Continuing education is a must for small business owners, but unless there’s a certification renewal required for our jobs, most of us put these classes off on the back burner. The result: from accounting to marketing, we keep doing things the same way we always have– oftentimes missing out on better, easier solutions. From public speaking to grant writing, make this the year you conquer a professional fear, learn a new skill, and grow your professional network while doing so.
Your to-do: What skill would you most like to improve? What is your weakest spot as a small business owner? Maybe you’d like to brush up on your accounting basics, take an industry mastery class, or finally master the basics of online marketing. Start by committing to learn one new skill. Sign up for a class at a local community college or enroll in an online training course. Challenge friends or colleagues to expand their skillset by taking the class with you. It’s great to have an accountability partner!
Resolution #4: Put an End to Project Collaboration Woes
When your small business team of freelancers and telecommuters is spread out over several time zones (and not several cubicles), minor project miscommunications can snowball into major problems, throwing the entire team off track. This year, resolve to get everyone on the same page from day one with an easy-to-use project collaboration platform. Two of my personal favorites are Wrike and Trello, both of which make the on-boarding process a piece of cake.
Your to-do: Get the whole team set up from the beginning of January to use your preferred project management app. Set priorities and monitor your team’s progress. Review and approve completed tasks and assign new ones. Use the real-time workspace for document sharing and dynamic collaboration. Stay on track with a birds-eye-view of your team’s workload and deadlines, so you know weeks out (rather than hours out) if a delay will affect an on-time and on-budget project completion. Happier clients and happier team members make for a much more enjoyable work environment.
In 2016, my business resolution is to improve my bookkeeping process, put more focus on email marketing, and help a new charity/nonprofit. What are your professional resolutions for 2016? I invite you to share them in the comments section below.