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ID-10075101_2013AheadSign_FreeDigitalPhotosNetWe know there are a whole lot of people out there who’ll be wary of making major decisions in 2013, superstition can be a funny thing – even the most normally logical amongst us avoid walking under ladders and prefer not to see a lone magpie.

You could however just take on ’13 as you should a recession and plan to make it your time now and ensure it’s the best for your business – yet!  Don’t hold off on making big changes until it’s a ‘luckier’ year, or until people start to spend again.  If your business relies on people having a few extra euro to spend, it will of course be a little more challenging than for those providing essential services or products but that doesn’t mean you can’t make 2013 a year of action?

Planning for the year ahead will vary depending on the stage in the life cycle of your business – a start-up will have the challenge of finding its market, a more established business will have its own history and a degree of awareness amongst its target market.

As a guide however all businesses need to make plans for a new year which include;

SALES

Who will be selling for you, your team or third parties/stockists?  What will they be selling?  Where will they be selling?  And of course how much do they need to sell, are the targets realistic?  It’s all too easy to choose a figure to aim for and no business should be without that ideal number but is it attainable?  Have you reviewed how you’re going to get there?  Have your sellers had an input into setting that target?  And what happens if they don’t hit target, what’s your worst case scenario plan?

MARKETING

Frequently marketing is a consideration when a new competitor arrives on the scene or when sales start to falter.  While this is better than never in actual fact you’d fare much better if you considered Marketing to be every bit as important as Sales, it is after all looking after tomorrow’s sales when you’re taking care of today’s.  In 2013 you will have many options available, dependant of course on your business, your sector and your budget – social media, email marketing, adwords, display advertising, print media, outdoor campaigns and PR all have a place in getting your business out there but just because something is possible doesn’t necessarily mean it’s for you.   Many businesses, particularly at the start-up stage won’t have the financial resources they’d like to make a splash, it is important to allocate a budget for marketing and to ensure that you plan to spend it wisely – your year does after all have 12 months and if Christmas is your peak time you need to ensure that you’ve got cash to spend come Autumn 2013.

TECHNOLOGY

From your accounting software to your admin, every organisation today employs a range of software to simplify the business process.  This applies whether you’re a car dealer or a local shop.  However, technology is ever-evolving and perhaps when you’re making plans for the New Year it’s worth reviewing whether you actually have the best option for your business today, even if it was perfect five years ago.  The best option isn’t necessarily the cheapest option, rather the one that affords you the greatest benefit to your organisation.  For example we’ve chosen our own accounting software package here at The Marketing Shop as it integrates with our email system of choice, our CRM and myriad other options that we may wish to avail of at a later date.  If you do find an alternative you’re interested in, do take time to road test it (most systems offer a free trial period) and make plans as to how your existing data will be migrated too.

THE BUSINESS ITSELF

In general businesses are borne out of passion, necessity or quite simply opportunity.  In today’s world however we need to be prepared to adapt to suit demands from a customer who in most cases has less to spend and frequently more choice.  Is your product or service the best it can be?  Can it be improved upon?  Do people actually need or want it?  Are you using any sort of research to track customer behaviour?  Whilst many businesses leave the decision making to those higher up the ladder, taking time out as a team is invaluable and should at least be an annual event.  Time to discuss openly and honestly what’s working, what could be improved upon and what opportunities might exist – unless the customer-facing team are encouraged to openly communicate with those up the chain, there can be a delay in management getting the information that could make a significant difference for everybody.

CASH-FLOW

We’re not accountants so we’re not going to give advice on how you need to plan for the year ahead financially.  We are however going to suggest that no matter how small your business may be, that the importance of keeping accurate records on income versus expenditure should never be under-estimated – filing all of those receipts into a box until the end of tax year really causes you a whole lot more work and stress.  Make sure you’re charging a fair rate for products and services, maximise your work processes and allow for a slush-fund – nobody can predict what’s around the corner.  If you’re the person who only calls in an accountant when panic strikes, make 2013 the year you hand that responsibility to somebody to work with you – quite probably you’ll find that financially you reap the benefits as it frees you to focus on business.

THE MARKETPLACE

While you may know some of your competitors, as Ireland moves to generating whole lot more self-employed people and new businesses do you really know who you are competing against today?  You may have overheads in the form of rates, rents and salaries to consider but if you’re selling the same brand of shoes from your store as somebody who sells only online and ships direct from a warehouse, or even a garage at their home, you’ve got to review your business model.  While I’m not advocating that you jump ship from your established high street premises to selling online (which incidentally doesn’t come free if done properly!), perhaps you need to add ecommerce functionality to your website?  You could also create an ebay or amazon store, expand your marketplace?  Whilst the web is seen by many in retail as a threat, the enlightened view it as the opportunity that it is too.

THE PEOPLE

Although some businesses are required to have minimum numbers of employees, childcare for example, most companies now will be forced to make do with as few personnel as possible in order to get the job done.  Economic realities mean that the customer is looking for the best value for money whereas you may have costs that are beyond your control making it difficult to compete.  You can’t cut everything, it wouldn’t be realistic if for example you need highly skilled or trained people to do a job.  There are however areas that may allow for a little more freedom, areas that can be outsourced.  Rather than have a marketing person or an accountant on-staff, select one that can work with you as and when you need them rather than cover the cost of an annual salary with all the associated costs.  Consider if any of your team can work remotely, even some of the time – generally proven to improve morale and performance if the right person is given this little freedom.

All New Years bring good intentions for us as individuals – who’s not taken up a diet or gym in January only to have abandoned it by February?  Make 2013  the year that resolutions for your business are made, if you take control and drive your business forward in the direction you desire you’ll most likely notice considerable improvements in your personal life too.

Image ‘Road Sign To New Year’ courtesy of FrameAngel / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

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