Don’t Just Work In Your Business, Work On It!

Chambers of Commerce are independent organizations, but we all have the same goal: maximizing the success of our businesses. Each chamber might approach that in different ways, but the bottom line for our organizations is that we’re only as successful as our members – so our efforts should be laser-focused on helping your business grow in 2011. Couple the slow-recovering economy with our own economic challenges with the retirement of the Space Shuttle, and it can become difficult to imagine growth in 2011, but here are a few things to think about as you welcome the New Year.

1. Plan the work and work the plan. Do you have a business plan? When was the last time you dusted it off and actually sat down and read the goals you put on paper so many years ago? It is a worthwhile endeavor to step away from the everyday trials of running your business, and assess where you’ve been and where you’re going. It is important to make sure that your everyday efforts are aligned with your goals.

2. How do you measure success? What does success look, sound and feel like? How do you know when you’ve succeeded? Having specific action items and ways to incrementally measure your success in achieving those items are important – especially now. A tight economy can be depressing, but being able to track your improvement allows you to celebrate milestones along the way.

3. What does the competition look like? What are their strengths and weaknesses, and how can you use that information to make your business better? Look at your key competition and study how they do business, and find one thing they do better than you that you would like to improve for your own business.

4. Get lean and mean. Review your finances with your accountant or mentor, and identify ways to cut costs and increase revenues. Don’t try to implement a bunch of changes all at once, so determine what is going to have the most impact on your bottom line, and start there.

5. Understand your customer. Who is your customer – what are their likes and dislikes? What changes are your customers experiencing because of the economy and how can you help them? It is much easier to get repeat business than it is to find new customers, so focus your efforts accordingly.

6. Don’t settle for good. Are you soliciting feedback from your customers on how they view your business? Don’t be content to provide good customer service – aim for AWESOME! Identify some strategies to improve your customer service, and make everyone in your business aware of them.

7. Quality counts. Make sure you have quality employees in your business, and find ways to keep them. Raises might not be in the cards in the near future, but there are easy, inexpensive ways to make sure your employees know they are appreciated.

8. Explore new opportunities. Is there an opportunity to partner with a compatible product or service provider in the area, and market cooperatively? What new technology is out there that can help you be more effective in your business?

9. Network, network, network. There are so many free resources for small businesses in Central Florida, and they are just waiting to help you. All four Brevard Chambers of Commerce work with SCORE to provide free business counseling, so take advantage of it. You can tap into live and online seminars through a variety of organizations like the Chambers of Commerce, Women’s Business Center, the Small Business Development Center, the Disney Entrepreneur Center, and more.

10. Ask for help. Identify a handful of people that you trust, and ask for their advice. Don’t forget your employees and customers when you are soliciting new ideas. They each have a unique perspective on your business and can offer great advice on simple improvements.

The bottom line is that sometimes we get so busy working IN our business, we forget to work ON our business. Take some time now to focus ON your business and chart your course for improvements in 2011. Don’t run away from the challenge of a slow economy, meet it head-on and conquer it with your own definition of success.