This past January, I came up with a list of business resolutions for the year. I'm going to recap them for the coming year—with some of what I've learned! Feel free to share your thoughts with our readership!
Delegate. You're not a one-woman or one-man show, so consider delegating your responsibilities.You are the expert in your industry, but that doesn't mean you should continue to focus your efforts on things best left to others—this includes marketing, legal matters, even purchasing office supplies! You may save money and learn something in the long run. UPDATE: This still holds true. There are great resources out there to get your business running, and they may save you money in the long run [I've had several clients reprint materials with me because I can guarantee quality and their original pieces were done poorly—and expensively!]
Plan ahead. It's easy to get lost in the day-to-day operations of our businesses, but that doesn't mean we should stop planning. Take some time on a regular basis—you may find weekly, biweekly or even monthly works for you best—to search out new opportunities, read an industry magazine online, attend a seminar or revise your business plan. It's always better to plan when business is up, rather than when it's down. UPDATE: I, myself, have fallen into this trap more than once. When you're too busy it's easy to forego networking and marketing activities. Now, I always have a stream of marketing materials going out and appointments lined up. I also always ask new clients where they found me and thank my referral sources personally.
Volunteer. Share your expertise or product with a needy group; you'll get a write-off and great exposure, and they'll get your much-needed work. People always remember where they got a break...UPDATE: I've realigned myself with organizations who follow missions I believe in and that make me feel better about volunteering overall.
Promote your business often, and consistently. Check out how your logo is represented on your web site, your stationery, your marketing materials: Is it the same throughout? Differing looks confuse viewers [is this you, or your competitor?] and confuse your brand. Update your web site as often as you can, with success stories, expert tips and articles and fresh design elements. UPDATE: Soon I'll launch a new web site with more articles, links to resources and more, since my web site has proven to be a great marketing tool. I've also found that my new marketing materials are quite well-received and give me the confidence to come out ahead of other small design firms and one-person shops.
Take time out for yourself, and let your employees do the same. If you or your coworkers are overworked, it's not a good recipe for furthering your business. Schedule some downtime in every week. UPDATE: I'll always prescribe to this one! 'Nuff said!
Reevaluate. Take stock of your current marketing and networking efforts, and drop what's not working for you. What can you do in the new year? Keep reading Gizmo Notes, and give us a call if you need some suggestions. UPDATE: I have evaluated my advertising avenues and reallocated resources to those that worked best for me. I've also dropped associations that were drains on time and money and spend more time getting involved in more supportive, engaging ones.
Visit a new networking group. One of the best networking tips I've ever heard [which I can't place the source of; maybe you can?] advised one to join or visit six different types of networking groups if you really want to be seen: Two for your specific industry or job, two for general networking, and two in industries that have nothing to do with what you or any of your clients/competitors do. You never know where that next great lead or friendship may develop. UPDATE: I've benefitted from many different networking groups, creating new business relationships and friendships along the way.