Traditionally, many of us celebrate the new year with resolutions to better ourselves. Resolutions can range from taking a special trip, to going to the gym more frequently in order to get fit. But how about the fitness of your business? For this new year, make sure to include a few resolutions for getting your business into better shape for 2015. Here are three suggestions to get you started.
First, you’ll want to get more lean by being more efficient. Many of the small businesses we work with at Gusto have adopted the latest back office technologies to streamline their accounting, taxes, and of course, payroll. There are a few reasons to adopt modern software for your business. One, you’ll be less likely to make mistakes. For example, one-third of businesses in the US are fined every year for incorrectly doing their payroll taxes. This equates to $5B to $6B in penalties every year.
With a modern software service, you’ll be less likely to make mistakes because all of the tax filings, payments, and form submissions are done automatically for you, plus the best services always have people available by phone as well. Another reason is that it limits the amount of manual work you need to do for copy-pasting, filling out forms by hand, and making payments one-by-one. Approximately 40% of the 6 million small businesses in the US still do payroll manually. Whatever the function is in your back office, you can save time, avoid fines and lower your costs if you go with an online solution.
Secondly, it’s important to get to know your customers better. For 2015, you can resolve to create more open channels of communication between you and your customer. If your business is online, consider using a customer support tool like Desk.com, a live chat solution like Olark, or a survey tool like Qualaroo. Many of these tools sync to email so you can check one place for feedback. If your business is a brick and mortar store, you can still encourage customers to engage with you through the web. Facebook offers a service that gives your customers WiFi access in exchange for checking in. Or if your customer is having a delightful experience, ask them to review you on Yelp or Google My Business. You can also use a customer loyalty program like FiveStars or Belly. The critical lesson is: the more communication channels you give your customers, the better you’ll get to know them.
Finally, if you’re looking to grow your business in 2015, consider leveraging different fundraising channels outside of traditional bank loans. Many small businesses are already using crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or Tilt to fund new products or new features. There are also fundraising platforms like AngelList or CircleUp for consumer products. If you’re concerned about giving up equity in your business, you can also check out services like Kabbage or OnDeck. Both provide loans to small businesses as an alternative to a traditional bank loan. This lets you finance a new piece of equipment or a remodel your storefront, without giving up ownership. With a leaner business and more customer insight, there’s no better time to start thinking about new ways to grow your business.
Like Small Business Saturday, the New Year is a great time to kick off a few aspirational goals for your business. But resolving to better your business shouldn’t be a single-day endeavor. The heart of entrepreneurship is constant improvement and never accepting the status quo as the way things should be, but rather thinking about how they could be. If you keep improving your business throughout the year, you’ll be surprised by the progress you’ve made by the time New Year comes around again.
This article was originally posted on American Express OPEN Forum.