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Avoid the Start-of-the-Year Blues

BY TY FREYVOGEL


Question:

As the end of the year approaches, what should I be doing?


Answer:

There’s something psychologically satisfying about starting a new year unencumbered by old issues. I advise business owners to set aside several days toward the end of 2006 to address those issues that usually get crowded out by the day-to-day problems.

Things are usually slower in December, anyway, so it’s a good time to start purging your back burner list.

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To start, review all your systems from top to bottom. Carefully examine what is working and what isn’t. Don’t assume that just because you have had a certain system in place from day one that it is adding value to your business.

Next, review all vendor contracts. Take a look at how much business you are doing with each vendor. Is the relationship mutually beneficial? If not, don’t be afraid to make a change. If you’re happy with your vendors, on the other hand, take the time to tell them.

Thirdly, determine who your best customers are. You may be surprised to find out that your best customers aren’t who you think they are. Examine all your customers through a profitability lens.

Once you identify them, touch base with your best customers. Be sure to tell them you appreciate their business and ask if there is anything you can improve on or do differently to help them grow their business.

Next, hold annual performance reviews. Discuss with your employees what they can do to help the company run more smoothly. Also, take the opportunity to find out what they feel most passionate about, and ask if there is another part of the business in which they’d like to play a larger role.

Don’t be afraid to engage your employees as partners. The best people to help you solve problems, particularly those involving customers, are the ones who experience them on a daily basis. Hold an end-of-the-year forum designed to get them to share those ideas.

Also, try some early spring cleaning. Purge your office. It’s time to get rid of all of that stuff that you either don’t need or that doesn’t work anymore. And don’t limit your efforts to the inside of your building. Take a look outside. It’s depressing to be surrounded by clutter. Clean up and everyone may enjoy a boost in energy and creativity.

The end of the year is also a great time to take a look at which marketing efforts are driving business and which are not.

Overhaul your Web site, too. In the same way that retail stores move around their floor sets, you need to make changes to your Web site to keep people coming back. Make sure all of your information is updated and post any articles that have recently mentioned your work.

While you’re at it, take a look at your business cards. Make sure all of the information is updated. Are all numbers and e-mail addresses current? Does the layout (colors and design) match that of your Web site and other stationery?

Review professional magazine subscriptions. Are you really reading all those magazines? Other things to do: consider technology upgrades, review insurance policies, update your minute books and meet with your accountant to plan your taxes.


Written by Ty Freyvogel, a Pennsylvania-based author and speaker with 35 years of entrepreneurial experience.He doles out more free advice at entrepreneurslab.com.

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