With the final quarter of 2017 in full swing, now is the time to set sights on 2018. The new calendar year brings with it a new opportunity for companies willing to put in the necessary work. Regardless of business type or industry sector, there are always ways to strive for a better 2018, no matter how the company performed in 2017. To plan and cultivate a stronger year to come, here are 15 ways owners can push their business further with the start of a brand-new year.
1. Never Ever Give Up
Businesses often fail. In fact, most businesses fail. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (USA Today, 2017), only 20 percent of businesses make it past the first year of operation. This statistic has remained consistent, dating back to 1995. Of the surviving businesses, only half make it beyond the five-year mark (10 percent of all original businesses). This number drops down to one-third of the first year surviving businesses remaining open for 10 years (less than seven percent of all original businesses). These numbers may come across as frightening, but it illustrates the importance of proper planning, learning from past mistakes and never giving up.
A business might fail, file for bankruptcy or teeter on the edge of collapse, but it doesn’t mean the business owner should give up. In fact, many of the most successful businesses in history grew from the ashes of previous failed attempts.
Henry Ford created the Detroit Automobile Company, which eventually went out of business. He then created the Henry Ford Company, which he left (a company that has since changed its name to Cadillac). Eventually, Mr. Ford created the Ford Motor Company.
Walt Disney created his first film company in 1922, which went bankrupt within 12 months. Five years later, Walt released a character by the name of Mickey Mouse, which has since gone on to become the most recognized animated character in the world.
Another industry defining figure, Milton Hershey opened a small candy shop in Philadelphia in 1876, but it went bankrupt six years later. He moved to New York City where he tried to sell candy but eventually moved back to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Here, he created the Lancaster Caramel Company and developed a new milk and caramel treat. A little over a decade later he sold LCC for $1 million and created Hershey’s (CNN, 2008).
These examples demonstrate the importance of sticking with an idea and a passion while learning from previous mistakes. Ford, Disney, and Hershey all went through numerous companies and bankruptcies. However, each took their initial small startups and eventually revolutionized their respected individual industries. Accepting failure and moving forward with a business idea is the difference between success and everyone else. For every Disney, Hershey or Ford there are hundreds, if not thousands of other business owners who dream, but eventually, give up after initial failures. The only way to grow a successful business is to never give up and learn from mistakes.
Most small businesses begin with one individual: the boss. As the idea percolates and the company grows, additional employees come into the fold. Eventually, a business of a single individual may expand to 10 or 20 employees. One of the most exciting times for a new business owner is hiring their first employee. While each employee takes on specific job requirements, they may not receive much in way of additional tasks throughout the day. They come in, do their job and very rarely deviate from the normal schedule. This helps establish a routine, but it also prevents employees from showcasing their true talents while causing additional stress for a boss.
When a boss attempts to take on too many roles and do too much throughout the day, it leads to inferior work results across the board. They are no longer able to devote their entire time towards one important task. Alleviating these kinds of problems is possible though, through employee delegation.
The best business owners understand their own weaknesses. They know where they need help and what shortcomings they have. Nobody likes to admit they struggle with something, especially when the person struggling owns the company. However, the entire purpose of bringing in additional employees is not just to perform busy work or to maintain production. It is to help elevate the areas a boss struggles in. By hiring those with the skills an owner hasn’t mastered, it helps improve the capability of the company. It also gives the boss qualified employees to lean on and, when necessary, delegate to.
By taking advantage of delegation and allocating jobs to those who are more qualified to carry out the given tasks, the entire company will experience an improvement in production. All thanks to the boss’ ability to identify their own weaknesses, hire accordingly and, in turn, delegate to those they brought in.
3. Nice Yet Shrewd
A common misconception in the business world is a business either falls on the nice or the ruthless side of the spectrum. However, a company with a nice outward appearance can remain just as shrewd and business savvy as the most ruthless corporations out there. Some businesses take on a bully persona. The company threatens lawsuits at every corner, pushes smaller businesses out of the area by sheer legal prowess and has no problem buying up the competition, simply to dissolve the business and take out competitors. These companies can prove successful, yet running a brand in this way does very little to boost customer approval or reputation. Companies such as Wal-Mart can run this kind of a business practice, all without favorable customer approval, by removing the competition and undercutting the prices of what smaller, locally owned businesses can afford.
While the ruthless, bullying business model can prove successful, smaller companies looking to build and expand may want to take on a nice yet shrewd persona. Nice business owners avoid the undercutting practices and frivolous lawsuits while standing up to the bullying competition. This helps earn a favorable reputation with customers, which may boost sales and improve the bottom line. Additionally, standing as an honest company increases the potential for networking with like-minded organizations that likely would avoid doing business with a condescending enterprise.
4. Find the Right Work to Life Balance
When hard at work building up a business, it becomes far too easy to devote more and more time to work. Some leeway does need to occur, especially early on while laying the groundwork for a budding company. However, an individual may start to put in nearly all their free time at the office while slashing the hours they share with family and friends. This may cause a handful of different issues, ranging from problems with significant others and spouses to a disconnect with friends. It also builds stress-related problems at the office due to spending too much time constantly at work. Eventually, spending too much time at the office may lead to a reduction in productivity as burnout starts to settle in. Due to this, finding the right work to life balance should serve as an important step in improving production during 2018.
For many business owners and hard-working employees, burrowing one’s head into the ground while hard at work becomes commonplace. They work hard and simply lose track of the outside world. To help avoid this, individuals need to build downtime directly into their schedule. Whether early in the morning before work or later in the evening where everyone can spend time together, scheduling downtime not only helps retain this important personal connection, but it also assists in recharging a worker’s batteries.
Other tips for improving the life and work balance is to fit exercise in during the day. This boosts blood flow throughout the body, which delivers essential energy and oxygen to the brain. A worker should also turn off distractions while away from work, cut down on the time they spend on must-do tasks and increase the time they spend on what makes them happy, all while taking in weekends and vacations. Half of Americans don’t take all of their paid vacation days (Market Watch, 2017). These are free days to break from of the office to recharge the body and mind and should be taken.
5. Adapt to Millennial Employees
Millennials are a different breed when it comes to the workforce. These individuals grew up during the tech boom, so they never experienced life without a high-speed Internet connection at the house and they likely had a smartphone in their pocket since before entering high school. Exposure and constant access to this kind of technology have forged the way their minds work. Due to this, they work differently from other age demographics in the office. To some company heads, this proves challenging simply because they don’t understand how to connect with Millennials or what they should do to help younger employees thrive.
The very best managers and owners understand all employees are different and do what it takes to boost productivity from their workforce. While generally tech-savvy, Millennials work better when the head of a company functions as a mentor instead of a manager. This provides a bit more freedom in the office (as most Millennials are not accustomed to very specific, strict rules and guidelines) and helps percolate their creativity. Millennials also tend to be a bit less formal, which can prove jarring to other employees. In fact, many may see this as a sign of disrespect, but it’s simply due to how the world shaped their view and formed their upbringing. By adapting to the Millennial workforce, owners can see a significant boost in productivity from the younger workers while giving everyone in the office a new way to look at how they carry out their own work.
6. Employees Need to Think of the Big Picture
All employees have a job description (or at least they should). This way, workers know what is expected of them and what they need to focus on while on the job. However, most employees think only of their role in the business, not the business in its entirety. The downside to this is they do not see or understand the importance of all other individuals, how everything fits together and how their work affects everyone else within the company. To make waves in 2018, employees need to think of the big picture. In a way, they need to think like a CEO.
When employees have a greater understanding of how the company works, their role in the production and how it affects everyone else, it not only gives them a greater sense of pride in what they do, but it also helps illustrate the importance of completing a task in a specific way. When all employees think of the bigger picture, they begin to see work not just through their eyes, but also through the eyes of a boss. This helps cultivate a higher-level thought process.
One of the best ways to push a business further into 2018 is through collaboration. This doesn’t mean the company should drop everything and look for external entities to work with. Many businesses function just fine remaining independent of other corporations. However, it does mean fostering collaboration within the office. When delegating work to assigned teams, fostering collaboration and communication within the business allows employees to work together and come up with new ideas along the way. The best way to assist in team collaboration is to allow groups and departments to have some leeway and freedom. This additional wiggle room opens possibilities as workers bring their personal skills and knowledge to the table. When the experience of one worker comes together will the education of another, this collaboration may lead to big things for the company.
8. Find Ways to Boost Creativity
Creativity doesn’t only stem from design firms or the marketing department. Creativity should come from every department. Employees spend most of their day working on very specific tasks. Due to this, they likely know how to perform a specific job better than anyone else. Additionally, they may have suggestions and ideas on how to improve productivity and make their job more efficient, which in turn may make other employees more efficient as well.
Some of the smallest workplace advancements have proven the most beneficial. Bette Nesmith Graham (mother of eventual singer Michael Nesmith of The Monkeys), a secretary and typist, invented white out in the early 1950s (a product she went on to sell to Gillette in 1980 for $48 million)(Feel Numb, 2010). The fact is, creativity comes in many flavors; it all just takes some fostering and support.
Different companies have found success in how creativity is fostered. Some companies such as Google don’t have defined workspaces (Gallup News, 2017). Instead, the company uses an open floor plan and allows workers to go where they want and work where they’d like. Companies such as this have found it helps boost productivity as sitting in new environments daily can spur on additional creativity and inspiration. Other companies simply encourage employees to think like a boss and look for ways to improve their own job process. Through encouragement and motivation, all workers can develop creative ideas within the confines of the company. Additionally, when their ideas are appreciated, and their creative approaches supported, management will see a boost in morale and, along with it, production.
9. Consider Offering the Business as a Franchise
As a business grows, the ability to directly stay on top of the once small start-up can prove challenging. Despite this, to facilitate growth, adding additional brick and mortar locations can prove beneficial in both growing the brand name and reaching additional customers. When looking at expansion, there are more opportunities than simply opening a second location. In fact, some business owners may find offering the business as a franchise to be far more beneficial. With a franchise, interested investors pay what amounts to a rental fee for the company name, recipes, production methods and identity. The original business owner can determine exactly what guidelines and leeway the franchise should have.
For business owners interested in maintaining complete control over the business and its identity, offering franchises may not stand on the right road to take. However, for others interested in pushing the business further without opening secondary branches on their own, this serves as a viable opportunity.
10. License Products
Not all businesses offer varying services within a brick and mortar location. Others sell specific products through either a physical or digital storefront. Should a product become especially popular, it may prove beneficial to license off the product and allow other companies the rights to sell. When doing this, the creator of the product receives money up front for the use and access to the product. Again, this is another time where someone who wants continued, direct control over all company attributes may not want to go the route of licensing. However, for everyone else, licensing off a product reduces risk and cuts down costs as instead of creating locations to sell the product, the business can instead sell directly to other retail outlets. Successfully licensing out a product may prove far more financially beneficial than attempting to self-sell the item.
11. Consider Diversification
Adding quality products and services to a company’s current lineup helps add value to a customer’s experience. However, a business should never diversify just to diversify. The additional sales options offered need to relate to the company’s demographic. This includes complementary products and items directly connected to what the business already sells. For example, a business selling luxury wallets may want to consider adding luxury purses or money clips. A custom screen-printing company may want to diversify with custom printed hats or bags to expand its product lineup.
Diversification helps offer more value to current customers, while at the same time bringing in additional clients. When selling new, yet connected products, marketing the new items don't take much in way of additional expenses, as it should already fit within the current marketing approach of the business.
12. Look at Other Markets
Every business caters to a key demographic. Whether selling to college students, single parents or senior citizens, most companies have a very specific target audience making up most of sales. However, without adding additional products, there may stand a way to reach new markets. Reaching new markets makes it possible to dramatically increase sales without taking on the added expense of selling new products or offering varying services. It does take a different marketing approach for the new target audience, but this can prove far more beneficial.
Facebook originally started as a social media platform for college students. To create a Facebook account, an interested individual had to provide their college email address. Facebook would then verify the account and grant access to the platform. However, once the potential for advertising dollars came in, Facebook saw the benefit of opening the platform to everyone. In order to reach new demographics, Facebook marketed itself as a way to stay in touch with family and friends (Business Insider, 2016). By pushing out to new markets, Facebook set itself up as one of the most valuable tech companies in the world. For most businesses, expanding out to new markets won’t result in a net growth of hundreds of billions of dollars, but it likely does hold the possibility of increased market share and a stronger bottom line.
12. Consider a Merger or Business Acquisition
Companies like Microsoft and Apple have made the purchase or smaller businesses commonplace. Other companies look towards mergers to compete with larger corporations. There are many reasons why a current business, regardless of size or industry, should consider a merger or business acquisition. A merger allows for the joining of two current product or service providers. A printer manufacturer may decide to merge with an ink cartridge manufacturer to bring both products under the same roof. On the flip side, a business acquisition does not mean simply buying out another company. There are times where another business may face bankruptcy or closure. A thriving business may decide to acquire the struggling business due to the services and products it can bring to the table.
There are a handful of major benefits behind a merger or business acquisition. For starters, it retains the customer base of both businesses. Instead of attempting to create a brand-new product line and go after new customers, merging or acquiring another business with an established client base brings in instant cash flow. An additional benefit of absorbing another business allows for staff retention. This ensures the newly formed company can hit the ground running, without the need to train many new employees.
13. Look at the Internet
A traditional brick and mortar storefront may thrive in its current, physical location. However, looking to the Internet has limitless potential. During an interview in the late 90s, Microsoft head Bill Gates stated by the end of 2002, two kinds of businesses would exist those with an Internet presence and those with no business at all. Now, there are successful companies lacking a strong Internet presence, although these are few and far between. Regardless, by expanding out onto the Internet, it provides all sorts of new revenue stream possibilities. Whether creating an e-commerce site, selling on small business platforms like Etsy or taking advantage of social media for an increased marketing presence, all companies should look to expand on its current Internet presence in 2018.
14. Fully Take Advantage of Social Media
Social media has the power to change the perception of a business, almost overnight. It makes it possible to dramatically boost sales and reach customers who may never have heard of the company another way. Far too many businesses stick to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for all social media outreach and marketing opportunities. However, there are many other social media services a business needs to consider.
Influential social media users on Instagram and Snapchat can reach millions of followers with a single post. This has the potential to reach more consumers than an advertisement on a major television program or national magazine advertisement. Despite this, marketing with influential social media users often costs less. It does depend on a company’s key demographic and who followers the power user. For example, marketing hearing aids on a young model’s Instagram page won’t bring about the desired results. By understanding a company’s key demographic and fully taking advantage of social media, a business should see a drastic increase in social views, shares and eventual sales.
15. Offer Free Assistance
Everyone loves free. When a consumer receives perceived free services from a business, they develop a bond with the company while establishing loyalty. After receiving free advice, they become more likely to eventually shop with the company offering the free assistance. The best way to offer free assistance is to create how-to blog posts and video tutorials on YouTube. These have the greatest potential for reaching a large audience. The content also helps boost search engine optimization while exposing a business to more potential customers. While the how-to blogs and video tutorials do not ask for anything in return, it demonstrates the company’s expertise while establishing goodwill with the eventual customers.
No matter the business or industry, there are plenty of opportunities available for owners to strive for bigger and better things come 2018. Taking the final two or so months of 2017 allows company heads to go over current performance results and identify ways to take the company to new heights in the coming year. While no two businesses are the same, each of these 15 ways to push a business further in 2018 are viable options. All it takes is planning, strong leadership, and a clear vision.
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