5 Adjustments Small Businesses Need to Make in Today’s More Optimistic Economy

In case you haven’t noticed, the state of the economy is looking up – way up – and so is small business optimism. In fact, the big gains that entrepreneurs and small businesses were able to generate in the first half of 2014 have given rise to an almost unprecedented show of confidence: 80% of small business owners recently surveyed by the Wall Street Journal and Vistage International said they expect further sales increases in 2015.

We’ve all learned a lot from the down economy of years past, however, and any business that’s been around – even for a little awhile – knows that optimism alone doesn’t translate into sales. The truth is, when times are good, new concerns and shifting priorities are in order, including these top five issues every small to midsize business (SMB) should take into consideration in the promising year ahead:

  1. Employees Are Everything: A better economy means the competition for employees will heat up. So take care of the ones you have, invest in their growth and success and do what it takes to win their loyalty. They are the lifeblood of your business and the cost of losing them can be a setback on many levels. According to Zane Benefits, “every time a business replaces a salaried employee, it costs 6 to 9 months’ salary on average. For a manager making $40,000 a year, that’s $20,000 to $30,000 in recruiting and training expenses.” Now, more than ever, it’s time to pay attention to your employees.
  2. Reinvest and Rethink: Interest rates are projected to stay low in 2015, which means now is the time – especially when sales are strong and cash flow is good – to think about borrowing. An infusion of funding will allow you to make capital investments that will help your business grow and operate more fluidly. Along these lines, consider making smart technology investments that will lead to streamlined processes and the ability to automate repetitive tasks, enabling you to drive more profits, maintain consistent levels of quality and expedite services. IT, human resources, sales and even marketing tasks can be automated – so rethink the way you approach business processes of all kinds and consider automated alternatives.
  3. Crush It with Cloud: Speaking of technology, cloud computing is on fire today and nobody knows that better than today’s entrepreneurs and small business owners. Cloud-based software is designed to let businesses scale their computing resources and tap into new applications – without prohibitive up front costs, such as a huge capital investment in servers and other data center hardware. But with the rise of cloud comes new security concerns, and SMBs would be wise to seek out and invest in help from IT experts who can deliver on the true promise of cloud. And that promise revolves around data protection on the front end, along with fixed monthly IT fees and efficiencies that will add to further profitability for your business.
  4. Disruptive Data: Data is the currency of the new economy. Just ask Facebook or Google. As we posted here on this blog last month, the Center for Media Research indicates “2015 will be the year businesses take actionable second and third party data sources and apply them to the marketing ecosystems that they have been assembling.” These new data sources can serve as a force multiplier, helping you to quickly extend your marketing reach at a time when economic factors are working in your favor. Where can an SMB get started when it comes to data acquisition? Many marketers augment their internal databases by turning to a reputable business contacts service. These services offer affordable data resources for the SMB, and can provide email addresses and other qualified business contact data for new leads and prospects that fit just about any customer profile. Contacts can be selected by location (ZIP, city, state, nationwide), business demographics, SIC code, job function, job title, and more, giving you all the information you need to personalize your marketing messages and get them out to the right prospects to drive growth for your business.
  5. Increase Marketing Spend: Whether you sell to other businesses or to consumers, both segments of the market are entering the New Year with the rosiest outlook they’ve had in years. They’ve got more money to spend, or at the very least, might be more willing to spend the money they’ve got. So now’s your chance to move the needle with your marketing program. Ramp it up so that your business can rise above the noise and reach your customers and prospects more effectively at a time when they’re likely to be very receptive to your marketing messages.

As a small business owner or entrepreneur, how will you put your optimism to work in the year ahead? The above list is only a start, and I hope it got you thinking. For more SMB ideas for successfully taking on the New Year, take a look at this American Express Open article.

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