Looking Back, Looking Forward
With the year drawing to a close and speculation about how the economy will fare in the new year, many small business owners are introspective. This is a time to contemplate what went right in 2011 and what can be improved in 2012.
With this in mind, Connie Certusi, executive vice president and general manager, small business accounting solutions, of Sage Peachtree, has put together a quick list of tips, a list of New Year’s Resolutions, if you will, for the small business owner:
1. Review and revise your business plans.
Were you unable to achieve your goals or meet your targets for 2011? As you head into the new year, it is worthwhile to evaluate why and determine if new tactics need to be added to the revised business plan. What course of action or changes can be made so you can resolve these issues? On the other hand, don’t be afraid to remove these objectives altogether. Changes in your industry or the economy may have played a major factor to why targets weren’t met and it may not be strategic to incorporate these goals into the 2012 plan.
2. Mobilize your manpower.
Most of the business applications you are using or will consider in 2012 extend easily and inexpensively (often free) to smartphones and tablets. Many customer management systems, for example, let entrepreneurs and employees access marketing campaign and sales management features on an Android or iPad, and actions taken remotely are also reflected on their office system.
Productivity seekers: Look for device independent apps that work on almost anything.
Techies: seek HTML5 based apps.
3. Get some intelligence, as in Business Intelligence.
Something every small business should be doing in 2012 is to look at the data stored in their software. By taking the data and turning it into actionable information, businesses can save costs and increase profits. That’s what Business Intelligence (BI) does. But don’t be afraid that it’s too complicated—many software solutions now provide BI tools that are easy to use. One of the most popular ways: take the data stored in your ERP and CRM systems, pull it into Microsoft Excel, and then let business managers that already know how to use Excel analyze the data. Embracing Business Intelligence in 2012 will set business up for growth and higher profits.
4. Go hybrid.
There’s a lot of hype about SaaS, cloud and other web solutions. However, most SMBs have existing software in place and cannot afford to move their entire company “to the cloud.” But to be successful in 2012, SMBs should start embracing a hybrid solution where on-premise software is connected to cloud-based services. This will allow SMBs to reap the benefits of the cloud without too much disruption. Some key areas to look at include web-based sales tax calculation services that ensure small business are always charging the correct amount of sales tax; services that allow SMBs to electronically file taxes; and Web services that allow small business to create cost effective marketing campaigns that provide customers with a personalized experience. Connected Web services is a trend to embrace in 2012.
5. Give mobile payments a try.
Mobile commerce will continue to be hot during 2012. It’s important to know that mobile payments are more than an iPhone processing a credit card, or a mobile phone replacing a credit card. Mobile payments are also about delivering information and building loyalty through an array of mobile devices used by consumers.
While the allure of mobile payment offerings is strong, and the benefits, like the expansion of sales channels and low cost of entry, can be great, small businesses do need to be very careful not to put their business or their customers’ credit card accounts at risk. If a mobile payments vendor’s system does not focus on all aspects of payment security, regardless of what point-of-sale (POS) device they use, then they (and you) could run into problems.
If mobile is a key part of a small business’ environment, then that business should work with processors that have tightly integrated, Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant (at the hardware level) mobile solutions.
- Synch your accounting software with your accountant regularly—don’t wait until mid-year or year end.
- Take the opportunity to purge your old data—identify inactive customers, old inventory items. Get rid of what you no longer need.
- Refresh your customer information—are there customers who used to do lots of business with you, but have lapsed? Maybe outreach to them is in order. Look at the possibility of offering a discount to those customers you’d like to win back, as well as your best customers, who will appreciate the perk.
- If you’re not already doing it, use electronic banking for easy record keeping
- Record everything electronically—scan statements, utilize tools out there to easily track receipts and financial records, so that everything is easily accessible and most importantly, able to be backed up remotely
- Back up your data-—the IRS doesn’t care if you have a crash and lose your information.
- Track health insurance policies, review with your accountant, to see if you qualify for some valuable tax credits
- File online—it’s the law!