How are you feeling about your business’s future in the coming year? If you're like most entrepreneurs, you're a bit more optimistic than the average American. Six in 10 small business owners expect their financial situation to improve this year, compared to just 43 percent of the general public, reports a survey by New York Life.
What exactly is behind this sunny outlook? Entrepreneurs in the survey believe the following areas will have a positive effect on their business this year:
- Technology – 75 percent
- The new political landscape – 57 percent
- The employment market/talent pool – 56 percent
- Interest rates – 54 percent
- Health insurance – 53 percent
More than half of small business owners surveyed say they plan to hire new employees, look for additional capital and take steps to grow their businesses in 2017.
Here are the details on what they're planning to do and related steps you might want to take in your business this year.
66 percent plan to incorporate mobile technology in their businesses.
You’re probably already using mobile technology, but there’s undoubtedly more you could be doing. For instance, are you getting the most value out of your smartphones and tablets? Think about ways you could use them to simplify procedures or apps you could download to save time and effort. Perhaps you could accept payments in your store using smartphones to cut customers’ wait time or have customers complete forms on tablets, so you don’t have to retype or scan the information into your computer.
Don’t forget to consider how your customers and prospects are using their mobile devices. Use responsive design to make sure your business website displays properly on all types of smartphones and tablets. Try a mobile marketing campaign to reach prospects wherever they are.
64 percent plan to network more with other business owners and/or professionals.
Are you and your employees using your social media profiles to the fullest? You probably have a presence on LinkedIn, but if you sell B2B, chances are it’s not accomplishing all it could. Take some time to learn about LinkedIn’s many tools and capabilities, including some of the premium features—they can really help you make connections. Reach out to new connections, and participate in LinkedIn Groups to raise your profile.
Be sure to incorporate face-to-face networking into your efforts, too. Reach out to contacts you’ve met solely through social media, and suggest meeting up for coffee to discuss mutual opportunities. Try out a new networking group or two to meet some new faces. Or, if you're happy with your current networking organizations, offer to step up to a leadership role to expand your opportunities there.
62 percent plan to grow their companies (i.e., open another location, increase revenues, expand capabilities).
Do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis to spot areas where your business needs to improve and opportunities you can seize. (Download SCORE’s SWOT Analysis Worksheet.) Develop a plan for growth just as you did with your initial business plan when you launched your company. Working backward from your ultimate growth goal, break it down into smaller, achievable steps. Then hold yourself accountable.
52 percent plan to hire more employees; 49 percent plan to improve their employee benefits package.
Many small businesses rely on independent contractors, but sometimes, you need to grow your core team of permanent workers. Before making any hiring decision, take the time to develop a detailed job description so you can find the perfect person for the position.
Happy with the employees you already have on staff? That's great; just make sure your employee benefits are good enough to keep them happy. Based on multiple surveys I’ve seen, health insurance remains the most-desired employee benefit, with retirement benefits such as 401(k) plans close behind. There are affordable options for even the smallest business to offer both types of benefits, so don't assume they’re beyond your reach.
55 percent plan to seek additional capital; 46 percent plan to take out a loan.
Before you seek business financing of any type, create a detailed financial plan to determine exactly how much money you need, when you'll need it and what you will use it for. You’ll also need financial projections to figure out when you will be able to pay it back.
Bank loans aren’t your only option anymore. From crowdsourcing to invoice financing, there is a wide range of creative financing solutions available for small business owners. You may also want to investigate angel investors. Just be sure to think through the pros and cons of each type of financing before you attempt to get it.
I hope your plans for 2017 include one or more of the steps above. Need help with any of them? The experts at SCORE are here for you. Connect with a SCORE mentor and start getting free advice and assistance right away.