Is Your Home Business Ready for the New Year?

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As the New Year begins, it is time to look back at what you achieved last year (and other years prior) and assess the performance of your business. Knowing how well (or poorly) you did the past years can help you improve for the coming years. Here are 14 checklists to get your home business ready for the New Year.

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  • By Isabel M. Isidro Managing Editor, PowerHomeBiz.com

    December 2010

    Is Your Home Business Ready for the

    N_w Y_[r?

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    Copyright2010PowerHomeBiz.comLLC

    AllRightsReserved.Nopartofthisdocumentmaybereproducedwithoutwrittenconsentfromtheauthor.

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    AstheNewYearbegins,itistimetolookbackatwhatyouachievedlastyear(andotheryearsprior)andassesstheperformanceofyourbusiness.Knowinghowwell(orpoorly)youdidthepastyearscanhelpyouimproveforthecomingyears.Hereare14checklistsforyourhomebusinessstartoftheyearreview:AssessWhereYourBusinessIsRightNowBeforeyoucanmoveforward,itisalwayshelpfultoreviewthepastyearandanalyzewhatworkedandwhatdidnotworkforyourbusiness.Putyourthinkingcapon,andlookatthepastyear(oryears)withananalyticaleye.Becritical,andbehonest!Whetheryouhaveawrittenformalbusinessplanorjustnotesscribbledinyourjournal,lookbackatwhetheryourbusinesshasachievedthegoalsandobjectivesyouhavesetoutwhenyoustarted.Whatstrategiesworkedforyourbusinessbefore,andwhatdoyouthinkcanworkagainthistime?Whatwerethemistakesyoucommittedandneedtoavoid?Nowaskyourself:whatcouldyoudobetterthistime?Seehowfaryouhavegoneinreachingwhatyouwantedtoachieve,andusetheresultsofyourbusinessreviewtoredefineyourbusinessgoalsforthisNewYear.Youneedtoknowtheanswerstothreebasicquestions:

    Whereisthebusinessnow? Whereisitgoing? Howisitgoingtogetthere?

    Specifically,askyourself:

    Areyouachievingthevisionyouhavesetoutforthebusiness? Doyoufeelthatyouaredoingeverythingyetyourbusinessisstillgoingnowhere?

    Ifyoustartedthebusinesstobecomethemainsourceofincomeforyourfamily,is

    thebusinessearningenoughtosupportyourself(andfamily,ifany)?

    Howisthebusinessaffectingyourlife?Doesitallowyoutohavemoretimewithyourfamily,ordoyoufeelmorestressedandoverworked?

    Howhastheeconomicdownturnaffectedyourbusiness?Didyouhaveto

    downscaleyourplansandcutbackonyourplannedexpenditures?

    Arethemissionandobjectivesyouvesetoutforthebusinessstillthesame?Iftheyare,howvalidandrelevantarethesemissionandobjectivesgiventheeconomic,industryandcompetitivelandscape?Ifnot,whatcompelledyoutochangethem?

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    Whatarethestrategiesthatyoufollowedwithregardstoproducts/services,

    operations,marketing,finance,andtechnology,amongothers?Howsuccessfularethesestrategies?

    Whatareyoudoingtoincreaseyoursalesandmarketshare?Howeffectiveare

    thesemarketing?

    Whatarethestrategiestoensurethatyourbusinesshasadequatefinancingandcashflowforthisyear?Doyouanticipateanyproblemswithregardstomanagingthebusinessfinances?

    Whatwereyourstrategiestoimproveproductivityandlowercosts?

    Getaclearideaofwhereyourbusinessreallystands.Lookatyourbusinesswithananalyticaleye.Forallthebulletpointsabove,understandthefactorswhythereisadiscrepancy,ifany,betweentheactualperformanceandyourdesiredperformance.KnowingthewhyscanhelpyouplanbetterfortheNewYear.MakeaListofYourHitsandMissesAsabusinessowner,itisimportanttoreviewhowwellyourpreviousstrategiesworkedinordertocraftyourstrategiesforthefuture.Youdontwanttorepeatthepastmistakeswithoutknowingwhatwentwrong;orignorethosestrategiesthatactuallyworkforyourbusiness.Assessandreviewyourpaststrategies,thenwritedownwhatworkedbestforyourbusiness.Makealistofwhatworkedinthepast,andwhatfailedandthentrytoexplainthefactorsthatcontributedtothesuccessorfailure.Whatledtothesuccessofaparticularstrategy,andwhydidtheothersfail?

    Lookatyourrevenuegeneratingstrategies.Consideringtheeconomicenvironmentthatyouareoperatingintoday,findoutwhichmonetizationstrategiesgaveyouthemostrevenues,andwhichonesdidnotmeetyourexpectations.Trytofindopportunitiesthatcanallowyoutoexpandyourrevenuesources,andultimatelyincreasetheprofitsofyourbusiness.Thinkofanycreativewaystogenerateincome,includingalternativenontraditionalways.Considerwhethertheremaybenewanduniquelinesofbusinessthatyoucanpursueinthelongrun.

    Usethetoolsavailabletoyou.Fromyourfinancialrecordstoyourwebtraffic

    analytics,lookatthenumberstounderstandthestrategiesthatworkedandfailed.Ifyouhavenotbeenusinganyanalyticstool,thenthefirstthinginyouragendafortheNewYearistostartputtinginplacetoolsthatcanhelpyouevaluatetheperformanceofyourbusiness.

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    Lookatthekeystrategicandoperationaltacticsthathelpedyourbusinessthepastyears.Whatbootstrappingstrategiesworkedforyou?Giventheeconomicuncertainties,howdidyoukeepyourcostsdownwhileensuringprofitability?Onestrategycouldincludebarteringforservicesinkind.Itmayalsobetheuseofthemodelofproductdevelopmentlifecyclecombinedwithcontinuousimprovementtokeeptheinitialcostsdown;afterall,youdonthavetowaitforperfectionbeforereleasingaproduct.

    Reviewyoursearchengineoptimizationstrategies.Foranybusinesstoday,

    searchengineoptimizationisakeyelementofanymarketingplans.Afterall,searchenginescandrivehugeamountoftargetedtrafficandifweretalkingoforganicsearchengineresults,free.Isyourwebsiterankingforthewords/phrasesthatyouexpectyourvisitorstouse?Hasyourtrafficfromthesearchenginesimproved,orhasthetrafficdecreased?Learnthefactorsthatdrawtraffictoyoursitequalityofcontent,topic,titleanddescriptiontags,qualityandquantityoflinksandmakesureyoureplicatethesewinningfactorsinwebpagesyouwilldevelopfornextyear.Ifyoumust,gethelpfromsearchengineoptimizationserviceproviders,ortakethetimetolearnhowtorankwellinthesearchengines.

    Checkthepressthatyourbusinesshasreceived,ifany.Ifyourbusinessreceived

    pressmentionsthisyear,reviewthecoverageyoureceivedwhatangleswereused,whatwassaidaboutyourbusiness,howdoyouthinkthereporterfoundaboutyouoryourbusiness,andwhatpitchesworkedwell.Ifyousentoutpressreleases(bothpaidandfree),makealistofthesitesyouthinkgaveyouthemostcoverageincludinglinksontheWeb.FortheNewYear,activelyseekoutmediaattentionforyourbusiness.Startbymakingalistofeditors,journalists,evenbloggerscoveringyourindustry.Developrelationshipswiththem,offeringyourexpertisetohelptheminthepiecesthattheyaredeveloping.Goevenasfarasdevelopingalistoftopjournalists/producerswhoaretweeting,andcontactthemviaTwitter.

    Considersocialmedia.IsyourbusinessonFacebookorTwitter?Ifnot,maybeitis

    timetocheckifsocialmediacouldworkforyourbusiness.Areyourcompetitorsusingsocialmedia,andifso,howsuccessfularetheyintermsofgainingfollowersandtheresponsivenessofthesefanstotheirpostings?Ifyouarealreadyusingsocialmedia,lookatallthesiteswhereyouhaveapresence.Whichonesarebringingyouthesales,trafficorstrategicconnectionsyourbusinessneeds?Ifyouarenotgettingthesalesthatyouneed,isitbecauseofyourexecutionoristhisparticularsocialmediasitesimplydoesnotworkforyourtypeofbusiness?IfyouareonTwitter,checkoutwhattypesoftweetsaregivingyouthemostclicks,whoaretheusersretweetingyourposts,andwhattypesofhashtagsworkedbestforyou.IfyouvegotaFacebookpage,determinewhattypesofpostsgiveyouthemostcommentsandfeedback.

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    AnalyzeyourNumbersTheonlywayyoucanreallyknowhowwellyourbusinessisdoingisbyknowingthebottomline.Thisassumes,however,thatyouareabletodoregularbookkeeping,generatefinancialstatementsbasedonyourbookkeepingjournals,andanalyzethosestatementstoreallyunderstandthefinancialconditionofthebusiness.

    Doyouknowyourmarginofprofit?Evenifyourmarketingcampaignsareeffectiveinbringingincustomers,ifyourmarginofprofitistoolow,itwillbehardforyourbusinesstoactuallymakemoney.

    Doyouknowhowmuchitcostyoutoproducetheproductsyousell?Ifyouare

    buyingfromawholesalerandthenselloffthefinishedgood,itiseasiertocalculatethecostsofyourgoods.Butcalculatingthisnumbermaybetrickierifyoudealwithintangiblessuchasinformationoranitemthatyouproduceyourself.

    Howmuchdoesitcosttosellyourproducts?Frommarketingandadvertising

    expensestolabor,calculatehowmuchitcostsyoutogetyourproductsoutofthedoor.Forexample,ifyouselloneBay,lookatthefeesthatyouneedtopaytobeabletoselloneBay.Calculateyourpayperclickmarketing.

    Doyouknowhowlongittakesyoutocollectandthecostofcollectingyour

    accountsreceivables?

    HaveyoupreparedyourbudgetfortheNewYear?

    Askyourselftoughquestions,especiallyifyourrevenuesandprofitsdeclined.Admittedly,businessistoughtoday,butwhatcouldyouhavedonetopreventthehemorrhageofyourbankaccount?

    DevelopyourGoalsandStrategiesforThisYearThinkofwhatyouwanttoaccomplishthisyear.Makealistofyourobjectivesforyourbusiness,andthenlisttheactivitiesthatcanhelpyouachievetheobjectives.Bespecific.Keepyourobjectivesasdetailedandmeasurableaspossible.Evenbetter,makeanoteofwhatyouneedtoachieveeverysingleday.Puttingaspecificdeadlineontasksorgoalscanspuryoumoreintoaction.

    Itisessentialthatyoucreatearealisticstrategicplanthatyoucanreviewperiodicallytoassesshowyouarereallydoingwithyourbusiness.

    PutdowninwritingyourgoalsfortheNewYear.Ifyoudidnotwriteyourplans

    andgoalsforlastyear,makesurethatyouputinwritingyourgoalsforthisyear.

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    Thisway,itwillbeeasierforyoutoreviewhowyouareprogressingandmakeiteasiertoreviewyourgoalsonamoreregularbasis.Orifyouneedtochangeyourgoalsmidwaythroughtheyearbecauseofnewopportunitiesordirections,itwillbeeasierforyoutoseewhereyouare.Forexample,ifyouareabloggerwhoearnsprimarilyfromservingads,anexampleofagoalanditsactivitiesmaybe:

    Goal:Increaseadrevenuesby20percentbeforeendoftheyear.

    Increasetrafficoftheblogbyasmuchas50percent. Writeatleast5newpostsperweek,carefullyanalyzingthetrafficstatistics

    ofeachposttodeterminethetypesofpostspreferredbytheaudience. Reviewadplacementsandformats,andexperimentwhichadformatworks

    bestintermsofgeneratingadrevenues. Exploreotheradnetworkstofindtherightadstoputintothesite. Participateinblogcarnivalsatleastonceamonth. Submitcontenttosocialbookmarkingsites(evenstrivetodevelopcontent

    mostlikelytogettothefrontpageofDigg,forexample). Usesocialmediatomarkettheblog.JoinTwitterandpostlinksofblog

    postsonTwitter.CreateanaccountdedicatedsolelyforthebusinessonFacebook.

    Connectwithatleast3bloggerspermonth,whetherintermsofcommentingontheirblogsorrequestingforblogrolllinkexchanges

    Dontbeafraidtogethelp.Yourproblem,justlikemostsmallbusiness

    entrepreneurs,isthelackofaregularandimpartialassessmentofhowyourbusinessisdoing,aswellasthelackofhelpintermsofcreatingyourstrategies.Especiallyifyouareasolohomebasedentrepreneur,theresnooneelsearoundtogiveyouadifferentperspectiveofyourbusiness.Ifsuchisthecase,considersigningupwithvariousmentorshipprogramssuchasthoseofferedbySCOREoryourlocalSmallBusinessDevelopmentCenters.Oryoucannetworkandtrytofindotherentrepreneursyoucanbounceoffideasandgiveyouadviceaboutyourbusiness.

    PrepareyourstrategicplanfortheNewYear.Astrategicplanisdifferentfroma

    businessplan,inasmuchasscopeandcoverage.Startbyexaminingthevision,missionandobjectivesofyourbusinessespeciallyifyouhavetochangethembasedonyourpresentrealities.Thenproceedwithcraftingthestrategiesofyourbusinesse.g.growthwillbefundedinternally,fulfillmentandshippingwithbecontractedout,newwebsiteswillbelaunched,amongothers.Thenextstepistoexaminehowyouaregoingtoachieveyourstrategiesbymatchingyourresources,budgets,andtimetableandperformancetargets.DoaSWOT(strengths,weaknesses,opportunitiesandthreats)analysistohelpyouunderstandtheenvironmentyouareoperatingin,andhowyourbusinesscanbefortifiedtofaceallthechallengesforthecomingyear.

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    Setupareviewlooptohelpyouplanyourbusiness.Createproceduresthatwill

    allowyoutotaketimetoreviewyouroperations,andspotmistakesthatcanprovecostlyinthelongrun.Thesooneryoucorrectmistakeswhetherintermsofsales,productdevelopmentormarketingthebetteryoucanavertanydisastersforyourbusiness.

    DetermineyourCustomerAcquisitionandRetentionStrategiesYourbusinessisonlyasgoodasthenumberandqualityofcustomersyoubringtoit.Customersarethelifebloodofyourbusiness,andyouneedtoalwaysreviewhowyouaregettingthemin,andmoreimportantly,howyouarekeepingthemasloyalcustomers.Somequestionsyouneedtothinkaboutinclude:

    Howwellareyouabletocommunicatethebenefitsofyourproductsandservicestoyourcustomers?Howsuccessfulareyouinconveyinghowyourbusinesscansatisfytheirneedsandmaketheirliveseasier?

    Howdoyoutreatyourcustomers?Doyoutreatyourcustomersinarespectfulway?

    Doyougreetthemandservethemwellwhentheycomeintoyourstore?Doyourespondquicklytoyourcustomersemails,feedbackandcomplaints?Remember,customersdontoweyouanything,butyouneedtoearntheirbusiness.

    Howdoesyourbusiness,productorservicestandoutfromtherestofyour

    competition?Ifyourenotstandingout,doyouknowwhy?Istheresomethingwhetherservicethatyoucankickupanotch,oraproductlinethatyoucanofferthatcandifferentiateyoufromyourcompetitors,bigandsmall?

    Whatpercentageofyourcustomersarerepeatcustomers?Howcanyoumakeyour

    firsttimecustomerstobuyfromyouagain?

    Doyougeneratereferralcustomers?Howcanyoumakeyourexistingcustomersactuallyreferyoutotheirfamily,friendsandnetwork?

    PlanYourWebStrategyWhetheryouareoperatingaWebbusiness,orjustusingtheWebasanonlinebrochureforyourbrickandmortarbusiness,itisimportanttolookatthenumbersbehindyourwebsite.TheWebhasbecomeanintegralmediumforanybusinesstodaythatitisimportanttounderstandhowyourwebsiteiscontributingtoyouroverallgoals.Ifyoursiteisnotusinganywebanalytics

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    softwarewhetherthefreeGoogleAnalyticsorthepricierWebTrendsyouneedtoinstalloneassoonaspossible.Ifyouhavewebanalyticssoftwareinstalled,askyourselfthesequestions:

    Doyouhavegoalssetupwithyouranalytics?WhetheryouaresellingproductsontheWeborcollectingleadsfromyoursite,youranalyticssoftwareshouldbeabletotellyouhowwell(orpoorly)yoursiteisabletodirectyourvisitorstowardthegoals.Iftheyarenotbuyingorsigningupforyournewsletter,youneedtoknowwhy.

    Whatisthebestwaytogetvisitorstoyoursite?Isyoursitetoodependentona

    singlebiggesttrafficsource(e.g.85%ofyourtrafficisfromGoogle),andifso,whathappensifthatreferrerstopsbringingtraffictoyoursite?Arethereareaswhereyoucanimprovee.g.increasedirecttrafficorincreasereferraltraffic?

    Whattopicsandpagesattractthemosttraffic?Whatpagesrankwellinthesearch

    engines?

    Howlongarevisitorsstayinginyoursite?Ifyouarerunninganadsupportedwebsite,youmaynotmindthatusersarevisitingonlyonepageandthenleavingyoursitebyclickingonanad.Butifyouvegotanonlinestore,youmayhavetoexaminewhyvisitorsareonlycheckingonepageandleavingwithoutbuyinganything.

    Whatareyourbesttrafficreferralsources?Howisthesocialmediabringingtraffic

    andcontributingtotheattainmentofyourgoals?FormulateYourMarketingStrategiesMarketingisahugechunkofyourdailyefforts,bothintimeandinexpense.Itisimportantthatyouperiodicallymonitorwhatworkedforyouintermsofbringinginthemostsales,increasingawarenesstoyourbrand,andengagingwithyourcustomers.

    Howdoyoumarketyourbusiness?Doyouthinkyouveusedthebestmethodsbasedonyourgoalsandresourcestoreachyourtargetaudiences?

    Doyoumeasurethesuccessofyourpromotions?Doyouknowwhichmarketing

    andadvertisingcampaignsworkedbestingeneratingresponse?Itisimportanttohaveacleardefinitionofsuccessforeachmarketingaction.

    Haveyousetcleartargetstoachieveintermsofsalesorrevenues?

    Doyouknowther...