Small Business New Year’s Resolutions

While we make personal resolutions to exercise more, quit smoking/drinking/gambling, swear less, and spend more time with family, we business owners should make some resolutions for our companies.  May I suggest the following:

  • Get things in writing.  Many, if not most, of the disputes between partners arise because they don’t get the terms of their partnership in writing.  We no longer live in a world where doing business on a handshake is advisable.  If someone is making you a promise, get it in writing.
  • Review everything you sign.  EVERYTHING.  Yes, business owners are busy people.  Yes, running a business requires making quick decisions without getting bogged down in details.  However, it’s imperative that you (or a trusted advisor) carefully read everything you sign BEFORE signing.  The quickest way to give your advisor an ulcer is to sign something and then, a week later, send it to the advisor with the request, “please pull us out of the mouth of the shark.”
  • Sign as the business owner, not as an individual.  This is one of those simple, picky things that can help keep your corporate veil in place.  When signing documents for your business, make sure you are wearing your hat as the business owner and that your signature reflects it.  Even if the signature block doesn’t provide for it, write it in.  It should say Jane Doe, as [Title] of [Company, Entity Type].  For example,

    Jane Doe, as Managing Member of ABC Supplies, LLC.

  • Make sure to hold your annual company meeting.  You know that leather-bound binder you got when you formed your company?  The one collecting dust on your shelf?  You’re actually supposed to keep your company records in there and open it at least once a year to add your annual resolutions.
  • Pay more attention to client service.  I’m not sure if it’s just Vegas or what, but I see so many businesses lose clients over simple things like the failure to return phone calls or follow up.  A CPA I know used to joke during his elevator speech that “I return phone calls and I do what I say I’m going to do…and that’s a business model these days.”  While everyone in the room laughed, it’s sadly true.
  • Get with social media.  These days, more and more people are gauging a company’s competence based on its online presence.  Make sure your website is solid, that you have profiles on the different social media platforms, and that you post relevant material regularly to set yourself apart as the subject matter expert.
  • Evaluate your networking efforts.  From personal experience, I can attest that you can get into a routine of attending networking events out of habit or a sense of obligation without evaluating the return on investment.  Implement a tracking system for each paying client where you list the referral source.  That way you can paint an accurate picture of the actual revenue you’re earning from each of your marketing efforts.  Quit the worst performing groups and don’t look back.
  • Make sure your independent contractors are actually independent contractors.  I’ve had about a half dozen clients just in the last few months hire me for help with audits by different state agencies for misclassifying employees as independent contractors.  Almost every agency has its own set of rules for how to classify workers.  The general rule of thumb is control – the more control you as the employer exert over the worker, the more likely it is that person is an employee.
  • Delegate your weaknesses.  If you aren’t good at something, find someone who is and pay them to do it for you.  Also delegate tasks in your business that you could handle, but hate.  For me, that was bookkeeping.  Yes, I could make my way around QuickBooks but I dreaded it and cursed at the computer the whole time.  The time you save can be put to much better use elsewhere.
  • Find some balance.  As business owners, we eat, sleep, and breathe our businesses.  We never get to leave work at work and can often be found (like right now) sitting on the couch working into the wee hours of the morning.  While being a workaholic may be good for your bottom line, it isn’t necessarily good for your mental health.  Try to find some time to TRULY disconnect from your business to give yourself a chance to recharge.  Whether it’s yoga, hiking, a spa day, or a staycation, you must give yourself a break.  Burnout doesn’t do anyone any good – your business partner(s), clients, friends, or family.

Let’s make this year the best one yet!