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The start of a new year often comes with a list of goals and objectives, which can quickly become overwhelming if you try to tackle too many, too quickly. I’ve always approached resolutions by setting short-term and long-term goals that span the entire year — after all, we have 12 months to reach our goals and there’s a reason they’re not called January resolutions.
Now is an important time for business owners to reflect and set direction for the coming year, but it’s easier than ever to get bogged down in worrying about the challenges facing the economy.
I would encourage all small business owners to approach 2023 with a dose of empathy and realism. Don’t bury your head in the sand — be aware of the economic obstacles we face, but don’t let them monopolize your attention. Instead, devote your time and energy to the challenges and operations within your control.
Here are four trends shaping the small business environment that you need to be aware of — and capitalize on — as you implement your plans for the year:
Related: 4 Small Business Success Tips That Get It Right
1. The Big Picture: Business owners are prioritizing marketing and hiring amid recession concerns
At the end of last year, we conducted a national survey of business owners, which showed that 78% expect the recession to affect their business initiatives. Despite this, entrepreneurs are actively investing in their business, with priority given to marketing and promotion, employment and salary increases, and investment in new equipment and technologies.
The best defense against shoppers tightening their wallets is a proactive attack. If your marketing efforts could use a refresh, consider these best practices:
Keep it simple: A streamlined strategy that aligns with your overall business goals will help you stay on the path to success.
Determine your target audience: Start with the end goal in mind. Who are you communicating with and what are you trying to tell them?
Choose the right platform: Once you know where to find your audience, you’re ready to choose your preferred marketing channel(s). When starting out, I would recommend focusing more heavily on one or two specific marketing channels, at least initially.
Measure your success: In the age of social media, marketing is no longer a one-way street. A successful marketing campaign is now a multi-platform, multi-interaction way to interact with your customers. Set your goals and KPIs early and check and review them often to see if your message is resonating with your target audience.
2. Don’t fall behind on the latest business technology
Over the past few years, small businesses have widely adopted new technology to make their businesses and customers’ lives easier. At this point, incorporating the latest technology is no longer a nice-to-have — it’s essential to the future of your business. Even in the face of a possible recession, 68% of business owners plan to upgrade or install new technology this year.
The implementation of new technologies and services can confuse, if not intimidate, many of us. If you want to integrate new technology but don’t know where to start, here’s what you might prioritize this year:
Investing in an automated payroll or people management (HR) platform to reduce complexity and simplify operational costs.
Accepting new forms of cashless or peer-to-peer (P2P) payments, such as Zelle, at your company’s point of sale.
Modernize your customer relationship management (CRM) system with enhanced multi-channel capabilities that can communicate with your customers, no matter what platform they are on.
Improve your cybersecurity measures to protect yourself from hackers and the latest cyber threats. Unfortunately, small businesses are becoming increasingly popular targets for hackers and fraudsters.
Related: 3 Things to Consider Before Investing in New Technology for Your Small Business
3. Business owners take advantage of free educational resources
It’s never too late to learn. Free educational resources for business owners have greatly improved and expanded over the past few years, and many entrepreneurs (at various stages of their business journey) are seeking them out. Last year, we learned that most business owners want to know more about business finances — including 75% of female business owners — so if you’re looking for tips, here are some resources to consider:
Educational resources like SCORE and the Bank of America Small Business Resource site provide answers to many common questions and are great to keep on hand.
If you are interested in further formal education, organizations such as LinkedIn and the SBA have online learning platforms. Bank of America also offers a free online program for women to earn a certificate in business from Cornell.
Your local small business banker can also be a key asset to your success and make your life a lot easier.
4. Business ownership can be lonely — don’t do it alone
Starting a new year with the burden of running a business on your shoulders can be stressful. If there’s only one piece of advice from this article that sticks with you, I hope it’s this: Find someone to talk to who’s been there before.
Research organizations such as the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), Luminary, your local Small Business Chamber of Commerce, Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Business Networking International, or similar groups. The return of in-person networking events has also created opportunities to meet other local entrepreneurs and work with mentors who can support you on your journey as an independent business owner. Less formal ways of networking such as LinkedIn groups or coffee/drinks with like-minded people can be just as useful.
Prioritize building relationships with people and communities you trust and you will reap the benefits for years to come.
Deciding to achieve all the goals you dream about this year can be daunting, but by adding the above tips to your game plan, you’re actively positioning your business for continued success in 2023 and beyond.
Related: 7 Networking Groups Every Small Business Owner Should Join