10 resolutions for success in 2020


It’s been a good year for most small businesses. The economy remains strong, and you all are a relatively optimistic bunch.

Still, every business should take the time to look at what went right — and not so well — in the past year and then create a road map for the New Year. It’s about setting your business up for success in 2020.

Michael Bernard

Michael Bernard’s consulting experience comes from his work with several international accounting firms in their management consulting departments working with Fortune 500 companies throughout the United States. He has also worked for several local and regional accounting firms as both a manager and principal in charge of their consulting operations in the South Florida area before opening his own management consulting company in Miami.

Treasure Coast Business Magazine has consulted the experts and compiled some tips for making your business stronger in 2020, some big moves and some small. This is a holiday buffet so consider the tips most appropriate for your business — or write your own. You can call them New Year’s Resolutions if you wish, as long as you stick with them better than you will stick to your diet or your vow to hit the gym every day.

1. Take the time to look back before looking ahead.
What were your goals in 2019? Did you meet, exceed or fall short? What do you most wish you had accomplished but didn’t? What was your greatest success and what can you take away from that? What was your biggest failure and what did you learn?

These are not easy to answer, so take your time. Look back at your sales and customer data — and involve your team in the discussion.

The Florida Small Business Development Center at Indian River State College has several outstanding financial management programs for the Small and Midsized Enterprises (SME).

The first is our Business Accelerator Program (BAP) that is a 10-week program given in both Stuart and Port Saint Lucie. It includes classes in:

• Understanding Your Financial Statements
• Time Management
• Customer Relations
• Social Media Marketing
• Human Resources
• And many others

The second is Profit Mastery. This is an advanced program designed to give the entrepreneur a more in-depth view of your financial statement analysis. It will take you through a step by step analysis and show what to look for in your financial statements and how to compare them to your industry standards.

Both these programs can be found on our website at www.IRSCBIZ.com.

2. Make sure your company is cyber safe.
Just recently Wawa was the victim of a massive cyberattack. The City of New Orleans was, too. But it is not just big companies and governments that get attacked; in fact, small businesses were the victims of about half of the recent cyberattacks. They just aren’t making the headlines.

Here are some tips:

• Regularly back up your company’s data.
• Create a firewall that prevents outsiders from accessing your private network.
• Invest in the latest security software, web browser and operating systems on your company’s computers.
• Set antivirus software to scan regularly. And keep your operating system updated.
• All the technology in the world may not save you if employees aren’t trained to not click on suspect emails and to monitor and alert you about warning signs such as slowdowns, mysterious emails or pop-ups and missing information.
• Develop a plan for how you will respond if you are attacked, including alerting customers of the breach as required by law, if that is the case, and managing the PR risk.

The Florida SBDC at Indian River State College and other SBDC offices around the state have launched a Cybersecurity Basics for Small Businesses program.

3. Review your vendor contracts and look for other ways to trim costs.
Start off the new year by auditing your spending.
Get new quotes on business expenses. For example, have an agent review your insurance policies to make sure you’re not over insured or have duplicate coverage.

Review your vendor pricing. Shop around to see if you can find goods and services at better prices — assuming that the quality and delivery are comparable.

Also, ask your vendor for a discount off the product you are buying. For example, you negotiate a discount of 2 percent for paying an invoice within 10 days, substantially reducing your Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) over a year. Invoices equaling $300,000 over the year could result in a $6,000 net income increase.

Use technology to create efficiencies and cut costs. Are you still mailing out bills to your customers? Offer some type of discount or credit to customers who opt for email invoicing. Going paperless will reduce postage and staff costs. Automate as much as you can in your office.

Finally, look at all your software and subscriptions. Do you use them?

4. Now’s the time to reduce high-cost debt.
The Federal Reserve instituted three rate cuts in 2019, and rates are about as low as they can go. If you have high interest debt, such as a credit card that charges 14 percent interest or more, figure out a way to pay it off sooner, rather than later.

Consider taking out a business line of credit, which now can be had at an interest rate as low as 5 percent. At a time when interest rates are so low, there is no reason to continue paying high rates, especially if your company is doing well enough to qualify for a low interest financial product. If you need real estate for your company or you need to purchase equipment, consider an SBA 504 loan. The Florida SBDC @ IRSC can help you with your bank loan preparation and your business plan for the bank.

5. Consider adding dimension to your growth plan.
When was the last time you expanded your business offerings? Perhaps it is time to introduce a new product or expand your services offerings. Look for ways of expanding your revenue streams from the customers you already have (organic growth), which can be easier and less costly than acquiring new customers altogether.

If you are thinking about exporting or going into government contracting, the Florida SBDC at IRSC has programs that can help you with that.

6. How’s your SEO? Give it some love this year.
In our social-centric world, it’s easy to focus all of your digital efforts on social media. But it’s your website that is the core of your digital world.

It’s important to prioritize building a strong organic web presence with organic search engine optimization. Consider hiring an expert to evaluate your site for SEO. You can resolve to drive more traffic to your site by creating content around keywords that are related to your business. Start a blog and put a healthy Q&A on your site. In the process, you are showing your expertise in the industry and can provide value to your potential customers in the content you serve them.

There’s no easy button for digital marketing, but make it a priority.

7. Take your PR strategy to the next level.
In today’s world, public relations can include media relations, marketing communications, social media, corporate communications, speech writing and event planning. Even corporate social responsibility can be part of your PR strategy. And you don’t have to have a big-company budget for it.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

• If you are a very small company, start to nurture media relationships. You could start with a blogger, comment on their blogs and volunteer to write a guest post.
• Use your data ethically and write good rich content on your social media or blog. If that isn’t your forte, consider hiring a content writer for their blog or social media.
• Start formulating a plan and communications strategy, even if you are a very small company. You want each of your team to say the same thing.
• If you are going to outsource PR, contract it out completely so there is consistency. Be on top of it and have weekly meetings to talk about the messages you want to get out.

8. Take a look at your HR processes, including employee training and benefits.
Do you have a company handbook? Is it up to date? What company policies, systems and processes does your small business have in place to properly manage your people? Companies will not be able to grow if the CEO is running everything.

Next, examine your benefits package. This is important even if you don’t plan to hire. With unemployment so low, retaining your valuable employees is critical. Small businesses may think they can’t compete against larger companies offering fat salaries and benefit packages, but think creatively about what you can offer that may be more valuable for the candidate than some of the more traditional benefits. A flexible schedule and the ability to work at home sometimes is very appealing to some employees. Millennials don’t always care as much about the traditional benefits because of the stage of life they are in, but they do care about development opportunities. A tuition reimbursement program and/or company training can go far.

Here is one piece of good news on the benefits front: Congress recently passed the SECURE Act, legislation that among other things seeks to expand retirement plan coverage by making it easier for small businesses to join together to offer 401(k) plans and share administrative costs. About a third of private-sector employees work for companies that don’t now offer a way to save for their retirement.

9. Get personal.
Your business is only as strong as its leaders. In 2020, resolve to improve your own knowledge (should a course or conference be on your calendar?), up your leadership game (survey your team — anonymously, if you can — about your management blind spots and make that lunch appointment with your mentor) and create more work/life balance (and who doesn’t need that?).

10. Don’t wait for a disaster to have a plan.
Don’t wait for the imminent threat of a hurricane to dust off your emergency plan.

The Florida SBDC at IRSC helps business owners to develop a comprehensive business continuity plan.

Conduct your own risk assessment by updating your employee contact information, identifying any special skills your team members possess that might help in an emergency and evaluating your insurance coverage.

10. Give back.
As a small business, there are many ways you can give back to your community and they don’t all involve donating financially. Some companies encourage their employees to spend one day or afternoon per month or quarter — on company time — volunteering for a local registered nonprofit or charity of their choosing. Today’s millennial generation in particular considers social responsibility a cool personal benefit, too. Some small businesses do volunteer projects together, such as participating in a beach cleanup or rehabbing a home for Habitat for Humanity, which can also double as team building. Your business could donate your product or service to a nonprofit, or sponsor an event or a youth sports team. Your contribution to your local area will be appreciated, and you may even gain some new customers as a result.

Happy New Year!

Treasure Coast Business is a news service and magazine published in print, via e-newsletter and online at tcbusiness.com by Indian River Magazine Inc. For more information or to report news email staff@tcbusiness.com