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Whip your Business into Shape

By Michelle Collins |

It's the New Year. It's change. Not only should you look at your personal waistline after the holiday season; it's a great time to get your business in better shape as well. Here are seven steps that will help you invigorate your business.

  1. Brainstorm. As a business owner you probably hear or read a lot about how important it is to set goals for your business. Are you finding that busy work and small tasks are getting in the way of achieving these goals? Now is the time to examine your business. Look at where you are now compared to years past. How many of your previous goals have you achieved? Evaluate why some ideas have worked and others have failed, or taken longer to realize. Finally, look into the future. Where would you like the business to be and how can you get there? Brainstorm with a list of goals for the upcoming year, three years, or five years. Integrate these new goals with any plans that you have from years past. Quite often small businesses evolve ...

  • Focus. Hopefully during your brainstorming exercises you came up with all kinds of ideas how to shape up your business. Now is the time to focus on how these goals can be achieved and how to go about it. Chances are your staff are looking for ways to get in shape too, as they are tired of putting out small fires everywhere when they should be working on something much bigger. This focus will keep your business healthy, as everyone knows their purpose. As the team leader it is up to you to set the tone.

  • Trim. As with the beginning of any fitness program you have to take a look at your current habits and make changes. It can be hard to give up things you like or are accustomed to doing. However, in the back of your mind you know it would be good for you. There are probably some obvious places that you can start right away. Take a close look at your financial statements and see if there are some areas where you are spending more than you should. Are you keeping those extra phone lines even though you've made the switch to high-speed Internet? Or how about all of those communication gadgets you swear you couldn't live without, like the PDA, and cellphones? Maybe you really do need these things, but if you've signed up for 1000 minutes and you're only using 300 then this could be an obvious place to trim. As you go through this trimming process consider where you can place these savings. Think about those goals you set; how can this money be used to achieve them? Haven't had the money to mount a targeted direct marketing campaign? This could be the time.

  • Consolidate. Want to achieve results faster? Consolidation could be the way to do this. Perhaps you or a staff member struggle to complete tasks that someone else in your business can finish with time to spare. With tasks completed faster you could have two people to work on bigger projects. Take the time to organize yourselves so that you can focus on doing things that make you more efficient, instead of spinning your wheels.

  • Collaborate. Now that you're cutting the excess fat and getting your business in shape you may be eager to spread your new habits around. Why should you work alone when you can accomplish more through strategic collaboration? Step back for a moment and take a look at the big picture. What other businesses in your "ecosystem" can help you tap into new markets, or bring a fresh aspect to current clientele? Ask yourself where you can benefit from strategic alliances with friendly businesses. Some possibilities could include running a marketing cross-promotion, or maybe even collaborating on a joint project to share the costs and work involved.

  • Plan. Too often we start out on an exercise program full of enthusiasm and commitment in the beginning but let ourselves slip when it takes too much effort to lace up our sneakers and hit the track. However, with a well-developed plan that allows you to remain consistent and check your progress along the way you could be more motivated to reach those goals. Outline a plan that will follow all of the steps you think are required to meet your expectations. It can be too easy to fall back into old habits. Post the plan where everyone can see it and refer to it often. Some companies will chart progress by marking when tasks are complete. Being able to visualize accomplishments brings not only a better understanding of what's expected but also a positive sense of achievement.

  • Execute! Now that you've got everything in place its time to do it. Keep in mind that things might be challenging in the beginning, just like when you exercise and muscles you didn't even know you had hurt the next day. However, the more you do the easier it gets and the stronger you become. There may be times where try as you might, you can't achieve something on your own. This is the time for outside help. If you know you're going to need an outside professional make sure that you budget for this accordingly. This is critical to preventing more wheel spinning.
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