5 New Year’s Resolutions to Help Your Business Grow

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5 Resolutions to Help Grow Your BusinessAs the new year gets underway, it’s hard not to think about ways you can improve. While plenty of people make personal resolutions to lose weight, save more money or pay off debt, it’s not unheard of for companies to make resolutions, too. If your goal is to grow your business in 2016, here are a few resolutions that can help you achieve that growth.

Resolve to Put Together a Strategic Plan

Ideally, your company will have a concrete plan for growth already in place. If not, 2016 is the perfect time for putting one together. If you don’t have a plan or strategy, there is no way to know how to take the next step or even what those next steps should be. With a strategic plan, you not only lay out your company’s plans for the future, you also put together a roadmap for how it will achieve those plans. Your company’s strategic plan allows you to prioritize any goals for your business as well as correct any areas that have been an issue. With a plan in place, your business will stay on course and able to avoid any distractions or disruptions that will prevent its growth.

Develop More Personal Relationships with Customers

Running a successful business is about more than just making the sale. It’s also about establishing long-term relationships with your customers. Tailored marketing is the wave of the future, especially as email and social media marketing become more and more commonplace. It’s not just about making sure the mailing software you use puts a customer’s first name in the message anymore. It’s also about making sure the messages you send clients and customers are actually messages they want or need to receive. Look back on the products or services specific customers have purchased from you in the past, then tailor any new messages to them based on that information.

Giving your customers more ways to get in touch with your company can also help you build deeper relationships with them. Instead of a phone-based customer service line, which requires customers to move though a number a menus or push a lot of buttons before they reach a human, consider also offering customer service chat on your website, which allows a customer to communicate with someone from your company quickly and easily.

Help Your Employees Be Their Best

Hiring the right employees from the start is key to your business’ ongoing growth and development. Keeping those employees happy is also key to your company’s success. This new year, resolve to offer more employee perks or growth programs. They don’t have to be expensive programs. For example, committing to stocking the company break room with healthier snacks or encouraging people to actually take the day off when they are sick can have a positive effect on morale and increase productivity.

Streamline Company Communications

Email might not be going anywhere anytime soon, but it can be a very inefficient way to communicate with your team. Just think of all the reply-all emails you’ve received that simply say things such as “Ok” or “Thanks, will do!” They clutter up your inbox and can keep you from seeing the emails that are actually relevant. If communication is flagging at your company and keeping it from reaching the next stage of growth, it might be time to try something new, such as Slack or Facebook at Work.

Reassess Your Equipment

Is your company’s equipment still meeting your needs? If the copier breaks down on a regular basis or people’s laptops no longer connect to the Internet as quickly as they once did, it might be time to invest in new equipment. It’s difficult to move to the next phase of growth if your company’s gear keeps breaking down.

Making new year’s resolutions is the easy part. It’s sticking to them that’s a challenge. If you’ve got plenty of resolutions, but need help accomplishing them, the team at New Direction Capital is there for you. Our virtual chief financial officer services can help your company achieve the next phase of growth. Contact us today for more details.

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How to Stay Productive During the Holiday SeasonFor some companies, staying productive during the holiday season comes naturally. Shipping and logistics firms can’t drop the ball from November until January 1 and retailers typically see their busiest seasons during the last few months of the year. But, if  you run a company that doesn’t see a spike in business during the holiday season, you might find that there’s an increased temptation to slack off a bit or to decrease productivity. After all, the work will still be there in January.

While taking it easy might seem to make sense during the holiday season, committing to be as productive as possible might be the better move for your business. You’ll return at the start of the new year without last year’s projects hanging over your head. If holiday parties are calling you name, but you’d like to stay focused on your business, here are a few things worth trying.

Cut Back

It can be all too easy to say yes to every opportunity that comes your way during the holiday season. Whether it’s agreeing to work with a new client because your workload seems a little light or RSVPing yes to every party your company is invited to, you run the risk of over-burdening yourself and your team. Review your calendar and schedule from now until the new year. Pick the projects that absolutely need to be completed before January 1 and set the other ones on the back burner.

When it comes to the social demands on your company during the holidays, you’ll need to pick and choose wisely. If you are invited to a number of parties, try to attend just one or two a week and politely decline invitations to the others. Choose which parties to attend based on your schedule, their location, and the strength of your relationship to the people or business hosting the party.

Set Deadlines and Limits

Giving yourself and your team firm deadlines during the holidays can help you stay on track and reach your end of the year goals. Even if you’re usually lax about deadlines, the month of December is an ideal to implement them, especially if you and your team will be taking the last week of the month off. For example, you might require your employees to submit time sheets by December 23 and hold them to that deadline.

Adjust Your Schedule

Another way to keep productivity up during the end of the year slump is to make some adjustments to your company’s schedule. Although a weekly team meeting might make sense during the rest of the year, during the holidays, it can be a source of distraction and derail people’s ability to complete the projects assigned to them by their due date. Instead of just having a meeting because it’s a regularly scheduled thing, make sure there is a clear goal for the meeting. Otherwise, you might consider rescheduling it next year and let your employees use that time to work on the things they need to finish.

Get Help Where Needed

The holiday season can be the perfect to outsource some projects and to bring in outside assistance, such as a virtual chief financial officer. You might not have the time or inclination to tackle your business’ strategy during the holidays or you might need some extra help making sure your business’ plan is on target for the end of the year or that you  have a strategic plan in place for next year.

Whether you might need, from help with end of the year financing to help mapping out your company’s next move in the year to come, a virtual CFO can provide guidance and an outside opinion. The team at New Direction Capital can provide solutions that will help your company stay productive at the year’s end and increase its productivity during the upcoming year. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you through the holidays and in the months to come.

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Value of Repeat CustomersThe numbers are clear: it costs a business much less to try to get the same customers to come back again and again than it does for that business to try and gain new customers. In the book “Leading on the Edge of Chaos,” Mark A. Murphy and Emmet C. Murphy reveal that it costs five times as much to get a new customer as it does to retain a current customer. Increasing customer retention by 2% can have the same impact as cutting costs by 10%.  If you’d like to shift your company’s focus from constantly chasing new clients to getting repeat customers, there are a few things you can do to build loyalty.

Reach Out 

Your interaction with your customer shouldn’t end because he or she has handed over the payment, gotten the product or service he or she came for, and walked out the door. There are a number of ways you can reach out to your customers after the transaction is over, to see what they thought of it and to let them know you are there to meet any needs they might have. If your company does business primarily online, you can send emails to new customers after their first purchase, asking them what they thought and letting them know you are there for them. Follow up an in-person meeting with a phone call.

You can also start to offer personal recommendations to customers based on the products or services they have already purchased from you.  Doing so shows that you have an interest in their wants and needs and increases the chance that they will buy from you again.

Change Your Tone

If you shift your focus from highlighting what your company offers to highlighting the ways in which your business can help your customers, you’re likely to see an increase in loyalty. Think of it this way — would you rather a company present itself with “here is what we have” or with “this is the way our products can help you”?

Another way to help your company change its tone and the way it interacts with customers is to find out what it is that they want from you. Customer surveys can really help shine on light on what your company is getting right and where it has room to improve. As an incentive for completing the survey, you can offer customers a percentage off their next purchase.

Improve Customer Service

To keep your customers coming back, adopt a policy that really puts the customer first. As your company grows, you might want to consider implementing a written customer service policy, so that employees know exactly how to handle situations where a customer might be a little upset or where there might be an issue with the service or product provided.

If a customer has an issue with your company, you have a small window of opportunity to make it right and retain the customer. Companies that ignore customer problems or that are slow to correct issues are likely to lose not only the unhappy customer, but any he or she shares the experience with.

Add Perks

Customer loyalty perks encourage people to return again and again. They don’t have to be particularly expensive for your company, either. For example, one perk might be a special line for customers who sign up for your company’s loyalty program, so that they don’t have to wait long for assistance. Another simple, inexpensive perk is to offer customers a discount or free gift on their their birthday or during their birthday month.

Hanging on to the customers you’ve already got will not only save your company time and money in the long run. It can also help you gain new customers, as happy clients are likely to tell others about their experience.

If you are looking for ways to grow your business and keep customers coming back, the team at New Direction Capital can help. Contact us today to learn more about how our virtual CFO can help your company.

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5 Things You Must NegotiateWhen you are running a business, one skill you need to learn and you need to learn quickly is how to negotiate. If you just accept every offer that comes your way, you are likely to spend more than your company can afford. Not being able to negotiate effectively can also mean that you aren’t getting the greatest value from the vendors or services you use. No matter how long your company has been in business, here are five areas where negotiating really pays off.

Your Lease

There’s ample space for negotiating before you sign a lease, whether you’re moving into a building for the first time or considering renewing an existing lease. The two big things you should negotiate with the landlord are the monthly cost of rent and the term of the lease. When you’re negotiating, your goal is to get two things: a monthly rent you can afford and an assurance that you won’t have to deal with surprise rent increases.

If the rent per square foot is a bit beyond your budget, you can try to negotiate a longer term with the landlord. A building’s owner might be willing to give you a break on rent if you’ll be there for at least or year or two, as that will save him or her the hassle of trying to find a new tenant. You can also negotiate extra fees and maintenance costs. The landlord might give you a break on rent if you bring in your own cleaning company, for example, or if you offer to handle small repairs yourself.

IT and Outside Vendors

Don’t be  afraid to negotiate with your vendors, such as your business’ IT company  or the company that supplies you with paper or furniture. There are several ways to go about negotiating with your suppliers and vendors. If your company goes through a lot of paper, for example, you might try negotiating a volume discount with your paper company. You can also try to negotiate extra perks from a business. A supplier might not be able to offer you a lower price, but it might be able to offer you expedited service, free shipping, or personal assistance when you need it.

Loan Terms

Negotiating the terms of a loan or negotiating with your credit card company can save you a considerable amount of money. Having a good relationship with your lender is a key part of negotiating your loan. If you have a history of missing payments or paying late, a lender or credit card company will be less likely to work with you.

There are several things you can negotiate with your lender. Interest rates are a big one, as getting a lower rate means you pay less in the long run. One way to negotiate with a lender is to have it offer you a reduced rate after a certain number of on-time payments. If you mainly finance your business with a credit card, you can work with the card company to see if it will give you a higher credit limit.

Insurance Premiums

Paying for insurance is often more affordable than dealing with liability costs or other problems that can arise. But, all of the insurance policies your business needs to be fully protected can add up when it comes to monthly premiums. If your insurance company is threatening to raise your rates, it’s worth trying to strike a deal with it. One option is to offer to combine multiple policies with the same company. Often, companies offer a discount for multiple policies. It can also be worth it to play different insurance companies against one another. Get quotes from a variety of companies, then go back to the one you want to work with the most, with the lower priced quote from another company, and see if the preferred company will match it.

Employee Benefits and Salary

If you want the top talent working for your company, you’re going to have to negotiate with them. Keep in mind that it’s not just salary that you’ll be negotiating. You’ll also need to work out a perks and benefits package for employees. Even if your business can’t pay the high salary an impressive candidate wants, you might still be able to work out a deal by offering a good 401k match, the option to telecommute, and an impressive health insurance policy.

Negotiation is part of the process of building long-lasting relationships. If you’re struggling at the negotiation table, the team at New Direction Capital can help. Working with our virtual CFO can help your company figure out the best way to interact with vendors, landlords, and potential employees. Contact us today for more information.

Business Habits that Waste TimeEvery person gets 24 hours in a day. But, it often seems that some people are able to get more out of those 24 hours than others. If you’re struggling to get work done or often wonder where the time goes, it could be that you’ve got a few habits that don’t allow you to make the most of your time. Even habits that seem like they’d help save time can actually be secret time-wasters.

Constant Alerts

Whether it’s an email alert that rings or beeps every time you  get a new message or  a smartphone notification that buzzes when someone mentions you on social media, constant notifications aren’t helping you work smarter or faster. They’re actually getting in the way of what you should be working on. Think of all the times you were in the midst of something and your new message notification buzzed. Did you stop what you were doing, shift your focus to the email and even respond to it right away? Doing so most likely made going back to whatever it was you were working on before that challenging.

One of the best ways to keep alerts and notifications from interrupting your workflow is to turn them off. Put your phone on silent and turn off the email notifier on your computer. If you regularly feel the urge to check your email, set limits for yourself so that it’s not a constant distraction. For example, you can decide to check and response to email messages between 8:30 and 9:00 am and between 5:00 and 5:30 pm everyday, and not at other times. If you get an email in the meantime, it can wait.

Multi-Tasking

Back in the 1990s, people thought multi-tasking was fantastic. Employers would ask candidates about their ability to work on several tasks or projects simultaneously and people would brag about what they could juggle all at once. As it turns out, multi-tasking isn’t so great and can actually make it more difficult for you to focus.

Getting over multi-tasking can be a challenge, especially if you’ve been jumping from one project to the next for decades. You can start small. Commit to focusing on one task for 15 or 20 minutes. Once the time is up, you can switch to a new task. As you get used to focusing once again, you can increase the amount of time you spend on a single project.

Not Delegating

As a business owner, you might feel that you need to do everything on your own or that there will be a loss of authenticity if you hire people to handle the details of running a business. That’s just not true; trying to do everything by yourself can actually slow you down or lead to a lower quality product or service. If you’re not a finance person, hiring a virtual CFo to handle the financial matters and to help you company create a strategic plan can be a better use of your time than sitting down and trying to do it yourself. Hiring an assistant to handle phone calls and emails frees you up to take care of the more pressing matters of your business, without constant interruptions.

Meetings

Meetings can be a great way for you to check in with your team and make sure your business is on track. But, most meetings just end up being a huge waste of everyone’s time. There are a number of reasons why meetings often fail to be successful or to get anything done. For one thing, the agenda of many  meetings is often not well structured. Any issue an employee brings up might be added to the agenda of a meeting, no matter how trivial or unimportant it is, derailing the focus of the meeting or preventing it from covering the big problems.

You can make meetings more productive by creating a strict, set agenda on your own, without getting input from everyone who will attend. Let people know the outline and structure of the meeting in advance, so that they can come prepared with questions or, even better, have people submit questions or concerns in advance, to keep interruptions to a minimum.

At New Direction Capital, we’re committed to helping your company succeed, whether that means helping you make the right financial decisions or giving you the ability to focus on what really matters in your business. Contact us today to learn more about how working with a virtual CFO can help you waste less time.

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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