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Wyoming Business Tips for Jan. 11-Jan. 17

January 5, 2015

A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.

By Susan Jerke, WSBDC regional director

“How can I keep my business fresh in 2015?” Gerald, Sheridan

As we wish our friends and family “Happy New Year,” this also is a great time to reflect on the state of your business and make plans for the upcoming year.

Let us begin by examining what went well last year. Did you become more active in your community? Did you venture into the world of social media? Did you make more time for the important people in your life? Maybe you took some classes to increase your knowledge of your product and market. If you took part in any of the above activities, congratulations, you have strengthened your business position.

You also will want to objectively face the difficulties you experienced in the past year. Was your employee turnover high? Were your sales not as high as expected? Did your expenses get out of hand? Did new competition enter your market?

As you move forward, make a list of goals you would like to accomplish and set a timeline to make it happen. Does this sound familiar? Create a list of New Year’s resolutions for your business just as you might do personally. Dream big and imagine what could happen if you accomplish your list of positive improvements. Start by carrying forward your list of good (and bad) from last year.

-- Unearth your original business plan. Review any updates you have added throughout the history of your business. A business plan truly is your roadmap to success and can help with setting and benchmarking goals.

-- So often, we only see our businesses through the lens of our day-to-day routine, but it can be really exciting to see how far you have actually come since the inception of your initial venture. If you do not have a business plan, begin the process of documenting your business history and charting a path for the future. We can provide outlines and examples that can help guide you through this important exercise.

-- Increase your involvement in your community. By joining like-minded business owners in a networking group, you can brainstorm and bounce ideas off one another, work together to improve your retail or industrial districts and increase awareness of your business. Community involvement and volunteering can produce financial rewards as well. Your business will build trust as you present a "face" that is easily recognizable. Even if you don't have time to volunteer locally, find professional groups on the Internet -- such as LinkedIn -- that can help you feel less isolated.

-- Develop a plan for professional development. Technology moves at lightning speed, so make sure you are staying on top of your chosen industry. Find classes, webinars or conferences that address your specific needs. Wyoming offers a Workforce Training Fund that can help pay for training for you and your employees. This is especially crucial if you are facing changes in your market, or have new competition that is vying for your customers. It also helps you retain the talent of key employees by strengthening the expertise they bring to your business.

-- Examine your current and potential market. Now is a great time to take a good look at your competition to see how you measure up; consider shifts that may be on the horizon. Are there new products or services that you can add that will keep your business fresh and out in front of the pack? Conversely, are you still offering products that are not needed or are obsolete? Do you have products or services that could be marketed to the government?

-- Review your financial position. Examine where you spent your money and make a solid plan for the coming year. How much will you spend on advertising? What mediums will you use, and how often will you place ads? Will you need to replace equipment this year? How will you fund improvements or an expansion? Are you prepared to visit your lender? Developing a three-year spreadsheet to project your income and expenses will be a valuable tool to keep you focused on your financial goals.

-- Do you have a plan in the event of a disaster? The terrible fire in downtown Dubois recently brings to sharp focus that, even with the best planning, your business can be vulnerable to fire, flood, vandalism, theft, security threats or other unknown disasters. Are you well insured? Do you back up your files off site? Think about what you would do if the unthinkable happened and your building, equipment or computers were destroyed. Take time now to create a contingency plan.

-- Above all, remember to have fun. You have made the decision to be your own boss and venture into the world of entrepreneurship. Although owning a business carries a ton of responsibility and you likely work long hours, do not forget to enjoy the journey and delegate tasks that can be handled by others. Make a list of things you love to do, cross off any unnecessary tasks, and take time for your family and friends.

The advisers from Wyoming Entrepreneur SBDC, the Wyoming Market Research Center and the Procurement Technical Assistance Center are always available to help with any of your business questions. Free, confidential services are available.

A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments are available at http://wyen.biz/blog1/.

The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email wsbdc@uwyo.edu or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.


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