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Get Ready to Grow your Business in 2014

It's a new year and the perfect time for a fresh start! Here is when you have the opportunity to sit down and make some solid, realistic resolutions. While many set personal goals — related to family, financial, or health and fitness objectives — it's important to take time to make resolutions for your business! Have you created a plan for 2014 yet? If not, don't worry — it's never too late to set goals and plans. Just keep in mind, that setting (and sticking to) goals are what drive business success.

What's the best way to go about setting goals? To start, review this past year. What worked? What didn't? What could you have done differently? Once you assess the past, take a look at your company's current situation. What are your company's capabilities? Consider which small or large investments you can make to enhance your capabilities. Next, think about growth opportunities. Do you see ways your business could gain an advantage and grow profitable sales? Last, reflect on some personal challenges you might set. Are there some personal development projects — such as improving your financial management skills — that will help your business?

OK, now that we have some starting points, let's get more specific with a few examples. You might want to consider these scenarios as "small" versus "big" goals, but keep in mind that size doesn't matter. These ideas are simply thought starters to help you get the ball rolling. More important, once you set a goal, you need to commit, focus and work hard to achieve it.

Take, for example, a goal to reduce business costs by 3 percent by year-end 2014. Here are some ideas:

  • Lower overhead costs such as office, insurance and utility expenses. These could include everything from rent, to office supplies or insurance, to internet services. Examine these costs and think through where you might be able find savings. Yes, this will take time to research, but you may find savings hidden somewhere in your operations.
  • Negotiate pricing on equipment and supplies. For instance, consider buying some of your supplies — such as tape, plastic sheeting and masking paper — in bulk. This involves some larger payments up front but, in the long run, you can realize savings. This approach also requires good project planning on your part. If needed, ask your suppliers what types of financing programs are available. In regard to equipment, think about how you service your work trucks. They need to be serviced regularly so talk to your repair service agency and see if you can strike a better deal if you commit to having all your vehicles serviced at one location.
  • Review your suppliers to decide if you're satisfied. Keep in mind, the value of your suppliers includes the quality of the products and services they offer, not just the price. You may be paying a higher price for the actual product, but a good rep may provide a level of service that reduces operating costs, such as specifications, submittals and technical consultations.

Now let's consider this next goal — grow sales by 10 percent by year-end 2014. This may be a formidable goal; however, the market is improving, and careful planning could provide good results. Here are some ideas to help plan for this goal:

  • Spend effectively on marketing activities. If, for example, your business is focused on custom residential projects, how can you generate more leads? Consider using your work truck or van as a mobile billboard. The trucks move around in the markets you want to serve and are highly visible. Also, consider placing yard signs at your jobsites, as they are another effective advertising tool.
  • Identify growth opportunities. Are you considering focusing on different types of projects? New commercial construction or multi-dwelling maintenance, for instance? These can be profitable segments but it is important to know what your business needs to service different market segments. You may need different types of insurance bonds, application equipment and employee training, to name a few. Be sure you understand these markets fully, so you develop a good plan for success.
  • Invest wisely in your operations. To start, be careful not to make major investments that increase costs without bringing in additional revenue. Evaluate carefully what your business needs in the way of personnel, equipment and training in order to bid on and perform more work.

Early economic predictions point to continued, albeit conservative, growth in residential and commercial repaint and new construction projects in 2014. The main takeaway is the predictions are positive. Therefore, setting good, realistic goals; creating a solid plan; and having the perseverance to see them through are important factors to business success in any economic environment. So put your thinking cap on, start setting some goals for a successful new year!