By Jerome Byers, head of Citibank Small Business
Bustling holiday shoppers are a welcome sign to small business owners across the country and they’re also a signal to start thinking about resolutions for the New Year. To pick a resolution that will pack your shop or increase orders all year through, it’s most effective to focus on a few top priority goals for 2013 in three main categories: Stronger customer relationships, more effective cash management or company reinvention.
1. Customer commitment
According to the most recent Citibank® Small Business Pulse survey, 80% say relationships with customers are one of the benefits to owning a small business. Expand on this benefit by resolving to make a deeper connection with customers. It’s already on the agenda for 67% of those surveyed who’ve increased face time with customers to keep their business thriving in today’s economy. If the goal is to expand the pool of new potential customers, then take a more active role in the community and other local organizations. Forty-seven percent of small business owners surveyed used this strategy to energize the business, an investment that yields goodwill in the community and provides inside knowledge about the local market.
2. Cash management
Small business owners are forced to think about cash management daily in a sluggish economy. Balancing daily cash flow challenges and the long-term strategic business plan can be difficult, but it’s essential to a thriving business. This year, consider focusing on slow and delinquent receivables, which was the greatest cash management challenge for 30% of survey respondents. If you find making a collection call uncomfortable like 23% of survey respondents do, resolve to set up a reminder system for customers that alerts them of a payment before it’s considered late. Or offer a small discount to customers who pay their bills early to encourage timely payments. Despite cash flow challenges, 78% of respondents have given payment extensions to customers. In 2013, be sure your company can manage without the influx of cash before handing out the extension.
3. Reinvention reinforcement
Intuitively, the New Year can be a great time to showcase business changes or new products. More than half of small business owners surveyed (52%) have reinvented their businesses to stay afloat or be more competitive in today’s marketplace. This year, if owner intuition points out a thirst for change, resolve to rely on research and market education as a first step toward reinvention. Many small business owners (88%) are remaining up to date and knowledgeable about their business and industry. To stay competitive and explore new business ideas, make 2013 a year to reach out to new industries and markets. A muse may lie among business owners outside your market.
Resolutions are often broken. But in 2013, use them as an opportunity to communicate company resilience in a tough economy. Engage customers on a new level. Tackle cash flow issues that have haunted previous quarters. Decide to reinvent some facet of the business – large or small. These resolutions will help energize the company and benefit customers.
Here’s a link to Citibank’s Small Business Resource Center:
Bio: Jerome Byers is the Head of Small Business Banking and Regional President of Consumer Banking for the Central Region. He also serves as President of the Chicago market. Byers has over two decades of experience in small business, retail and commercial banking. As the Head of Small Business, a segment of U.S. Consumer and Commercial Banking which has over 260,000 small and medium businesses, Byers is responsible for overseeing small business strategies and product offerings for current and prospective clients.
© 2012 Citigroup Inc. Citibank, N.A. Member FDIC. Citibank is a registered service mark of Citigroup Inc.