Ten Steps to Thrive in 2011

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Economists say the Great Recession -- the longest and deepest since World War II -- ended 18 months ago and that the U.S. economy is, in fact, growing again. But growth is relative. Even the rosiest economic forecasts for 2011 come in well under 3 percent growth. Unemployment is still high, and consumer spending is still sluggish.

That doesn't mean sit and wait for things to improve. Rather, retool for the economy that exists today, and will be lingering for many tomorrows. Here are 10 places to start.

1. Overhaul your business plan. Rethinking your business plan can help you spot new opportunities and point your company in the right direction. For step-by-step advice, check out the U.S. Small Business Administration's guide.

2. Double down on what works. Whatever paid off in 2010 is worth investing more time, money and resources next year. Ask yourself: What was your top-selling product or service, and how can you get your customers to buy more? What money-saving strategies went straight to the bottom line? What incentives or promotions got your customers' attention?

3. Experiment. The best time to try something new? When the old isn't working. It may feel safer to stay in your comfort zone, but sticking with the same old product, service or marketing strategy might actually be riskier.

4. Fire your D-grade customers. Make a list of your customers and give each of them a grade. Then dump everyone below a C--or a B, if you can afford it. Once you've separated the winners from the losers, put a plan in place to turn those laggards into A-listers. Going forward, use those criteria to size up new business.

5. Become an 'A' customer. When prices are low, as they are now, it's generally a good time to lock in long-term contracts with your regular vendors, contractors and suppliers. Indeed, you might be able to negotiate a lower price in return for the promise of your business. 

6. Expand your network. Facebook and LinkedIn have their uses, but they'll never replace face-to-face meetings, especially to win new business and get referrals.

7. Leverage your brand. "What do you bring to the table that no one else is serving up to clients and potential clients?"asks Debra Condren, a New York business psychologist. "You must first understand what sets you apart and then become completely fluent in communicating to your target audience what separates you from the herd."

8. Get some credit. The mortgage market is starting to thaw, and that's good news for small-business owners who can tap their home equity for working capital. If you have good credit and some equity in your house, now may be the time to refinance before interest rates rise.

9. Fire up your employees. Think about creating a bonus plan to motivate employees to hit your 2011 goals.

10. Team up. Working with "channel partners" -- companies that target the same market but with products or services different from yours--can be an ultra-efficient marketing strategy. 

 

This posting was originally written by Rosalind Resnick as featured in The Street.



Setting Up a Home Office: 13 Essentials for Working at Home

Berger, Lauren."Setting Up a Home Office: 13 Essentials for Working at Home." Marie Claire 6 Mar. 2010

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Malkin, Nina. "5 Best Looks to Land the Job." Good Housekeeping 8 Feb. 2010. Print

Malkin, Nina. "5 Best Looks to Land the Job." Good Housekeeping 8 Feb. 2010. Print

 

What to Wear to a Job Interview: 5 Best Looks to Land the Job: For a great first impression at an interview — and every day at work — learn from these five women, whose confidence-boosting makeovers showed them the new fashion, hair, and makeup rules.

Continue reading "Malkin, Nina. "5 Best Looks to Land the Job." Good Housekeeping 8 Feb. 2010. Print" »

How Not to Go AWOL (Absent Without Leisure)

Dear Debra: I get so stressed out planning to leave work for vacation and check in so constantly while I’m gone that by the time I finally unwind, vacation’s almost over, and then of course when I get back to the office I’m snowed under the pileup.  How can I make leaving and returning to the office after vacation less stressful?

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How to Start Your Own Business While Working Full-Time For Someone Else

Dear Debra: I’m dying to start a small business. How can I find time to set myself up as an entrepreneur while working 9-5 for someone else?

Claim two hours a day for start-up activities. One is for creative, strategic, hard planning—activities that require your brain to be fully awake and fired up. The second hour is for the roll-up-your-sleeves, boring, rote grunt work that doesn’t call for mental alertness or focus—just time. Every one of us can find two otherwise wasted hours, no matter what our work and life situation.

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How To Protect Your Credit

Dear Debra: We agree on roles and responsibilities in our team meetings. Then two people, in cahoots go off, change the rules, put their names on our team’s work, and hog credit. Later, after they’ve already been recognized as project drivers by supervisors, they play dumb when we, their team members, try and call them on it. How can we stop sneaky, passive aggressive credit-stealing behavior without coming across as whiners?

Before any group project begins, get explicit written agreements that specify how responsibilities, financial rewards, and credit will be apportioned.

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Small Business Holiday Marketing on a Shoestring

Dear Debra:  What holiday marketing promotional strategies can a small business owner operating under cash crunch can utilize? I know it’s smart to tie in with seasonal themes, but need to be frugal in this economy.

Create a 3-part telephone conference series, scheduled once a week a few weeks prior to the holiday you're tying in with. Rent an inexpensive bridge line (under $25 for each seminar or some providers offer free, bare bones services if you want to do your own recordings). Your participants need only a regular telephone line; they'll call in at the designated time, punch in the passcode you provide, and then sit back and enjoy 60 minutes of your presentation, interactive discussion, or maybe you'll decide to interview experts on your topics.

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Honesty Can Turn Fearful Employees Into Well-Informed Allies

Dear Debra: I run a small business with thirteen employees.
I’m worried about the possibility of having to do layoffs, of not having enough business coming in to make payroll.  I’m not there yet, but I’m scared.  Everyone here is like family.  Except they’re not, because at the end of the day, it’s about business and staying afloat.  But I care.  And of course they too are terrified about their own security.  I don’t know what or how much to tell them.  I need my employees to keep going, but what do I say when they ask me for assurances that they’ll have a job next week, next month, or next year?  –Unsteady at the helm

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Get A Website—and Blog—Up By Sundown Tonight

Dear Debra: Do I need a website? I only launched my small business three months ago. How do I set up a website? I’m not a techie! –29-year-old with Dog Walking Biz

Not having a website is like saying, “I don’t have a business card yet.”

When you meet people and talk about your business, they undoubtedly ask, “Do you have a website?” If you answer, “Not yet,” you’re communicating that you don’t take yourself and your work seriously, so why should they trust your expertise enough to hire you?

Here’s how to quickly and efficiently get your websiteand blogup by sundown tonight.

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