by Hunter Hoffmann, Head of US Communications at Hiscox Insurance
The start of the year is already in the rearview mirror, but small business is about continual reinvention. Have you accomplished your New Year’s resolutions yet? Here are some tips you can use now to make your small business a success in 2014.
1. Join (or start using) Google+.
While Facebook’s 10 year anniversary is getting quite a bit of buzz, we have our sights set on Google+. The conversation among small businesses has changed from why there is a need to use social media, to what platform will most benefit their businesses.
With Google placing a heavier emphasis on a company’s Google+ activity in their search results, ramping up your presence on this site works in tandem to increase your SEO ranking. So, if your business is only active on Facebook and Twitter, you’re missing the boat. Not to mention, Google+ now has the second highest number of monthly users among mainstream social media sites and its future in 2014 looks just as bright.
2. Update your disaster plan.
From New York and New England to Atlanta, Mother Nature has thrown more than a few punches our way so far this year, which has been a constant reminder that small businesses should always be prepared for the next storm. Most of us have a disaster plan in the back of our filing cabinet somewhere, but when was the last time yours was actually updated? What if you had to put it into action on short notice? A good plan should cover everything from employees who aren’t able to make it to work, to supply chain management if a vendor’s operations went down. Small business owners should also keep an up-to-date inventory of assets and IT equipment at all times. So when a disaster does hit, a general liability business insurance policy can help recover both lost time and equipment.
3. Focus on training.
Employee training is an important part of growing professionally and building an engaged and productive workforce, so why aren’t we all doing it? According to Hiscox’s 5th annual EDNA of an Entrepreneur report, training isn’t a top priority for small business owners. Last year, over half (55 percent) of U.S. small business owners took zero professional development days. If you’re not taking any time to learn new skills or new techniques, you’re probably falling behind. Business owners should take the time this year to sharpen their skills and knowledge – as well as that of their teams – by attending a single day conference, or even logging into a webinar or two while you’re at your desk if that’s easier.
4. Know how to read a cash flow statement.
It’s unrealistic that you’ll be able to manage every tiny detail of your business all alone. It’s important to delegate or outsource some tasks, but financial statements should not be one of those items. Small business owners need to know as much about their business finances as possible. In order to do this effectively, the math should not be outsourced. Instead, business owners should ask their accountants for help with learning how to read these statements. You’ll be amazed at how much you can learn, and how much money you might be able to save by keeping this task in-house.
5. Understand Obamacare.
Politics aside, the Affordable Care Act includes a variety of measures to help small business owners lower premium costs, and increase access to affordable health insurance. But this is a lot for the average small business owner to wrap their heads around. The good news is that there is help available to tackle this last tip. The Small Business Administration offers webinars for small business owners to learn the basics of the new health care reform. Taking time to educate yourself now will put you ahead of the curve when the employer mandate for the Affordable Care Act happens on January 1, 2015.
There’s never time to rest as a small business owner, so it’s important to re-assess your priorities regularly throughout the year. Hopefully these tips will help you achieve success in your small business this year.
Hunter Hoffmann is Head of US Communications at Hiscox Insurance and is responsible for media relations, social media, internal communications and executive messaging. Hunter lives in New York City with his wife and two sons – Walker and Otis. In his spare time, he moonlights as Chief Marketing Officer and deliveryman for Junior’s Fresh, a fresh baby and toddler food delivery service and cafe in New York City founded by his wife, Michelle.