To help on both counts, here are seven resolutions to make your company more successful in 2018 (and beyond).
1. Track your cash flow
One of the best things you can do to improve your business and prepare for the next economic slowdown is to make cash flow projections. It’s easy and the benefits are huge. Using a spreadsheet, record your expected cash inflows and outflows for each week for the next three months, based on recent experience. (Larger, more stable businesses can do it on a monthly basis). Then, update your projections each week on a rolling basis. In this way, you get a handle on cash coming in from customers versus cash going out to suppliers and for fixed expenses. Now, you have a tool to anticipate times of tight cash flow and plan better for projects and financing needs.
2. Get creative in hiring
The growth of Canada’s workforce is grinding to a halt and that means competition for skilled workers is heating up. One talent pool many entrepreneurs overlook is immigrants. By 2032, they will account for 80% of Canada’s population growth. Yet, a recent BDC study found that just 6% of Canadian entrepreneurs currently rely on them for skilled labour. Your business may be missing out on an important opportunity if you’re not seeking out immigrants and making your workplace more welcoming for them.
Another way to find and keep great people is by offering them more than just a job. Study after study has shown that people want a sense of purpose in their work. At Beau’s Brewery in Vankleek Hill, Ontario, Steve Beauchesne does this by focusing on the environmental sustainability of his craft brewery. He also hires homeless people in nearby Ottawa to deliver beer and gives employees shares in the company. So how can you infuse your company with a higher purpose?
3. Diversify your business
As you consider investments for the coming year, focus on diversifying your business by finding new customers, opening new markets and adding products to your line-up. A BDC study on diversification found that even a modest degree of diversification is associated with superior financial performance, regardless of the size of the business. The most diversified firms experience by far the fastest growth.
4. Up your technology game
There’s a lot of talk about high-tech advances like artificial intelligence, advanced robotics and big data. It may all seem beyond the reach of smaller businesses. But the reality is that every business can enjoy the benefits of digital technologies, thanks to a new generation of apps that are both low-cost and easy to use. The beginning of the new year is a good time to re-evaluate your technology strategy and assets. What solutions could help you improve your financial management, operations and online marketing?
One company that’s benefitted from technology is From Rachel, a Montreal e-commerce business founded by three young women. It sells great looking, high-quality stockings, leggings and socks. A few years ago, sales were slow until the founders figured out how to use an online questionnaire to develop “a style profile” for each customer and customize individual orders. Sales took off—quadrupling every year and now the company has plans to expand internationally.
5. Broaden your export horizons
We don’t know what the outcome of the NAFTA renegotiation with the U.S. and Mexico will be. Whatever happens, our neighbour to the south will remain an important market for Canadian goods and services. However, this is a good time for Canadian entrepreneurs to consider other international markets. Many developing countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa are experiencing exceptional growth rates. And Canada has signed a free trade agreement with the European Union that allows 98% of Canadian goods to enter the EU duty-free.
6. Benchmark against the competition
Boosting your company’s productivity will make it more competitive and profitable today while making it stronger to withstand an economic downturn tomorrow. A great place to start is by benchmarking your performance against that of your competitors. To get you started, BDC worked with Statistics Canada to create the Canadian Productivity Benchmarking Tool. In just a few minutes, it allows you to measure your productivity level and compare it with similar businesses in your industry. It’s free and easy to use. Once you know where you stand, you can work on improving by making your business processes leaner and investing in technology and equipment.
7. Energize your sales with content marketing
It’s getting harder and harder to reach your customers with traditional advertising. And even when you can get your message in front of them, it’s more likely to turn them off than get them to open their wallets. The solution? Build a community around your brand by becoming the go-to source in your area of expertise. Think about how you can help your customers answer a question, solve a problem or avoid a hassle. It’s not hard—just think about the questions you hear every day. And then start producing helpful content—blogs, videos, eBooks and use your social media pages to promote it. Now, you’re not just another company trying to sell a service or a product, you’re a trusted advisor. Get going with content marketing and the sales will follow.