7 New Year's business resolutions for 2017

Personally, I haven't made any New Year's resolutions since I was about 13 and determined to get onto the school soccer team. As you get older, you realize that choosing January 1st to change yourself or the world is a little restricting.

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Life involves constant change and reassessment, week in and week out. But for many in business, especially those who split the year into quarters, seeing out the old and welcoming the new is a recognized line in the sand.

For companies, it's often the perfect time to review the year gone before launching your business plan for 2017. So with that in mind, here are my 7 resolutions for the small business in 2017.

1. Grow your business

It's the ultimate goal for any business. Customers are our lifeblood, and attracting more while keeping our loyal ones happy is the key to successful business growth. Of course, that's easier said than done.

Researching success stories from the internet - from all sectors - can help inspire and advise. Take every opportunity to network, both offline and online (if the idea of networking fills you with dread, take a look at this infographic filled with networking tips).

And keep in touch with your old customers. By all means, offer new customers incentives, but don't alienate your loyal customers by failing to incentivize them or taking them for granted.

2. Learn from your mistakes

Even if you've had a good year, it's unlikely that everything went off without a hitch. And what about the one that got away? Was it price? Was it service? Was it my quirky tie?

I like to get together with my team at the start of the year for a candid chat about what we could've done better, identifying any problems and thinking about what steps we can take to tackle them or stop it happening again.

3. Develop my business and people

People like to work for a company that empowers them within the workplace and wants them to progress, not only in their careers, but as a person.

I don't mean forcing them to go on 'inspirational seminars' to tick a box, but instead actively encouraging them to seek out opportunities and interests where they can develop their skills and bring those new or enhanced talents back to the workplace. Remember too that small businesses may qualify for state and federal grants to help train employees.

There are also hundreds of companies out there willing to share their experience and expertise. Technology is increasing at an ever-faster pace, so keep a lookout for the latest and greatest, effective online tools to help with accounting, planning, budgeting and forecasting.

4. Step up to social media

This is a subject I've blogged about before and have a real passion for. Social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are often the most effective way of reaching customers old and new - and they're free!

It takes a little effort, but the results can be rewarding, both financially and personally. It allows you to take your business to thousands of potential customers and have a conversation with them in real time. The key is to be interesting and post content that your customers will find engaging.

My top social media tip? Don't just blog about your products. That gets very dull, very quickly. What's new in your industry? What are your customers interested in? Remember the fun stuff! And make sure you always respond to your customers' comments - good or bad (especially bad!)

5. Encourage team spirit

I've always tried to surround myself with great team members. Sometimes, I've employed people who may not have been the best qualified, but were a great fit with the people around them. A good team is worth its weight in gold, and should be encouraged and nurtured.

If your business has gone through some tough times (and even if it hasn't), don't forget the old adage of 'all work and no play'. Team building - as long as it's not forced upon them - should be part of any company's ethos.

It may be a day out, an evening at a restaurant, or - if you're big on Corporate Social Responsibility - a paid, volunteering day at a worthy charity or community event. Either way, make sure the team has a very large say in the choice, just in case your preference for winter swimming isn't everyone's idea of fun.

6. Increase employee wellbeing

Helping your workers to stay healthy should be very high on your business agenda. Not only it is the right thing to do as a caring employer, but helping employees to keep fit and stay in worknaturally has a positive impact on absence management costs.

Inviting companies in to provide a basic health check, advice or workshops on de-stressing can flag up any potential problems early or even help prevent them. At the other end of the scale, providing healthy snacks in your canteen or vending machine, or making sure free fruit is available in communal areas can go a long way to a healthy lifestyle. Or for somewhere in the middle, consider offering gym memberships or gym subsidies.

And don't forget other harder wellbeing benefits such as medical insurance, dental or optical, or benefits that help look after their financial wellbeing like disability insurance or accident insurance. They don't always have to cost as much as you think if you choose to provide them as voluntary benefits.

7. Lead, don't follow

In tough economic times, we all have a tendency to batten down the hatches and wait for the storm to pass. But there comes a time where you have to say 'enough's enough'. You don't lead, invent or become a pioneer by playing it safe.

We're all familiar with the 'spend money to make money' cliché. But it's a cliché because it's usually true. And it doesn't necessarily mean that you need to kiss part of your budget goodbye. If you or a member of staff has a great idea, whether that's service-based, product-based or even just some studied thoughts on how something internal could be better, run with it.

Happy 2017 everyone!