Businesses Hope to Start Fresh with the Dawn of a New Year
Whether a new day, week, month or year, the object is to start strong and stay strong personally and for business. A fresh strategy serves customers best.
James L Katzaman
Take charge of the things you can control to serve everyone best
Whether a new day, week, month or year, the object is to start strong and stay strong personally and for business.
To that, Amy Hampton might add to start a career strong. She is newly minted as a web, graphics and instructional designer. Her forte and obsession is all things related to calligraphy and lettering.
Being letter perfect would be fine, although at this early stage of her personal startup, Hampton is smart enough to be good and getting better.
She talked with established entrepreneurs Ivana Taylor and Iva Ignjatovic who were in the midst of their own annual assessments. Taylor owns DIYMarketers, “committed to helping small business owners get out of overwhelm.” Ignjatovic is a marketing, strategy and business consultant.
Hampton resisted the temptation to rush ahead without enough preparation.
“I’m a slow and steady kind of gal,” she said. “It’s nice to have a chance to get things in place.”
For that, Hampton can draw on close to three decades of experience. She has been designing websites since 1996 and opened her freelance web studio in 2007.
“Since then I’ve also worked for several years as a college adjunct and finished my master’s degree — adding an instructional design credential to the mix,” Hampton said.
Her studio has been on hiatus due a death in the family followed by the pandemic delaying graduation, prompting her to redo her graduate thesis.
With that in her rearview mirror, Hampton is setting her sights on the launch of her new website — a project that calls for a steady hand to do right.
Taylor also likes to start slow.
“I use the week before the new year to gear up,” she said. “Then I ease into implementation. I like to zig when others zag.”
Such cautions are well founded. Best Small Business Loans reports that 66 percent of small businesses have to constantly face financial difficulties.
“I start how I must start,” Ignjatovic said. “This year I can start slow and build momentum.”
Adjust to Outside Forces
Whatever the hoped-for speed of preparation, a rolling pandemic lurks to complicate matters.
“I’m so glad to be fully vaccinated,” Hampton said, “We have immunocompromised folks in our immediate family, so it was important.
“We’re so blessed to have the tech to meet virtually, but it’s still not the same,” she said. “Better safe than sorry.”
Taylor plans to carry on while juggling business and housework.
“I’ll work as usual,” Ignjatovic said. “The pace, however, depends on my clients. We’ll see. Things are already on the move.”
After finishing graduate school and squeezing in down time, Hampton is primed to go.
“It’s back to business,” she said. “I’m reopening my web studio to client work, expanding into do-it-yourself design consultation and experiments into different creative areas. There’s lots to learn.”
Taylor’s DIY projects include focusing on building a quarterly video series.
All of this is in service to customers to whom entrepreneurs know they owe a great debt. NerdWallet found that 31 percent of small business owners who temporarily closed due to COVID attribute their reopening to customer support.
That’s one reason why Ignjatovic plans to focus on process optimization to serve customers as well as herself.
“It’s a hard reset,” Hampton said. “I’ve set up new studio space for creative work and added new planning methods focusing on 12-week chunks. I’m scheduling time for networking online and focusing on using the resources I have available.”
Taylor is switching email tools and adding new content types.
To aid preparation, DIYMarketers has a post, “Top 7 Invoicing Tools for Small Businesses — Free and Paid.”
Manage the Calendar
“I’m setting many things straight, improving my work space, and I’m debt free,” Ignjatovic said. “It’s a clean slate.”
Business owners would like to make their futures more predictable or at least more controllable.
“Protect your calendar,” Hampton said. “The one thing that we can control is our personal calendars. Add your big rocks first and keep them sacred. We can’t control what happens to us, but we can control our response to it.”
Taylor will rely heavily on creating her video series to drive all of her company’s content.
“Wish me luck,” she said with a laugh. “Best laid plans… I have the videos and now have to convert them to content. If there’s anything we’ve learned it’s that ‘control’ is an illusion. We can only control ourselves.”
Technology will be a great part of that control. A Forbes survey states that tech is going to be front and center for 78 percent of small business owners.
“There’s not enough data to make forecasts,” Ignjatovic said. “It would be a waste of time to calculate anything with so many unknowns. I keep my eyes, ears and mind open to catch early signs of major things.”
Most business owners hope to bring pet projects to life.
“First up is a new website,” Hampton said. “I’ve put it off for way too long. No excuses for this now. To use an old metaphor, this cobbler needs to make herself some shoes.”
Taylor intends to enhance her customer focus.
“I’m updating my outreach to my community,” she said. “I’m fully committed to getting to know my audience.”
Family Above All
Beyond business, top business owners keep their home in mind. Luisa Zhou Live states that 58 percent of successful entrepreneurs spend time with their loved ones in the evenings. Plus, 55 percent keep their weekends free for their families.
On the corporate front, owners realize that good money management now will give them a more secure future.
“The only way to stay competitive is to keep on learning for what’s coming next,” Ignjatovic said. “Mostly it’s technology and how to apply the new areas to small businesses.
“Every day is challenging,” she said. “I optimize, prioritize, bulk tasks when possible and set frameworks.”
Hampton is anxious about being newly locked in on business.
“I look forward to doing all the new business things — new social media, starting a blog,” she said. “So much has changed since I went freelance in 2007 — especially me.”
Besides individual customers, companies have programs to help other companies.
“I love that businesses offer jumpstart programs so much that I’m running one of my own,” Taylor said. “I also sent an email tip after which my open rates went from like 25 to 80 percent. I was blown away. There’s tons of tips like that.”
One of the pointers includes the DIYMarketers post, “Office 365 Marketing Features You May Have Missed.”
“My clients often do a full debrief of the previous year,” Ignjatovic said. “I’ve taken that on as well.”
Strategies Drive Productivity
Maximizing productivity will continue to be among corporate priorities.
“Work on the best strategy plan for you and your business,” Hampton said. “I see so many trying to keep up with the Joneses that they burn themselves out. Decide what’s ‘enough’ for you, and make plans to do your best.”
That is what helps businesses set themselves apart.
“Find that one thing that performed ‘better than the others,’ and optimize that,” Taylor said. “Keep working to make it better before you go on to something new.
“I always give the same advice for 1–2–3 marketing,” she said. “One is strategy, two for tactics and no more than three tools. Focus.”
There is also a time to relax.
“You can’t work all the time,” Ignjatovic said. “We all need to desaturate from our jobs. I rest my brain because that’s way more difficult than resting the body.”
Staying energized and ready is a mental game.
“The best way for me to stay organized is to focus on a single strategy and two tactics,” Taylor said. “If I do that, the rest falls into place.”
Ignjatovic depends on instincts honed through the years.
“I don’t have a plan,” she said. “My brain has always been wired to a certain mental level. I just keep on moving, doing what I need to do.”
Feeling her way back into the business world, Hampton pursues her vision.
“I’m taking things one day at a time — taking time to clarify goals and outcomes,” she said. “I intend to use my resources more wisely. We’re all so hopeful at the start.”
About The Author
James L Katzaman
Jim Katzaman is a manager at Largo Financial Services and worked in public affairs for the Air Force and federal government. You can connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.