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New Year's Resolutions for Small Business Owners

As online shopping and pressure to deliver enhanced customer experiences rise, small business owners will need to re-evaluate their business strategies for success in 2014.

Go mobile. In 2014, small business owners should take the time to make sure their website accurately reflects their company and its brand. Is it up-to-date with information? Does it have a modern, simple design that makes it easy for visitors to navigate? Are there widgets for visitors to easily share your products and brand on various social media platforms? And perhaps most importantly, how does it look on a mobile device? In a world of smartphones and apps for everything, small business owners must optimize their search and email marketing strategies to stay relevant with online consumers. During the internet boom of the 90s, most small businesses avoided having a web presence. A decade later, smaller companies embraced the internet, but only half-heartedly, as the majority still didn’t offer e-commerce solutions for their customers. Although shifts in technology often occur first within the corporate world, followed by small businesses much later—this doesn’t have to be the case. Companies of all sizes, especially those that are smaller and lesser known, should be actively embracing mobility. What do most consumers do first thing in the morning and last thing before falling asleep? Check their mobile devices. It’s essential that small business owners become a part of daily consumer habits by integrating themselves into the mobile world somehow.

Go local. As a small business owner, you naturally strive for current and potential customers to adopt a ‘shop small’ initiative, looking to your business, instead of larger retailers, for the service or product you offer. In 2014, to encourage consumers to stay loyal to your business, small business owners should adopt a similar mindset. Pay it forward to other local businesses in your community by outsourcing to them for any products or services not rendered ‘in house.’ While budget is always top-of-mind for owners, ordering supplies in bulk from a large distributor isn’t the only way to stay within budget and provide product and services you can be proud of as a business owner. Local sourcing can not only be cost effective, it can help build community ties. Vendors close by your small business will have more in common with you in terms of language, business culture and background. Additionally, it's easier to conduct on-site meetings and inspections with a merchant in your backyard rather than long distance.

Protect assets. It’s common for many small business owners to launch a company as a sole proprietorship in which themselves and their business are one and the same. However, entrepreneurs should consider the protection that incorporation offers, regardless of the business size.  Forming an LLC or corporation is crucial for personal and professional financial stability. This protects personal assets from any company liabilities, including additional assets gained in the future! Make 2014 the year you form an LLC or corporation. There are many benefits to incorporating your business and the process is simple! Corporations are eligible for a number of tax breaks. If your business is incorporated, you have the opportunity to explore credits for providing health insurance, starting a retirement plan, providing child-care, improving access for the disabled or providing work to disadvantaged individuals. Additionally, in order to fully protect your business and personal assets, you need more than insurance. It’s crucial that business owners take steps to place assets beyond the reach of creditors. As an incorporated business, you will not personally be responsible for any business debt, as you are conducting your business in a manner that separates business assets from your personal assets. Another benefit? In most states, if you are an incorporated business, another business cannot file as a business with the same name. This helps build brand recognition amongst your customers and community. It also helps protect your business’ reputation from being tarnished by the doings of another business with the same name. Forming an LLC or corporation helps new businesses establish credibility with potential customers, employees, vendors and partners because they see you have made a formal commitment to your business. Now is the time to ensure you can retire at the time of your choosing by assessing current resources and building a savings and investment plan that accommodates your situation - incorporating your business makes it easier to establish retirement funds like a 401(k).

 

− Jennifer Friedman is the Chief Marketing Officer of Small Business at CT  and its subsidiary BizFilings.

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Jennifer Friedman

Jennifer Friedman is the Chief Marketing Officer of Small Business at CT  and its subsidiary BizFilings

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