By Michael Perrone
Dec. 3, 2009
What a year! For many, 2009 is a year they would like to forget. Between overleveraged mortgages, banks that failed or were too big to fail, and a restructuring of the auto industry, many individuals and businesses alike are ready to ring in 2010 with a more hopeful outlook.
In the coming months, the health care debate, business incentives and changes to the tax code will be at the forefront of local and national debates. Though important, these are issues in which the individual small business owner has minimal say. Instead of focusing on these larger issues, entrepreneurs should focus their companies' efforts on prudence, productivity and profit as we move into 2010.
While the economic freefall has halted and the economy even had some bright spots in 2009, most companies are not popping celebratory champagne. And as much as we'd all like to see 2010 bring a great recovery, many economists and so-called "financial experts" are predicting only a slightly stronger economy in 2010. Next year, prudence will be the name of the game.
With a sharp eye on spending, small businesses will need to be prudent in their decision-making and ensure they are making the right investments. Finding employees that have the right skill set, investing in developing or marketing your best product, and selecting solutions that will help your company grow will all demand prudence.
But this careful decision-making will not only focus on spending, but on all aspects of a small business. Many small businesses may reexamine their niche market or how they "have always done things" to find new, better norms. Just as Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "-¦a little rebellion now and then is a good thing," a shake-up of how your small business operates may be in order.
In the last few years, many companies learned to do more with less as cuts in spending and employment left many small businesses demanding more of their employees. In 2010, productivity will remain vital as small businesses continue to ask their employees to carry a heavy workload. For companies to succeed, they need to arm their employees with tools that will help them improve their productivity.
By identifying and implementing the right solutions, small businesses can get more out of their employees and save money. Increased productivity among full-time employees can result in more sales, the development of better products and services, faster completion of tasks, and improved customer service.
Regardless of the industry, many companies will turn to technology solutions that can improve productivity. For example, a doctor's office may select an Interactive Voice Response system (IVR) to more efficiently handle and direct calls during and after business hours. Companies with hourly employees, like field service repair companies, may use location-based services to track field technicians and redirect them based on cost drivers like fuel consumption. Or, many businesses may look to deploy BlackBerrys to their staff to help them stay connected anytime, anywhere helping fuel productivity. Finding solutions that improve productivity will greatly impact a small businesses' bottom line.
One consequence of the downturn is many companies unfortunately closed their doors. As a result, those who survived the recession now have fewer competitors vying for customers. As the economy stabilizes, banks begin to loan more money and businesses are more comfortable with spending money, the small businesses that positioned themselves correctly will have a stronger opportunity for market penetration than they've likely seen in recent years. By making prudent decisions and focusing on driving productivity in small business today, companies will be well-positioned to profit in 2010 and beyond.
If the past 12 months have taught us anything, it's that no amount of economic forecasting is completely precise. But, let's all look forward to 2010 with a focus on prudence, productivity and profit, as well as the promise a New Year will bring to small businesses.
Michael Perrone is vice president and general manager of Detroit operations for Cbeyond (www.cbeyond.net/smb), a small business communications and IT provider. You can reach Michael at [email protected].