Resolutions small business owners should keep all year long - FOX 21/27 WFXR Roanoke/WWCW Lynchburg News, Weather

Resolutions small business owners should keep all year long

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While we all start the new year hoping to better ourselves, business owners have another improvement goal to think about: strengthening their business. But while personal promises to go to the gym more or read 50 books often fall by the wayside, business owners have to keep up their efforts to keep their ventures thriving in a strained economy.

As any business owner knows, maintaining existing success is important, but growth is critical. A stagnant business is at risk for becoming obsolete, so finding new ways to be more efficient and to get more attention from potential customers should be the focus of any business resolutions.

As you look forward to a year that builds on the success of the past, keep these tips in mind to help your business stay vital and thriving.

* Specialize - In an effort to build business, many companies try to be everything to everyone. But that effort can often backfire if you end up spreading yourself too thin. Keep the focus on what you know and what you do best and develop that as much as you can. If you already find yourself feeling overextended, conduct some research to find out where your strengths really lie - you might even want to do a customer survey. If you need to streamline to focus on your best abilities, get started as soon as you can.

* Get a website - If you're not online, you don't exist. It sounds harsh, but in today's digital world, it's a truth that every business needs to face. There are easy, economical website design solutions that virtually anyone can use, so don't assume that you need to have a dedicated staff of Web gurus. As important as it is to simply have a website, you should also work to make sure that it's frequently updated and functioning smoothly. A website that's confusing or hard to use is a deterrent for customers.

* Make use of social media - Social media isn't just a free-time activity; it should be a part of your business strategy. Business owners have known for years the importance of word-of-mouth advertising, and this is word-of-mouth on a global scale. Be smart about how you use it - keep it updated, fresh and interactive. It'll give your customers a chance to interact with you in a way that builds and strengthens relationships.

* Network - It's not just for individuals - actively pursuing relationships for your business can be just as profitable. Developing business-to-business partnerships can show you new ways to either improve what you're currently doing or discover ways to build mutually beneficial initiatives with other businesses. Attend business events, both within your field and more general gatherings of local business owners to see where you can forge new partnerships.

Your business will only be vital as long as you make the effort to keep developing and looking for areas to improve. Keep that in mind all year long and you'll find the results you're looking for.