By this point, you may be weary of the year-end listicle. It seems there’s a way to evaluate every aspect of your life around this time of year, along with societal pressure to do so.
But when it comes to your business, it isn’t OK to just go with the status quo. That’s because your business’s health may be a major determinant of your own financial health and subsequent well-being. The vitality of your business can dictate whether you’re open or closed by next year.
We recommend asking yourself the following eight questions to properly evaluate your business in the new year. By answering "yes" to each question, your business will be well prepared for potential challenges ahead.
Is my cybersecurity up to par?
We’ll start off with a scary one. According to IBM, companies face a 26 percent risk of data breach in a two-year period. If you don’t properly screen emails for phishing attacks, are not partnered with a PCI Level 1 payment provider, don’t have best practices in place for safe web surfing and don’t effectively keep up with new hacks that could impact your security, a breach could be more likely and more devastating.
A data hack on your business can result in fines of up to $90 per compromised card, besides other penalties. Additionally, a hack can result in a huge drop in business as customer trust erodes. Follow these security tips to operate a smarter and safer intranet.
Do I have the right insurance for my business?
Insurance is an easy topic to overlook, especially when launching a brand-new business. Over time, however, neglecting this safeguard could jeopardize your business.
There are three insurance policies you might want to look into for your organization: general liability, property insurance and cyber liability insurance.
If you have employees or customers at an office or retail location, you’ll want general liability insurance. This insurance covers property-related claims, often related to slips and falls. Sound like no big deal? Fall-related claims total over $70 billion annually, according to the National Floor Safety Institute.
Property insurance helps cover costs associated with disasters such as fires, vandalism, theft, and cleanup and recovery. As detailed above, cybersecurity is a serious threat for any business. Cyber liability insurance covers the following:
- Monetary losses
- Investigations to determine the source of the breach
- Credit monitoring and other services for victims
- Future regulatory compliance costs
Am I promoting my business effectively?
You can have the most groundbreaking product out there, but if no one knows about it you won’t be successful. Not every means of promoting your business costs money, but some avenues you might want to look into include mobile marketing, guest posts if you operate a blog or have a web presence, social media targeting and events.
Every business is different. Some do well with low-budget pay-per-click ads, others do well at trade shows. Make it a habit to test and prove your marketing strategies until you know the method that delivers the best ROI for your business.
Do I know my target customer?
This is a big one, and it can be tough to accurately answer right out of the gate. It takes time to build your customer base and learn where your advertising and marketing dollars drive the most revenue. Who actually buys your product? What is your business’s buyer persona? Once you know this, it's much easier to get your product in front of your ideal customer.
To get started, try to understand who your customer isn’t, why your customers choose you and what your customer profile is. This can be developed through surveys and market research.
Am I supporting my employees?
Your employees are a huge driver of your success. If they believe in the product and are treated fairly, they’ll be your best brand ambassadors. If you don’t already have training protocols in place and methods of keeping employees engaged at work, or don’t lead effectively by example, the new year is a perfect time to implement new procedures and protocols that make employees feel safe and motivated.
Do I have a fair payment provider?
If you accept credit card payments, you’re familiar with the monthly bill that notes your credit card processing fees. Have you taken the time to review your merchant statement and question whether all the charges listed are fair?
Truth be told, it’s hard to find an honest payment provider — but they do exist. Take the time to educate yourself on common unethical billing practices that could be hurting your bottom line. By being informed, you can effectively negotiate with your current provider and seek a new one if you believe you’re being treated unfairly. When shopping, avoid providers that have terminal leases, annual contracts and outdated payment technology.
Do I need an online presence?
The internet and social media aren’t going anywhere. Even if you operate a new business, having an online presence gives you the authority you need to earn initial customers and grow a solid base over time. As you start to gain traffic to your website and retail stores, consider adding an e-commerce component. Online shopping carts such as 3dcart make it easy to set up an online store that provides a new venue for potential sales with very low overhead costs.
Can I go green this year?
It never hurts to produce less waste. From reducing your reliance on paper plates and single-use cutlery to using Dropbox for document management, it’s easy to promote an environmentally friendly office space while reducing unnecessary clutter. Plus, it boosts efficiency too.
One way you may consider going paperless this year is with your receipts. Traditional credit card readers require a paper receipt copy for both the business and the customer. Luckily, Virtual Terminals now exist to offer digital receipts for both business and customer reference. They’re searchable, legally recognized in the event of a chargeback and reduce your paper-related expenses. Go green and benefit both the planet and your wallet this year.
These are our tips for how to have a successful new year. What are yours? What changes have you made in the past that worked well for your business? We’d love to hear from you!
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in December 2016 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and accuracy.