With January now in full swing, it’s time to start thinking about your business strategy for 2018. As the old adage goes, failing to prepare is preparing to fail, so having a plan in place can help you get ahead of the competition. Below, we’ve rounded up five things you must do.

  1. Review your staff

Whether you run a customer-facing business or an ecommerce website, having engaged and motivated staff is important. Sit down with each of your key members before the end of the year and review their needs and aspirations. Now is the time to put in place performance-related pay incentives, offer bonuses, promotions and other carrots. The more engaged and motivated you can get your staff for the year ahead, the more likely you are to find success in your industry.

Something else to consider is a new hire. The mentality of heading into a new year with a fresh face can be powerful – giving you endless motivation and new ideas to take your business in a new direction. Whatever position you’re considering hiring for, get it done before the year is out.

  1. Prepare new products

If you create your own products or services, then consider preparing some fresh additions to your lineup to celebrate the new year. Customers want to be able to buy the latest fashionable products, and so if you can create a sought-after product ready for launch in January, you could fill up your coffers in a usually quiet period of the trading year. Or if you want to get prepared for further ahead, planning your Valentine’s Day, Spring and Easter products makes sense, too.

  1. Broaden your horizons

Networking is one of the most important responsibilities of any business owner, so make sure you are working hard to create new contacts. Attend Christmas networking events, meet up with clients and buyers who you haven’t seen in awhile, and make it your aim to maintain and build relationships. If you’re new to networking and don’t know where to begin, then consider these top tips on how to ‘love’ networking from the Harvard Business Review.

  1. Think about marketing

Marketing is essential for businesses of all shapes and sizes, but the landscape is changing. The internet has made it easier than ever for small and medium-sized enterprises to stand out and increase their sales figures, but you’ll need the right skills and tools to get there. Social media, for example, is one of the simplest ways to promote your business and reach new customers, but if you’re internet savvy then you may struggle to write compelling social posts.

SEO, on the other hand, continues to be a “minefield” that many business owners choose to avoid. But the truth is that, if you invest in SEO today, you’ll thank yourself in six months time when you start to rank ahead of your competitors for relevant search terms. And, if you really don’t know where to begin, then outsourcing to a company that offers SEO for small businesses.

  1. Sensibly cost-cut

All businesses want to cut costs as and where they can, but this should never be at the expense of your staff or customers. Do a full audit of your business finances and see where your money is going; if you’re spending £500 a month on an advert in the local newspaper that isn’t bringing in new business, then you should cancel your subscription as soon as possible to save money. Keeping track of the small monthly fees and subscriptions can quickly save you thousands of pounds over the course of the year – money you can put back into marketing your business.

With the year drawing to a close, there’s never been a better time to make changes to your business and get ready for more customers. Whether you’re a startup or an established brand, we hope that these tips have offered some food for thought. Good luck with your business!