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YOUR 2009 ACTION LIST!

I always love the New Year. For me, late December and early January have always been a time of intense planning. What changes should I make for the New Year? What are my income goals, and how do I plan to get there? These questions have always been part of my annual business analysis.

Once I have set my goals for the year, I review action ideas that I’ve used in the past and that I know will work. In this month’s issue is a series of quick-action ideas that I think might help your business. I have listed 41. You may be able to use all of them, but you need only one to make a difference in what you’re doing. The action ideas are not in any particular order, so consider each of them the same. It may be the first or the last you find most helpful, but consider them all your business New Year Resolutions!

1. Add a ‘call to action’ in all your advertisements. Give people a specific reason to call you now; give them a toll-free number to do it with, and specifically tell them to “act now.”

2. Review your old customer records. Write a specific letter to each of them offering a special discount if they will do business with you today.

3. Get testimonials from your customers. Use them in all your promotions. Third-party testimonials are considered the most powerful form of advertising.

4. Establish your own referral network. Get a group of business people together that are non-competing and pledge referrals to each other. Meet once per month to thank each other and give ideas of the type of customers and clients you may be looking for. Commitment if the key for each participant.

5. Become the expert in your business. Write a book, report, article, newspaper column, or seminar about your topic and publish it yourself to get it circulating. When you circulate your best ideas, good things happen.

6. Develop at least one add-on or “up-sell” to your main product. Always offer the add-on every time the main product is offered. It should be low cost, and high profit. Start now and it will help you make up any recession fall-off in your business.

7. Make it more convenient for your customer to do business with you. Increase your hours, add a toll-free number, accept credit cards, etc.

8. Raise your prices. Don’t be afraid to raise your rates sometimes. As an alternative, consider raising your rates for new clients, but discounting them for your current customers.

9. Do a cost audit of your business. Consider alternatives to every vendor or supplier you have. For example, competitively price your long-distance carrier. Compare UPS to Federal Express. Eliminate waste. A dollar saved goes right to the bottom line profit.

10. Consider buying “shareware” computer programs. Before you buy name brands, just as in the case of prescription drugs, generic software is much cheaper and will often do an equal job.

11. Trade high interest rate credit cards for low interest rate cards. If you pay off your balance every month, get a no fee card.

12. Before adding a new employee, try a temporary. See if the increased work is short term. Outsourcing jobs is a growing trend for all businesses.

13. Become tax smart. Learn all of the business deductions and be creative in how you can reduce your taxes. Deductions save you the percentage of your tax bracket. Tax credits save you dollar for dollar.

14. Incorporate your business. If you are a sole proprietorship or partnership, liability protection is extremely important in this day of never-ending lawsuits.

15. Set up a monthly automatic investment. Don’t put off your long-range planning. Set aside 10% of everything you make for investing in your future. The investment could be for more marketing.

16. Arrange for a discount with your suppliers if you are able to pay on invoice. If you are having cash flow problems, reverse the procedure and ask for 90 days same as cash.

17. Buy your office supplies from major wholesalers. Use Office Depot, Price and Costco, and don’t let individual employees order their own supplies. Adopt a set list of products a new employee can have and exclude anything else.

18. Get a separate credit card for your business. All interest paid on that card can easily be determined as deductible.

19. Join the National Association for your business. Attend the national convention. This will keep you informed of the latest ideas in your industry. Also take advantage of discounts they arrange with vendors.

20. Buy a book on time management. Incorporate at least one time-saving idea into your daily life.

21. Consider bartering your services. Be liberal. The barter, even if worthless, may lead to a new client. You should also consider offering your services to non profits; it would be a way of meeting a new group of potential clients.

22. Raise your insurance deductible. There is a big premium difference between $250 and $1,000. Weigh the annual difference and consider self-insurance for the higher deductible.

23. Update your business plan with changes for the New Year. If you have never done one, now is a good time to organize your thoughts and plan your direction.

24. As long as you’re updating plans, review your specific marketing ideas and objectives for this year. Don’t just spend money on whatever comes along; plan your expenditures. Use only advertising that allows you to back your reason. If you don’t know your reason, you’re wasting money.

25. In 25 words or less, write out your Unique Selling Proposition. What is it that makes you better than your competitors? Make sure your customers know what it is.

26. Use free advertising by getting publicity. Do press release on newsworthy events. Create a scholarship for high school. Donate time and money to your local charity. In a nutshell, get involved and let people know it.

27. Consider joint ventures with other companies. You can piggy back on their business; be quick and ready to pay for referrals where payment is legally allowed.

28. Survey your customer or hire an outside company to do so. Find out what they really think. What they like and don’t like. Make changes which heed their advice.

29. Send thank-you notes for anything and everything done for you. Do it because it is the right thing to do, not just because it will help your business.

30. Do a profile on your customers. So that you can be a target market your advertising and promotions. Once you know your customers’ demographics, you can go after them more effectively and increase results from your marketing dollar.

31. Hire an outside person to be a test prospect. See how your customers are actually treated. Find out what your sales people are truly promising your customers. The outside company can quickly give you the inside on your company.

32. Focus on making your business profitable over and above what you take out as a salary. Remember, there is more to being in business than simply making payroll. Don’t just create a job for yourself.

33. Consider a home equity loan to expand your business. Refinance as rates fall this year and pay it back with a better business.

34. Step up your collection process. Use credit cards to get money faster.

35. Add shipping and handling charges to any order. Everyone has them, and it has become common place. If you are absolutely against them, make sure you promote the fact that you don’t charge for shipping and handling.

36. Make your life directly related to your business so that everything you do becomes deductible. Vacation on business and dine with business clients.

37. Maximize your retirement contributions. Get control of the investing of those dollars yourself. Don’t miss out on the time value of money and the enormous advantage of tax-free compounding.

38. Consider asset protection with everything you do. Incorporate your business and use estate planning strategies -- not just to save taxes, but to minimize the chance of losing everything in a lawsuit.

39. Keep immaculate business records. This will save your neck in government audits and lawsuits. Use internal memos to the file and confirm everything in writing. If it’s not worth writing, it’s not worth doing.

40. Update your life and health insurance cost. For an independent analysis and recommendation of the cheapest insurance use an insurance audit.

41. Develop Additional Profit Centers for YOUR Business.

If you studied the preceding list, I know that you will agree there were some powerful ideas contained in a few pages. I would hope that you would save the list to review again in the months ahead. I find that as I scan through a list of powerful ideas, others will formulate in my mind. Sometimes even better ideas because they are usually directly related to my business; and that process is, of course, what psychologists refer to as imaging, and it is a terrific way for individuals to brainstorm with themselves.

While editing my list for publication to you, it occurred to me (through imaging) that one of the best resolutions of all (#41) would be to add an additional profit center to your business no matter what that business is. After all, you already have overhead clicking away, so anything you do to “add-on” makes your profits grow exponentially. When you consider this strategy, keep an open mind and consider not only new profit centers related to your business, but that it may actually be an entirely new business. For instance, this year we took one of our companies’ core competencies website developments and spun it off into a separate company doing outside work. This new business-in-a-business added a new six-figure income stream with little added overhead.