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New year's resolutions for your business

1) Keep your books in better order

Accounting may not be the most exciting part of running a business – but it’s certainly one of the most important! Without well managed accounts, you’ll struggle to know how much money you’re making or how much you need to pay the taxman. So why not pledge to dedicate a set amount of time every week to sorting out and staying on top of your financial data?

Check your figures thoroughly and make sure your expenses are properly calculated – don’t leave them in a shoebox for later. And, if you’re not doing so already, consider using online accounting software to manage your accounts more easily, rather than struggling with spreadsheets. Remember that good bookkeeping can give you very useful information such as whether your business is making enough profit and bringing in enough cash to cover all its costs and leave some money over for you. So neglect your books at your peril!

2) Open your business to wider markets

What better time than a new year to consider taking your business down a new avenue? If you’ve reviewed all of the potential costs and found that your business can afford to branch out, could you start making a new product – or even offer a new service? Or could you join the growing number of small businesses who are selling to different countries?

Online businesses can easily sell to anyone, anywhere. Make use of sites such as Alibaba (for goods) and Elance (for services) to share what you can offer worldwide and broaden your horizons.

3) Review your customer list

Does your heart sink at the very thought of trading with some of your customers – and are there others who you’re always glad to hear from? Remember, it’s your business, so you don’t have to deal with anyone if you don’t want to! Perhaps you can look through your customer list and identify all the people who take ages to pay, or who argue and quibble about what they have to pay, or even just those that are generally unpleasant. Then, provided you feel that your business can afford to do so, it may be time to politely point them to another supplier.

But remember, overhauling your customer list doesn’t need to be about getting rid of problematic customers. Why not ask your good customers to refer you to their friends? You could even introduce a dedicated referral scheme so that they receive a reward for every person they successfully introduce to your business. Personal recommendations can often be the most powerful form of advertising.

4) Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Do you find yourself struggling to work something out and then spend ages searching the internet desperately trying to find an answer? Does your business suffer because you’re trying to manage everything on your own and you just can’t spend enough time on each part? Remember that you don’t have to do everything yourself. People love to be asked for help and you’ll be surprised how much assistance you’ll get if you look in the right places. Honestly.

Use your network, use your contacts, and build more contacts so that you’ll always be able to ask an expert for advice. And remember to share your expertise in return.

5) Pay your taxes on time to avoid penalties

You may have heard of HMRC’s “Time to Pay” scheme, which can give you more time to pay your tax. But anecdotal evidence suggests that this isn’t always very helpful. Instead, try to put money aside each month to pay your taxes on time. Use a different bank account to keep this money safe if that would help you remember not to spend it.

If you file your returns and pay your taxes on time, this will not only avoid interest and penalties from HMRC, but will improve your relationship with them. It’s always best to work with HMRC rather than against them when you can. The new year is a great time to make some simple changes that could help your business to flourish over the next 12 months, and ensure you enjoy your business even more. Don’t just settle for the status quo you had last year.

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