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Small Business

Managing a Small Business

New Year for Your Business: What Changes Will You Make?

As the Calendar Turns, Owners Make New Plans for Growth

New Year's resolutions aren't just for individuals. While January 1 is symbolic when it comes to personal goals, the change of calendar pages can mean a new fiscal year, a new budget and a new plan for a company.

For some business owners, 2015 will be a year of significant change. Here's what some are planning:

Emphasize Growth ...

Mal Strong, who with her sister owns a Chicago blow-dry and makeup bar called Goldplaited, is embracing necessary expansion as the business enters its second year.  "Year one was about proving our concept, and that there is a market for it," Mal says. "Year two is about growth. So our goal is to open a second location and to increase our brand recognition, growing as a beauty brand, which might mean offering new services."

... Or Scale Back

Expansion isn't right for every business, though. Sometimes it's wiser to make operations more manageable. Stacey King Gordon runs Suite Seven, a content-strategy and brand-communications consultancy in the San Francisco Bay Area. She says she's looking to trim down over the coming months.

"After a few years of trying to grow the business, I've done a lot of soul-searching and have decided to scale down to a very small team with occasional freelancers while subletting my office and working from home.

"We're still growing in revenue, projecting about 25 percent above last year, but the larger agency model is just not making me happy. December marks the official shift, and I'll be starting 2015 as a small, virtual company," Gordon says.

Build Out the Product Line

Will von Bernuth, co-founder of Block Island Organics, a family-operated New York retailer of nontoxic sun-protection products, is prioritizing product development with an eye on the bottom line.

"Our current product line concentrates on sunscreens. We're in the process of developing new products for 2015 with the hope of releasing an everyday moisturizer with SPF, a daily cleanser and a night cream," von Bernuth says. "Sunscreen is a very seasonal business, so expanding to include these products should help with that seasonality. The added benefit for us is this should smooth out our cash flow."

Stay Relevant

Shaun Curtis, who owns a Buffalo's Cafe franchise in Loganville, Ga., and is Chief Operating Officer of the parent company, is focusing on appearances.

"While rolling out various programs to improve the customer experience, we're continuing the process of 'freshening' our look and image to help make our 18-year-old restaurant more relevant to our current and future customer base," he says.

As an example, he says,"Old Wild West, Cowboy and Indian, and black-and-white photography is being replaced by vintage Americana-themed signs and objects. So far, it's helped us increase our sales by over 10 to 15 percent over previous years."

Differentiate Your Brand

One of the first to the market in their niche, the Strong sisters now face growing competition from bigger corporate chains. Their solution? Emphasizing their unique products and expertise.

"While we're staying true to our initial vision and not changing our service offerings, we're finding new ways to establish our name as an expert beauty brand," Mal Strong said. "For example, we teach classes so that we not only help clients feel beautiful, but we give them the tools to do it on their own. And we have our own product line so they can replicate our looks at home."

Make Space for Your Ideals

For Block Island Organics, a commitment to quality ingredients means allowing more time for research as the company looks to expand its offerings.

"Not only do we research the ingredients thoroughly, but we also do testing and validate the products ourselves," von Bernuth explains.

"Green ingredients generally cost more, and finding them requires time and effort, but we always choose quality ingredients over cost while maintaining a reasonable price for our customers. To help with this, we're planning farther in advance as it can take us a long time to get a product to market."

Whatever you're planning for the coming year, these entrepreneurs say that having clear goals and a reasonable expectation of how much can be done in one year will boost your chances for success.

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