Posted on 24 January, 2017  |  2 min

You know what they say, fail to prepare, prepare to fail. That's why careful future planning is at the heart of every successful business - and we all want our businesses to be successful!

It's true that there are some factors which you can't control, like changes in the economic and political climate - but the good news is that there's so much you can influence. Things like streamlining internal processes, tweaking staff rosters, making pricing more competitive and improving your marketing. To help your business plan for a stellar year ahead, we've put together these handy suggestions based on expert predictions of 2017's top trends.

Consider reducing costs

Two unpredicted events in 2016 - Brexit and Donald Trump's election -- have shaken up world markets and affected exchange rates. As a result, 58%1 of UN SMEs have prioritised reducing costs in 2017 to prepare for uncertain times. Looking to reduce costs is always good practice, but has become particularly relevant now. Having a cash reserve and being able to operate more cost-effectively will put you in a stronger position to take any bumps in the financial road ahead.

Get on top of tech

As customers become more tech savvy and confident with shopping online, take steps to make sure your business meets their needs and expectations. 

  • Mobile internet usage is increasing annually, so ensuring your website is mobile optimised is key to retaining and attracting customers
  • Consider the latest payment options, such as Apple Pay, a mobile payment service -- it can give you a competitive edge. 
  • Make use of Social Media  platforms to increase brand awareness. Sharing videos on Facebook Live and YouTube are cost-effective and engaging ways to reach new customers.
  • Reach for the Cloud! Do some digging on the best cloud-based apps for your business. There's lots of clever apps out there that can help you run more efficiently and save money. 

Pay attention to your customers

They're the reason you're in business in the first place. It's always worth dedicating time to reassessing your customers' needs and it's likely they've provided feedback of some sort. Scanning this feedback for trends and aligning what you do to what they've been saying is key. Being able to make your products/services more attractive and relevant will pay off in no time! Send out a small survey asking for feedback and offer up a prize, or set up an event to showcase your business or treat your top customers to a hosted evening with you.  

Put your people at the heart of your business

Your staff are the power behind your business, so having a plan to increase their happiness will likely have a positive effect on productivity. Things like setting goals, rewarding hard work and addressing work-life balance are all great places to start. Encourage your people to head home at a reasonable hour, offer working from home and lead by example! A better work/life balance makes happier people and has the knock-on effect of making everyone more dynamic at work.

Be SMART with your planning

Creating SMART goals helps you get set up for success in your planning. It is a handy guide to help you write down your objectives.

  • Make your goals Specific by deciding what area you need to improve.
  • They need to be Measurable so you can monitor progress.
  • Make them challenging, but always Achievable.
  • It's important goals are Relevant and will improve your business.
  • And finally, make them Timely and decide by when they need to be done, so you get some urgency to act.

If you're already hard at work in these areas, we salute you!

Remember, it's worth regularly revisiting your plans to see if they're on track and whether they need fine-tuning. Tools like our smart dashboard can help you easily see how you're performing and if you're meeting your goals.

Good luck in the year ahead! 

The 9 Spokes Team

This article was inspired by Business Trends and Predictions in 2017,SMEs Plan Reducing Costs in 2017, Business Planning in the New Year, Small Business New Year's Resolutions and SME Business Planning.