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The new year is here. Now what?

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By Lance Minnis

It’s a New Year….what now?
December has passed, and we are now halfway into January.
I hope that everyone had a prosperous holiday season for their business, and a personally fulfilling one. For me, the holidays are a time of rejuvenation, to step back and take stock of the past year.
As the (supposedly) cold winds of January kick in, it becomes tempting to retrench, weather the slow months, and look towards the sun. While looking back and hunkering down can have value, this time of year can actually be the most productive time for your business.
Running a small business requires wearing many hats, and task compartmentalization; obviously when you are busy waiting on customers 16 hours a day, there is very little time to market, bookkeep, strategic plan, or any other essential for your business; and believe me those things are just as, if not more, important than actually selling to customers. So now that you have a little time to breathe, what should you be thinking about right now to improve your business?
Marketing
We all know what it feels like to have nothing in the pipeline, and sometimes we can forget constant work is needed to keep business coming. That cyclical boom and bust can be avoided by making sure to develop and institute an ongoing marketing plan.
Right now, in the economic slow months, is a perfect time to develop and implement one if you don’t have one in place, and if you do, to research and back test its effectiveness. Most small businesses don’t have much in the way of marketing budgets, but do make sure you put aside at least a little money for marketing.
Some of the best marketing is through social media services such as Facebook and Twitter, and a blog. These give customers and the general public, who are interested in what you do, a way to “keep in touch.”
Print ads can also be valuable, but make sure you understand the demographic of the publication and that it matches your customers. Whatever you do, give yourself a marketing budget and stick to it — no matter how many come to your door throughout the year asking for your marketing dollars, if they are not in your plan, don’t participate. If it is something you want to support, include it in your following year’s plan. Considerable help is available, some free, on how to develop a basic marketing plan.
Expansion
If you have any thoughts at all about expanding your business, now is the time to examine how to do that. Expansion generally takes capital, which can be difficult to find this day and age, with the increased requirements placed on banks by the FDIC and the general tightening of credit.
For small amounts of capital, there are various means, such as crowdfunding, taking on a partner or shareholders, angel investors, and private debt agreements. The other thing to be aware of is local tax incentives for expansion.
Many locales will give tax credits or proration for hiring a new employee, or property tax incentives to purchase or upgrade real estate. Make sure to enquire about these with your local representatives. I plan to do a future column on raising capital for small businesses.
Lastly, 2013 is going to be the year of taxes. Much of what we think we know about how our businesses and ourselves are and will be taxed will change this year. Significant consequences will accrue based on the recent deal in Congress, as well as several additional budget fights this year and of course the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act on Jan. 1, 2014. This topic could, and probably will, occupy several columns by itself.
Suffice to say, if you do not have a CPA for your business and personal taxes, I would get one. In the meantime, I wish you all luck and success in the New Year.

Lance Minnis is an Advisor and Financial Coach with Commonwealth Financial Advisors, LLC. All opinions are his and do not constitute financial, investment or tax advice. He can be reached at 502-423-7420.