With 2013 quickly approaching, it is time to consider your business plan for the new year. The holiday spirit is winding down and the relaxed attitude needs to refocus on new year goals and strategies. While 2012 might have been one of your businesses best year yet, who says you can’t make 2013 even better? Here are some things to consider to help make 2013 great.

Planned Charity

How involved in charity is your company? Do you want to be more involved in 2013? Do your employees want to be more involved? Now is the best time to put some plans in place. Here are a few ideas:

–Encourage your employees to choose a non-profit that they want to support and either give them some time off (such as an hour a week to tutor a child) or a monetary contribution (you’ll match any money they raise up to $200 for the year, for example) to help their efforts.

–Choose one or two non-profits to sponsor in 2013. You can either pick non-profits that have a mission that is close to your heart or you can have your employees nominate and vote on options. Sponsor them by buying a table at their big fund raiser for the year or by giving a planned amount to them.

–Put away a certain amount/number of items to donate throughout the year. Maybe you want to ‘spread the wealth’ and support as many non profits as you can this year, but are afraid of blowing the budget and giving too much. Why not put aside a certain dollar amount you can afford or set aside some product that you know you can donate? When your company is asked to donate, pull out some of the money or an item. When it’s gone, it’s gone and you’ll know you donated as much as you could.

Team building

Having a strong employee connection is good for businesses. A happy office environment makes for a drama-free work place and also more productivity.

“Team building is so important to business owners because the strength and performance of any organization or team depends on the strength and performance of each individual team member.  If the business owner wants his or her team to achieve maximum results then executing a proactive plan to strengthen and encourage each member to become their best as individuals and as members of a team with a common goal will enhance the business owners ability to achieve their goals for the organization.  Thomas Edison once said, “If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves,” Doug Pfeifer with VictoryQuest said.

By knowing employees’ strengths and weaknesses, you can assign tasks to the right people and get things done more efficiently.

“It is beneficial to plan regular team building outings because any team is a living organism that needs to be nourished and fed if it is going to grow and thrive,” Doug said. “New team members are added and old team members move on. By having a regular program that supports the team’s health, wellness and function, the organization will see sustained improvement of performance over the long term. The goal is constant and never ending improvement.”

To find the best team building activity for your employees, study other businesses to see what worked for them.

“Business owners should choose the best team building experiences by modeling other successful programs. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Find out what other teams and organizations are doing and then, based on your goals and budget, start now. You can always add higher or deeper levels of team building experiences but the key is starting where you’re at. It has been said that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing you’ve always done but to expect a different result,” Doug said.

Leadership Training

Every business owners or manager can improve on their leadership skills and the new year is a great time to focus on this. Attending a leadership program or training is an excellent way to brush up on skills, learn more about yourself as a leader and develop weak areas to make you a better business owner and manager. One option to consider is the LEAP (Leadership Acceleration Program). LEAP is a leadership skill acceleration program proven to turn smart managers into results-oriented leaders. LEAP provides a framework unlike any other leadership training program on the market today.

Unlike other leadership development programs, LEAP™ graduates show a 45% average, measurable increase in leadership confidence and competence and have a long track record of results they’ve achieved using our world-class curriculum, methods and tool-kits.

Imagine how great it will feel when your manager graduates the program and presents you their personal “LEAP™ ROI Executive Report” showcasing their measurable growth and business results achieved through integrating their new leadership skills into their day-to-day work habits. This is one program you’ll never call an expense!

Employee Training

Taking leadership training yourself is a great idea as all business owners can brush up on their skills and learn new ways to lead and motivate their people. Providing the opportunity for your employees to improve as well is also an important part of your 2013 plan. Every good leader knows that their organization is only as good as the people who are in it, so increasing the knowledge or sharpening the skills of your current staff can do nothing but increase the overall success of your business. Here are a few ideas:

–Provide a stipend. Tell each employee that you will cover a certain dollar amount of training of their choice (with your approval, of course) and let them choose where they want the extra education.

–Sign them up for workshops or classes. Perhaps you have your eye on some new software for the office and want to provide your IT staff with a day or two of training on it or there is a similar situation that would be good for a certain department.

–Bring in a speaker or trainer. If you don’t want employees leaving the office or having to do extra training on their own time, consider bringing the education to them. Bring in a speaker or a trainer who can either train them in a certain area or provide general motivation and planning skills for your entire team.

Join a Networking Group

Networking is essential for almost all types of businesses. Even if you are not trying to sell products or services locally, connecting with other business owners and managers is an excellent way to learn and improve your business. Being known as a good community partner is essential for all businesses, whether your client base is in the city or spread around the world. Meeting with other business owners is also a great way to get out of the office, stimulate your brain and find out what’s going on in the business world. There really is no DOWN SIDE to networking if you’re doing it right.

The way to network ‘right’ is to find the right group or groups to be a part of. Some things to consider are:

–What are you looking for? Some networking groups are more strict, meet more often, and focus on referrals. If you are trying to sell products or services locally and are serious about gaining more business from your networking group, one of these might be the best choice. Other groups are a little more informal, require less of a time commitment and have more of a ‘social’ aspect to them. These may be better for those business owners/managers who are more interested in meeting people and getting integrated into the community.

–Who is involved? A networking group is only as good as the people who are members of it. No matter what ‘type’ of group you join, there will be great ones and not so great ones depending on the leadership, level of involvement from the members and more. The only way to find out is to visit a few groups and see how you fit in and if it’s the type of group you think you can enjoy and excel in.

–What is the commitment? The last thing you want to do is join a group and find that you cannot handle the time, monetary or referral commitment. Be honest with yourself about how much you can really give to a group and join one that will not be stretching these limits. You may find that you get so much out of the group that you’re willing to put more into it than you thought, but you don’t want to overcommit yourself and end up leaving as this would leave a bad impression on the other members and a bad impression of networking groups on you!

Promote Your Business Locally

We all know the importance of shopping locally, but it’s also important to promote your own business locally as well. One way to do so is to work with ShopLincoln.com. “ShopLincoln.com is a unique website that promotes our community and the importance of shopping locally,” said Stacey Sell with ShopLincoln.com. “We educate businesses on how to stretch marketing dollars and better utilize free or inexpensive resources to increase revenues and profitability. The ShopLincoln.com system provides easy to use tools to manage your website, increase your online presence and streamline online marketing efforts. Unfortunately, with limited marketing budgets and technology resources, a lot of businesses aren’t able to maintain consistent marketing plans or strategies causing significant wasted dollars and little return on investment. ShopLincoln.com helps businesses direct and manage their online marketing efforts to overcome these obstacles. We can help increase your exposure online and make it easier to manage promoting your products and services.”

“Your business website and overall online presence is like a second location of your business but without the extensive overhead,” continued Stacey. “Online marketing and social media are huge opportunities to grow your business without significant costs. ShopLincoln.com is a campaign to promote our business community and the importance of shopping locally. The website is a resource for consumers to discover more local businesses, find products and services, and shop locally online. Most consumers research online before making a purchase for products and services. If your business isn’t easily found and accessible online, you are losing revenue.”

Another way to promote yourself locally is by joining local community groups such as the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber provides local networking opportunities where you can promote yourself and visit with other local business owners as well as tradeshows, luncheons, a directory and more.

Work with a Staffing Service

Finding, hiring and retaining the right employees is always a challenge for any business owner who has employees. Many business owners have no idea how to conduct human resources practices and don’t really have the time to do so anyway as they are busy with running their company. If human resources and staffing is a challenge for you, you should consider working with a staffing company in 2013. Here are a few reasons why:

Improve Productivity

Bringing in temporary workers to handle work overload can prevent employee burnout of full-time staff. When work schedules are overloaded, employees can quickly become unmotivated and overwhelmed. This can increase mistakes made as well as decrease productivity. Increased absenteeism is often a side effect when this occurs. By bringing in temporary staff to handle the extra work load, full-time employees can continue to focus on their main job tasks while maintaining their productivity.

Try Before You Hire

Temporary employees give the business a chance to try out an employee before making a permanent offer of employment. In some cases, a person may have the experience and education for a job but simply does not mesh well with the business environment. Having the opportunity to have the person work on a temporary basis first gives the business a chance to evaluate how the person will fit in with the corporate culture and other employees. It also provides time to identify any weaknesses that would not typically be evident in the interview process.

Decrease Costs

Temporary staff are employed by the staffing agency, not the business that is using their services. This can decrease the overall costs of the employee as the business does not have to provide benefits to a temporary staff member. In addition, bringing in temporary staff may reduce other overhead costs such as overtime for regular, full-time employees. While the per-hour cost may be more than the per-hour cost of a full-time employee, temporary staff can be used as needed without a commitment of a 40-hour workweek regardless of if the work exists to support it.

Avoid Unemployment Claims

Because the temporary staff person is an employee of the staffing agency and not the business, there is no concern about the person filing for unemployment when their services are no longer needed by the business. This can also reduce overall operating costs for the business as the unemployment claims rate of the business will not be raised due to letting go of temporary staff. Human resources costs may also decrease as managers will not be spending multiple hours dealing with unemployment claims and the Department of Labor.

Increase Flexibility

Temporary employees allow businesses to use staff as needed. Temporary employees can be brought in to cover the vacation of an employee or maternity leave. Many staffing agencies can provide employees in a wide variety of disciplines to meet all of the needs of the business. The business then has the flexibility to use the services of the temporary staff as needed, whether it is a few hours a week or on a full-time basis. Using a staffing agency can avoid the permanent commitment that a full-time employee requires, saving both time and money.

Planning events

Succeeding in your business should be the most important agenda on your 2013 plan, but something else that you need to consider to achieve your goals is planning well-coordinated events.

“Many organizations hold one meeting or event each year, and successful events and meetings require the same attention to detail as every other aspect of a successful business,” Annette Marquez, President and Owner of The Perfect Occasion LLC said. “Effective up-front planning goes a long way to ensure the success of your event in the same way a well developed business plan is critical for the success of your business.”

Annette suggests setting effective goals and objectives for events, developing a plan and timeline, determining a realistic budget, recruiting the right personnel for the job, selecting the target attendees and developing a marketing plan and choosing the right venue and suppliers.

“This holds true whether you are planning a three-hour meeting for 15, a three-day conference for 1,500 or something in between. Of course there are more logistics with a large event, but careful attention to detail is just as important for a smaller one. Once the framework is in pace, you are ready to move on to planning the décor, selecting the food and beverage, deciding on an entertainer or producing a program that highlights your service or product. Constantly review and monitor your earlier decisions to confirm you are staying on track,” Annette said.

If you do not have a staff whose primary job responsibility is event planning and management and you use non-experienced staff to plan events and meetings, make sure to adjust staff time as necessary to ensure adequate time to carry out all the events details.

“It may seem counterintuitive, but hiring a professional meeting and event planner can actually save a company time, money and stress. Whether you decide to plan and manage the event internally, or outsource the logistics, give yourself plenty of lead-time. At least six months to a year is desirable depending on the scope of the event. Larger events can require more than a year to plan and execute,” Annette said.

Incorporate Promotional Products

Every business needs to advertise their products and services to increase top-of-mind awareness. If you aren’t currently using promotional products to help you do that, 2013 might be the perfect time to incorporate them into your plan. “When you choose them wisely, promotional products are used for long periods of time and, as a result, get more exposure,” explained Mindy Lubeck with Good Life Imprinting. “They are great as incentives and motivators and provide more ‘bang for your buck’ than many other forms of advertising. I believe that promotional products also complement and actually increase the effectiveness of other advertising media. Mixing in promotional products with an advertising campaign is wise because you want your customer seeing your message in as many places as possible.”

“It’s important to keep your message in front of your customers consistently all year round, but summer and winter are key times for promotional giving,” continued Mindy. “Summer brings golf tournaments, pool visits, vacations, etc. Having promotional products for people to use during their summer activities is a smart move. When winter rolls around, they are thankful for new coffee tumblers, blankets, ice scrapers, scarves and more.”

“Choose items that your client or potential customer will see multiple times a day,” advised Mindy. “Placement is key. Desk items, tech tools, pens, cell phone accessories, drinkware, etc. are items that get used and have high exposure.” Her last piece of advice is buy your products locally. “Many people think that buying promotional products “locally” and having a personal sales rep will be more expensive than shopping the internet. As local businesses know, this isn’t always true. I personally look for items on sale and browse clearance or closeout items that can significantly stretch a budget. And in rare cases, if something is wrong with an order, that person has my direct number to correct any issues. With an online retailer, you’re likely to get someone different with every call.”

Work with a Collection Agency

This business year, consider working with a collection agency. A collection agency is a business that pursues payments of debts owed by individuals or businesses. Most collection agencies operate as agents of creditors and collect debts for a fee or percentage of the total amount owed.

“Collection agencies usually work on a contingent basis meaning if they do not collect, it does not cost you anything. Collection agencies exist to collect their clients’ past due receivables, so in short if they do not collect, they do not eat,” Aaron J Newell, President/CEO of Accounts Receivable Solutions said.

When considering an agency, make sure to do some research beforehand to find the right company for your business needs.

“Be conscious when choosing an agency how you want them to collect, remember they are representing your company. The lowest rate does not always yield the best results. Choose a local agency, knowing the geographic area they are collecting in is very valuable. I have heard several times from clients or prospective clients that the national agencies call them daily to collect on accounts and say they can collect the full balance in five days. Some prospective clients have advanced fees and most have never heard from those agencies again. Most turn the accounts over and never hear from those agencies again, which is why they are talking to me,” Aaron said.

This year, look at your businesses account receivable as an important aspect to your business model.

“Account receivables are monies (profits) businesses are expecting and have not received or had to spend additional resources (staff time) to collect therefore diminishing their value,” Aaron said.

To improve your account receivables this year, Aaron offers this advice.

“Make sure their customers know what their payment terms are and enforce them.  Get a personal guaranty if credit is issued and do your due diligence when checking financial references.  Gather billing information at the beginning and always have in the back of your mind; if they do not pay, how am I going to contact them for payment?  Partner with a reputable collection agency.  At AR Solutions we review all prospective clients’ billing process to help them collect more on their own prior to turning to a collection agency.”

Mark Kottke of National Accounts Systems reinforced Aaron’s advice. “The recovery of outstanding, aging receivables should always be on the top of the list for any business owner serious about staying in business for the long run; regardless of the industry or market they serve, or what month the calendar happens to be in,” he said.

Mark suggests having a tight, deliberate collection process to bring potential bad debt to light early and often, giving business owners the best opportunity to get paid for the professional, quality goods and services they provide to their clients and communities

Something to consider is choosing an agent to sort out your receivables. “Find a local agency that mirrors that approximate size and scope of your business enterprise. An agency with 500 collectors may have the references, capabilities and experience that a business owner is looking for, but your accounts will certainly get lost in the enormity of their portfolio and the service and performance you receive will most likely be commensurate to the number of accounts and total dollars you place with the agency on a monthly basis,” Mark said.

“National Account Systems in Omaha is a collection agency with all of the capabilities and experience of the large national players in the industry. We take a professional yet unapologetic approach to the idea that our clients deserve to be compensated for quality services.”

Work with an attorney
Planning your yearly business plan comes with many steps. One thing to consider this year is having an attorney.

“It is important to consult legal counsel before beginning any business entity in order to make sure the business is running effectively and efficiently. If the business is a corporation, often there are annual requirements they must comply with in order to be in good standing with the IRS,” Christine Vanderford at The Law Office of Christine Vanderford said.

Christine’s firm helps clients set up the structure of the business, the legal paperwork that is required in order to create a limited liability company or corporation. They also are consultants in the preparation of standard contracts, hiring issues and employee matters.

When considering an agency, setting up a good relationship first is key. “Relationships are most important. Attorneys need to have the requisite knowledge in order to give good legal advice, but the client also needs to feel comfortable enough with the relationship in order to ask questions. Setting up a business or taking the business to the next level, requires effective two-way communication with the legal counsel. Clients need to know they can relay on the person that is giving them legal advice,” Christine said.

Working with your attorney on the yearly plan is important for businesses with partners and employees. “Having a partner just means more communication and more standardized processes and procedures in order to avoid miscommunication that can derail the success of a business,” Christine said. “Employee issues, handbooks or standard contracts need to be reviewed on a regular basis in order to make sure everything is up to date.”

Work with a CPA

“Although business owners are usually experts within their own field or industry, few are rarely experts in changing tax laws,” stated Scott Becker with HBE Becker Meyer Love. “For this reason, I think it’s crucial for all businesses, small and large, to work with a certified public accountant (CPA) for yearly planning. A CPA is the only professional you can count on to help you develop a proactive tax strategy that will maximize opportunities for tax savings now and in the future. In addition, a CPA can ensure that your annual tax returns are complete, accurate and filed correctly with the appropriate government agencies. When it comes to successfully running a small business, an accountant can serve as an extension of your management team, providing valuable financial management support throughout the entire year. Here are just a few additional examples of what an accountant can do for your company:

• General ledger and financial statement assistance

• Accounting system set up

• Payroll

• Succession planning

• Cash flow and budgeting

• Entity selection

• Strategic planning

• Cost segregation studies

• Estate planning

• Financial planning

• Investment review

• Litigation support

• Employee benefit plan audits

• Business valuation

• Guidance on starting a new business

The right accountant will have the specialized knowledge and experience needed in order to view your business as more than just a set of numbers. They can help you create a roadmap of where your business has been, and where you want it to go.”

Finding the best accountant for your unique business needs is key. “When choosing the right accounting firm for your business, varying levels of size, service and price can be overwhelming and leave you wondering what solution will best meet the needs of your business,” explained Scott. “Ultimately, you want to find someone who communicates well, has strong entrepreneurial skills, and can help you develop strategies to maximize your business’s finances.

Here are a few other important considerations to keep in mind:

• Experience. Consider the firm’s reputation, experience in handling accounts like yours, experience in your industry, and the depth and breadth of staff expertise. Always ask for references. The professionals handling your finances should be able to prove that they’re worthy of your business.

• Communication. You deserve timely and responsive communication from your accounting firm in a way that’s meaningful to you. It’s important that your accounting firm is easily accessible and responsive, whether in person, by phone, or through email. Even more important, you should feel comfortable asking questions and sharing your company’s finances with the firm you select.

• Memberships, affiliations, and education. Tax, accounting, and assurance are challenging disciplines. Each requires ongoing education to ensure current knowledge of ever-changing guidelines. In addition to continuing education, memberships and affiliations in professional associations ensure that the firm has access to invaluable resources.

• Quality of work. Not only should your accounting firm work hard to earn your business, it must also work hard to keep your business. A quality firm will value you as a client and do their very best to provide premier customer service at all times. Firms with membership in the American Institute of Certified Public Accounting’s (AICPA) Private Companies Practice Section (PCPS) can also provide you with a copy of their peer review report, which will state whether or not they meet the AICPA’s quality control standards.

More than just a bookkeeper or a tax preparer, a CPA is a professional who will work with you on issues that go above and beyond filing and reporting. The right CPA will serve as your trusted business advisor, striving to learn and understand your business needs, organizing your business finances, and highlighting areas for improvement. By working with a CPA for the financial management needs of your business, you will have peace of mind knowing that you are receiving the services of an experienced and certified professional; one who has the best interests of your business and your future success at heart.”

Communication Services

A successful business must have good communication skills. “Communication is the life blood of every business. Effective implementation and use of improved communication options available, for example office telephone systems, voice mail, and e-mail can represent the difference between profitability and loss,” Gary Thompson of Business Communication Systems said.

In today’s world, customers expect a live answer or responses immediately. In today’s society, voice mail responses are not received well. “Companies that do not provide this proactive approach to customer satisfaction can find themselves losing their customers to their competitors,” Gary said.

Gary suggests having internet based telephone equipment that provides the ability to install telephone extensions to allow personnel to transfer calls directly to agents during business hours. A voice mail platform that can be programmed to seek out the intended recipient as a live call from office to home to remote phone to cell phone to recorded voice message option is also suggested. Gary also suggests having an e-mail format that has the ability to convert the e-mail to a wave file and then transfer to the recipient’s cell phone for immediate review and response.

“There are more extensive communication solutions but implementing the above plans will increase customer satisfaction, improve customer retention and consequently increase income and profitability for the company,” Gary said.

In addition to phones, websites and IT are also crucial communication tools. “Websites and IT support are crucial components of yearly business planning for any size of business, but they’re especially important for small business owners,” states Todd Messing with SirkDot Innovations. “Downtime due to hardware or software failures can cause serious financial and reputational stresses on a small business. On the flip side, if a business doesn’t have a website or an IT plan in place, they may find themselves lacking marketing firepower or process efficiencies, both of which affect the bottom line. Often times, our clients already have all the pieces, they just aren’t sure how to put them together. SirkDot can provide web management consulting as well as IT consulting and provide methods to get from point A to point B.”

Develop a Relationship with a Bank

“Planning for success in 2013 is the best New Year’s Resolution for your business (and your personal New Year’s Resolution for a minimally stressful year!),” said Marcus Plouzek with NBC Bank. “While the road to a successful 2013 will largely be driven by the business owner and team, inviting your business banker into the conversation will pay dividends throughout the year. Success is often synonymous with growth, both financially and operationally-and growth must be somehow funded, whether it be an investment in human capital, equipment, inventory, real estate, etc. Your banker will help you consider all financing options available, both bank and non-bank financing, which will allow you to confidently select the best option that will optimally position your business for success in 2013. Even if growth isn’t a part of this year’s recipe, grab a coffee or lunch with your business banker early in the year to have an open discussion about this year’s plan as any good business banker will provide value beyond making loans by learning about all issues relating to your business and making recommendations that the business owner may or may not have thought about. Finally, in the unfortunate event that the year does not go according to plan, if you have planned with your business banker at the beginning of the year, you and your banker can work together to quickly get back on track.”

“Diversification is often a good business practice when it comes to customer mix and investments,” continued Marcus. “Diversification of banking needs, conversely, will undoubtedly lead to headaches, time inefficiency, and increase the likelihood of account misuse– the last thing any busy business owner needs. Working with one bank will allow you to have a one-stop-shop for your banking needs which saves you time and will allow you to allocate more time to running your business. In addition, centralizing your banking needs will allow you to develop more personal, trusted and productive relationships with one or two contacts at your bank which may come in handy if you find yourself in a pinch. Lastly, consolidating your accounts to one institution will allow you to avoid a complicated juggling act of bank balances, payments and transactions of numerous bank accounts at different institutions which can lead to costly overdraft fees or late fees. Everyone should build a trusted relationship with at least person at their bank so that when ‘life happens’ and you have an unexpected, but yet immediate, banking need, you will have a banker in your corner to help take care of the issue at hand.”

As we’ve said so many times throughout this article, always consider local first. “A locally owned bank is invested in the success of the community,” Marcus explained. “At Nebraska Bank of Commerce, we take pride and have a vested interest in the prosperity of the Lincoln community that each of our employees, customers and shareholders call home. Each day we partner with community members with the unyielding mission to make our community a better place for all of us to live and work. As invested residents of the community, we put the customer’s needs first and make financial recommendations that are aligned with the best interest of the customer, even when it may not be profitable for the bank, which directly impact the overall economic health of our community. When you work with a locally owned bank such as Nebraska Bank of Commerce, you are helping to better our community.”

Marcus concluded with, “Stay in hot pursuit of ‘your’ bank until you find an institution that you can trust and a bank that strives to connect with you on a personal level. It’s like dating–don’t settle for anything less than a relationship that is just what you are looking for! When you are in the bank searching process, lead the conversation with your needs and what you are looking for from a bank. As a banker, when I know exactly what I need to do to help someone out, it is easier for me to search out all of the options available so that I can make the best recommendation possible. After learning your needs, your bank should react quickly and in a way that builds trust and shows that you are an important customer to not only the banker you worked with, but also to the whole financial institution.”

Work with a Financial Planner

John W. Oestreich with Waddell & Reed explained why working with a financial planner is important for all business owners. “The beginning of the year is a great time to evaluate either business or personal finances and set goals for the future. It’s also great to see if those past goals are still aligned with your current plan and what changes have been made to achieve them.”
Regarding what a financial planner can help with, he stated that every business is different. “As a financial planner, I need to understand and evaluate such things as tax flow, tax planning, and benefit packages such as insurance, retirement and 401k options. We work with businesses to help them have a strategy and look for changes that might occur and how that might affect the success of that strategy. Business owners are not different from individuals in that they need to plan for the future, too. They sometimes fail to look at ways to improve their situation. Owners need to spend time looking at how they can maintain and achieve their goals. A professional planner can see that goals are met and adjust them to your life. One thing that business owners fail to do is look at their largest asset—their business. They are dependent on that asset and it is an intricate part of their future. Statistics show that small businesses don’t have longevity, but a financial planner can recommend ways to propel the success of the business. You should work with your financial team to give you the best advice possible and they should always have your best interests at heart.”

Matt Ferris with Ferris Financial Group added, “Cash management and employee benefits are the biggest areas that business owners should be looking at in 2013. With all the changes that we are going to see in the near future pertaining to employee benefits, it is important to work with a professional who can help guide you in making the right choices for your business as they see fit. We offer an unbiased approach to retirement planning and employee benefits and have the ability to work with all companies, big and small.”

As with all professionals, finding the right one greatly affects the success of the plans you will make together. “The best way to find the one you need is to interview them,” explained John. “You have to feel comfortable with that person. People do business with people they know, like and respect. Take the time to sit down with them and ask questions and see if there is a connection. Ask people you know who they would refer you to and use the resources you have available to make an informed decision. A face to face conversation can tell you a lot of whether or not you can work together and if they understand your situation.”

“Most financial advisors today have the ability to do the same thing, but not everyone wants to do the right thing. It is important to make sure you can develop a relationship with your advisor and be able to trust that they are always working with your best interest in mind.”

Work with a Cleaning Company

Maintaining a clean office is very important to your employees and to your clients. However, it can often be something that slips between the cracks as no one has it as one of their job duties and you as the business owner certainly don’t want to be staying late to mop the floors. “It’s important for a business owner to consider working with a professional cleaning service because it eases the burden of maintenance on the business,” explained Kevin Rife with Morita Cleaning Service. “Employees can concentrate more on the endeavor they were hired for rather than needing to make sure restrooms, entryways, etc. are clean.”

“Cost savings alone can be a good enough reason to begin outsourcing commercial cleaning,” continued Kevin. “Retaining in-house employees is an expensive endeavor. Outsourcing janitorial services can help you control operating costs and establish a budget, freeing up capital and time.” When choosing a service, Kevin advised to look at more than just the longevity of the business. “There are newer, smaller cleaning services who can service companies just as well as larger, more established businesses. Smaller services are usually more hands-on as well.” Always make sure you are meeting and talking with not only the owner of the company, but also anyone who will be in your office cleaning. Ask the service if it will be a different person (or people) each time or if you can count on the same faces week after week. Remember, you are probably letting this person or people into your office after hours when you aren’t around—the trust factor is a very important consideration.

Improve your Office

Have you taken a look around your office lately? Many people walk into their offices each day and don’t even recognize the conditions they are in because they are so used to it. However, your employees and definitely your clients or customers will notice if you are in not-so-ideal working conditions. Maybe your only problem is that the décor is a bit out of date and a few piece of equipment need to be upgraded. Or perhaps you need a total overhaul as you have too many people crammed into too small of a space or even dealing with unsafe working conditions. Your working environment is extremely important, for image, for worker morale and more!

Window coverings are a good place to start if you are looking to just make a few aesthetic changes. The window coverings can often be seen from outside of the building and can also affect things like the lighting inside your office and the comfort of your employees. Consult with a company that specializes in window coverings who can come in, give you an assessment, and provide you with some upgrade options. All you need to do is pick your favorite and the installation will be done for you.

If you’re dealing with a more extensive problem and need to consider major remodels, you should meet with a general contractor, engineer and/or architect who can go over what you currently have, where you want to be and how to bridge the gap between the two.

“We pride ourselves on being a one-stop shop for those busy clients that do not have the time to visit and talk to multiple companies about updating their office space,” explained Scott O’Neill with Restoration Pros of Lincoln. “WE can help replace their old carpet, install new windows for better lighting, paint, etc. We offer free consultations and recommend coming down to our new showroom and talk with one of our experienced employees.”

Consider Security

Security should be a part of any business owner’s yearly plan. There are many different types of security, including IT security for your network, physical security for you, your employees and your inventory and more. The best thing you can do is work with a security professional who can help put together a plan for you that will work best for your needs.

R.J. Lipert with AlarmLink USA can provide a number of options for business owners, including cameras, remote access, remote climate control and more. “We customize each security solution to the client, so we don’t take the cookie-cutter approach to security,” stated R.J. “We understand that needs are different depending on the type of business you are in, the size of your business, whether you own your building or not and your budget.”

If you are leery about spending the money to put a security plan in place, think of it as more of an investment. You need to think about what you could potentially lose if a security breach occurs and weigh that against the cost of the system. You’ll likely to see that the cost of what you could lose far outweighs the investment of the system.

Work with an Office Supply Professional

Many business owners don’t think much about where they get their office supplies. They pick up supplies wherever they may be shopping and probably don’t put much thought at all into what printer they are using and how it affects their bottom line. However, it’s important to consider these issues and work with one professional who can help you with all your needs.

“We can do assessments of how, where and why they print their documents,” stated Monte Rasmussen with Eakes Office Plus. “We then analyze this information and recommend services and products that will decrease their expenses and increase their productivity. On the supply side, we can review their products, how they order, when they order, etc. and give recommendations on providing an overall savings and reduce time spent on the procedures. In furniture, we can analyze their space to see how it can be utilized in the best interests of the employer and their team for optimized productivity.”

Working with a local company is almost always your best option when it comes to this industry. “First, the dollars they spend with a local firm stays in the community and Nebraska. Secondly, we have full time business consultants in office supplies, furniture and machines that will come to their office and make recommendations to improve their bottom line and offer a larger offering in products than a retail store can provide. We all want to grow our businesses or improve the quality of services to our customers no matter what we do. Consider contacting a professional consultant in office supplies, furniture or copiers/printers/software to see what benefits their firm will receive that will help them meet their goals. It won’t cost to take a look.”

With 2013 quickly approaching, there is no time like the present to consider your business plan for the upcoming year. Taking all of the above-mentioned ideas into account, you can be sure your business will do great in the new year.