The decorations are down and stored away, the holiday rush is over and it’s time for small businesses to get back to doing business as usual. Many small businesses find they have the time and the inspiration to get their shops in order at the beginning of the first quarter — a task that can set the tone for success throughout the year ahead.
If you’re taking stock and making plans for how you’ll improve your operations in 2016, Staples offers the following tips to help small businesses succeed:
* Check your business credit — Just as you have a personal credit score, your small business also has a credit score. Checking your small business credit score and report can help you catch any signs of fraud that may have been overlooked during the busy holidays, and better manage how your business uses credit to achieve your goals.
* Examine inventory — No matter what your small business does, certain basic office items are always necessary. If your office supplies dwindled during the holiday rush, now’s the time to restock and start the year with everything you need to keep business running smoothly. Shop around for the best prices, as retailers know the first quarter is a busy buying time for small businesses. Staples offers a 110 percent Price Match Guarantee; the office supply giant will price match items sold in retail stores and online under the same brand, and give an additional 10 percent off the difference between the Staples price and the competitor price. Staples also offers the lowest prices on 28 small business essentials through its Less List for Business. Visit www.staples.com to learn more.
* Brush up on cyber security — Studies show small businesses are at greater risk from cyberattacks; they’re targeted more often than big companies, the impact hurts small businesses more, and they can even go out of business as a result. If you don’t have a cybersecurity plan in place, now’s the time to formulate one. If you do have one, the start of the year is the perfect time to refresh it. Head over to the Small Business Administration’s cybersecurity page to get started.
* Get a better handle on performance metrics — Getting the most for your investment is critical for your small business. Tracking metrics — from marketing and social media to cash flow — can help ensure all your efforts are as effective and efficient as possible. Staples’ new Quick Wins app can help small business owners make sense of metrics, get business-specific ideas to grow their business, and interact with a community of other small business owners — all in one place. The app allows business owners to sync social media metrics, site traffic, sales tools and more to better track financial, website and marketing metrics. To learn more or to download the free app, go to www.staplesquickwins.com.
* Take charge of training — Initiation of new employees often takes place on the fly at small businesses, but the beginning of the year is often the perfect quiet time to establish and refine training programs. Having training processes in place can help ensure new employees start off on the right foot, and bring value to your business quickly and efficiently. The first quarter can also be a good time to create or refresh an employee handbook.
* Evaluate vendor relationships — Every small business needs other businesses to help keep it running smoothly. The first quarter of the year is a great time to pull your contracts and assess vendor relationships to ensure you’re getting the greatest benefit out of your business relationships. Look at credit card and merchant accounts, and service provider relationships. For example, the Staples Business More Account makes it easier to run your business with flexible payment options or deferred financing plans for important purchases. Plus, you get up to 5 percent back in Staples Rewards on all purchases, and free shipping from Staples.com throughout the year.
Many small businesses find breathing room in the first quarter of a new year. Take advantage of the window of opportunity to get back to business, and set your small company on the road to success in 2016.