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Top tips for growing your business in 2012

With a new year comes a wealth of fresh opportunities to meet your business goals. Read our ten top tips to help you spot opportunities when they come your way - and maybe even create a few of your own!

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With a new year comes a wealth of fresh opportunities to meet your business goals. Though the headlines may be full of economic doom, many SME business owners feel confident with more than 60% saying they expect their revenue to increase in 2012 and that winning new business will be their priority over the next twelve months*. Follow these tips to put your business on the path to prosperity. 1. Update your business plan The start of a new year is the perfect opportunity to review your goals. You should plan which direction you're going to take your company in the next 12 months and then communicate this to ALL your staff, so everyone knows what they are working towards. 2. Review your products and services Ask yourself; are your products and services still relevant to your customers? Markets change regularly and you need to keep your finger on the pulse. If you're not sure what your customers want, talk to them and find out what it is they really need – don't guess! 3. Find new customers It's important to get ‘new blood' into your sales systems, just in case your well-established customers stop spending with you. For more, read our top tips for discovering new customers. If orders from current clients are flagging, you can also look to replace them with new opportunities in the public sector or overseas. 4. Sell more to your current customers If you're in the fortunate position of having a healthy client base, you could try to sell more of your products to your current customers. Look at which products they already buy from you and see if you can offer them a complementary service. 5. Build new relationships If you can't supply exactly what it is your customers want, consider forming strategic partnerships with other businesses. This way you can refer clients to one another and you won't have to leave your customers disappointed. 6. Improve your cash flow By improving your credit control systems, you can maintain a consistent cash flow, avoid bad debt and minimise late payments. Intermediate and Advanced members of the Forum: Access the Credit Control Guide online for practical advice on managing your cash flow. 7. Cut the cost of essential services Now is the time to look at where you can save money on everyday expenses, allowing you to make more profit. As a member of the Forum, you can get a free audit of your purchasing costs. 8. Explore franchising opportunities Franchising isn't right for every business, but if you've got a proven business idea that you believe has legs, turning it into a franchise is a proven way of expanding, often for less than the price of a new office or retail location. 9. Invest in training Identify any skills gaps in your workforce and organise training as appropriate. Not only will this help to enhance your company from within, it can have the added benefit of engaging your staff and making them feel more involved in your organisation, plus it can save on the cost of hiring new staff to fill skills gaps. 10. Seek advice If you're making big changes in your company, or are unsure about how you should develop your business, it can help to seek impartial expert advice. Members of the Forum can call our friendly helpline staff on 0845 130 1722 to discuss any business issue. *Source: Simply Business, November 2011

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