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By Marcel Fernando Schaerer, University of Nevada, Reno
This past year was a rough year for many businesses. As we ring in the New Year, it’s important for business owners to first take time to celebrate and commend themselves and their employees for weathering the lingering economic storm, and to thank their loyal customers who helped keep them afloat.
Then, it’s time for business owners to plan for the New Year and make some “business New Year’s resolutions.” As with all New Year’s resolutions, it’s best to choose just a couple of concrete goals that can make the most impact, and focus your efforts on those. Here are some options that I have been suggesting to Hispanic business owners, with whom I work each week. Some are simple to implement, while others will take more time and effort.
– Data indicate that approximately 35 percent to 50 percent of utility expenses for small businesses are due to lighting. Energy consumption and costs can be decreased by simply changing lighting to LED and CFL bulbs.
– Explore other ways to incorporate energy-efficient technologies into your business by getting a free energy evaluation of your business, offered by the Business Environmental Program at the University of Nevada, Reno, 775-689-6676. An energy evaluation provided by an outside resource, and at no cost, is just a smart idea. Energy can be saved by assessing your furnace, air-conditioning units and appliances; replacing machinery and equipment; and investing time in training employees to be energy-conscious as part of your business culture.
– Reduce unnecessary inventory. New systems and just-in-time inventory control can find useful applications in small businesses.
– Reduce specific costs, such as cell phones, postage, paper, copying, and vehicle expenses, by establishing more efficient control systems. New technologies are available that make these systems fairly easy to establish and maintain.
– Focus on improving customer service. Train your employees to greet every customer with warm expressions, go out of their way to please each customer, and always finish each interaction expressing gratitude for their business.
– If you’re not already doing so, explore the world of social media, using Facebook, Twitter and other social media to market your business.
– If appropriate, consider offering online purchases if you’re not already doing so. More and more, people are gravitating toward the convenience of online purchasing, for both business-to-business and personal shopping.
– Read about global market trends and try to differentiate your products based on these trends. You may find that your company offers some unique products, and that by putting some time and effort into exporting a few of these products, you could considerably increase your profits.
Marcel Fernando Schaerer is the Hispanic business development manager at the Nevada Small Business Development Center in the University of Nevada, Reno College of Business. As part of his outreach, he hosts and co-hosts with Sandra Rentas call-in radio programs that focus on tips for Spanish-speaking small business owners. In Reno: Radio Innovacion, 1590-AM, 2 – 3 p.m., Tuesdays. In Las Vegas: Radio La Voz de la Comunidad 1340-AM, 3 – 4 p.m., every other Monday (Jan. 10 and Jan. 24).