Janet W. Christy offers her eighth annual version of the Top Ten Resolutions for Women Business Owners.  Janet is the, author of Capitalizing on Being Woman Owned and 101 Winning Marketing Actions for Small Businesses and is a Counselor for the South Carolina Women’s Business Center.

1.Follow Up.  New for 2014.  If you want to set yourself apart from the competition then follow up.  If you promise information to someone, provide it in timely manner.  If you meet a potential customer/client, send a note or email within a week.  If you gave information to a prospect six months ago and you haven’t heard from them, send them a note, card or email to remind them you are still around and would like their business.  If you find out that your competition has a contract with a prospect, contact the prospect three months (or whatever is reasonable) before the contract expires.
2.Follow the money.   Carried over from 2013.  Know what your customers/clients are spending their money on.  If your customers/clients are medical be sure you understand how the new health care laws and trends effect their spending.  If you sell clothing or jewelry, be sure that you know not only what people like, but what they are spending their money on.  No matter who your customers/clients are they are effected by laws, trends and other issues, so you must follow the money (their money) to see how your products and services fit in.
3.Learn a new language.  New for 2014. Learn the language of your customers/clients.  Be sure your marketing message and materials speak in their language.  What you sell or provide is not important to them.  The benefit of your product/service to them is what is important and what must be conveyed in what you say.  Do not describe your product/service.  Tell them what it does for them.
4.Determine if you have (or need) a niche.  New for 2014.  Do you ever try to please everyone in a group of people (office, family, organization, etc.)?  Never works, does it?  So why would you attempt to sell and provide your products /services to “any”, “all”, “every” of a group.  If you provide dog walking services, is every dog owner a potential customer?  No, only the ones who need and are willing to pay for the service.  If you do not find your niche – the people who will actually pay for your products/services – then you are spending time and money on sales and marketing and hoping you reach the ones who will spend money with you.
5.Put it on your calendar.  New for 2014. If you don’t put plans on your calendar you haven’t made a commitment and the plan rarely converts into an action. 
6.Ask. Carried over from 2013.  Resolve to ask for the sale, the contract, the opportunity, the loan or whatever will make your business successful.  Often people feel uncomfortable to actually ask the question.  We tend to layout the “story” and wait for the prospect, banker, etc. to offer the purchase, contract, opportunity or funding.  Asking makes it clear what you want and shows strength.  Asking gets an answer.
7.Network with customers, not your peers.  Carried over because it is so important.  Networking with your peers may be comfortable and it may produce a lead now and then, but it will not produce as many opportunities as networking with your customers or prospects will.  This means you must first find out where your customers/clients/prospects are – professional organizations, industry specific online discussions, trade fairs, etc.  You only have so many hours that you can network, be sure you are spending them in the most productive places and ways.
8.Evaluate your current practices for effectiveness.  Carried over from 2013.  If you haven’t figured out how to measure the effectiveness of the things you are doing for and in your business then you do not really know if you are getting the results you need.  Remember that measurements should be results oriented, not a list of efforts.  For instance instead of measuring by the number of people who like your business on Facebook, find out how many people made a purchase or at least an inquiry because of your business Facebook page.
9.Put it in writing.  Carried over from previous years.  Don’t fall victim to a misunderstanding or misinterpretation – put everything in writing.  By doing so, you will save yourself time, money, agony and broken relationships.  All partnering or subcontracting arrangements should be spelled out in an agreement and signed by all parties.  Any contract with a customer/client should include a Scope of Work/Services that clearly states what you will do, what the customer/client will do and the amount and schedule of payment.  Do it even if you know or are related to your partner, trust your prime contractor, think you understand the project/product requirements or believe in handshake agreements.  Things can happen that will alter the original circumstances – people leave, new factors arise, funds are delayed – and if you are not protected by having terms in writing, you could jeopardize your revenue and/or reputation. 
10.Don’t wait.  New for 2014.  Stop finding reasons to wait.  Do, now, the things that will make you more successful.  If you do not feel ready, then make a plan (and put dates with the actions) to get ready.