Dear Small Business Owner: 2017 Might Have Been Bumpy, But Hang On

Here's four things to ask yourself before you throw in the towel.
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Small business owners who had a tough 2017 should not throw in the towel just yet.

Many entrepreneurs had to battle to survive this year in the face of many challenging economic circumstances.

"The economy slipped in and out of a technical recession, South Africa experienced multiple downgrades amid political turmoil, consumer confidence declined and disposable income among businesses' customer bases likely experienced strain as a result," said Kobus Engelbrecht, spokesperson for Sanlam's 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year competition.

Late payments from debtors –- who were likely experiencing the same effects of an ailing economy is another issue many businesses likely faced in their operations, he added.

Engelbrecht said the end of the year should be a time to reflect on where the business stumbled, where it soared and why.

He suggested every small business owner should review these key areas:

1. Is your business plan still relevant?

Engelbrecht believes a good way to assess whether your business has achieved its goals over the past year is to sit down with a copy of your business plan. Some of the key elements to review would include:

  • Sales, profitability and cash flow forecasts: analyse whether these figures are within expectations and achievable given the current economic climate.
  • Customer and staff retention: has staff turnover suffered any significant changes, and likewise, has the business lost or gained any clients.
  • Marketing campaigns: were the marketing plans effective and did they deliver a satisfactory return on investment.

2. Are your goals measurable going into 2018?

After you've looked over your business plan, Engelbrecht suggests writing down achievable, realistic and measurable goals for your business in the coming year, and again assessing them this time next year.

3. Are there new market trends your business can adopt?

It's important, particularly for businesses with a digital presence, to always be seeking ways to capitalise on new tools. Social media, for example, has made it easier to promote and conduct business.

4. Thank your staff and suppliers

Taking the time to check in with staff and suppliers is a good way to receive feedback and insight as they may have identified a trend, a strength or a weakness that you as a business owner might have overlooked. Moreover, staff and suppliers are two valuable assets and it's important to thank them for their contribution to your business, even if it was a tough year.

Finally, after you've done all this, take some time for yourself, suggests Engelbrecht. "At this time of the year, it is crucial that entrepreneurs, who often work 24/7, grant themselves a little downtime to regain balance and direction within their business so that they are ready and prepared for the year ahead."