4 Unexpected New Year's Resolutions For Small Businesses

It's that time of year when it just feels right to set new goals and start new habits. While most of us are jotting down "work out more," it's a great time for small business owners to set aside a moment to make professional resolutions for the coming year.We've rounded up four unexpected resolutions that can help small businesses grow in big ways.

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1. Give more things away for free. Yeah, we mean it. For example, if you make artisan soaps, send some to the influential lifestyle bloggers and local journalists that you follow (don't skimp on the pretty packaging either!). If you make gourmet beef jerky, sample your new recipes in farmers markets and tasting events. These investments in the experience can grow your customer base leaps and bounds, but pick and choose them wisely. Sure, a huge annual food festival is going be great to show off your jerky to a lot of new people... but it's also very expensive and last year you were buried in the back tent with 17 other meat vendors. Hmm, but what about that smaller craft beer festival that's the same weekend? At the beer festival you won't be competing with as many food purveyors and it's common knowledge that beer drinkers and jerky eaters are exactly the same people. Plus, it's a charity event, so there are warm fuzzies and tax breaks involved too. We think we've got a winner.

2. Get rid of your social media. Wait, don't cancel your accounts just yet. Instead, vow not to sweat Facebook this year—delegate. Say you own a coffee shop and want to show off  your baristas' gorgeous latte art. Instead of worrying about those posts yourself, ask your staff to take the reigns on project #latteartlove so they can share whenever they create something particularly inspired. Or maybe one of your baristas is a marketing student and particularly funny on Twitter. Give them the keys to the social media and let them run it. Delegate to your customers too. Make sure you have social media signage visible in places where people are likely to share. At that coffee shop, perhaps you set up a chalkboard near the beverage pick-up line and on the wall by the much-photographed watercolor painting of Nicolas Cage.

3. Drink more champagne. That is to say, meet more people. Go to networking events and even host some of your own event for your customers, neighborhood, fellow business owners, etc. Or choose a different person from your community to ask out for coffee. It could be a potential mentor, someone in your field who just moved to town or someone who just seems really, really interesting. It might be as intimidating as a blind date, but chatting is the original social networking.

4. Take more breaks. We've misled you with the title of this post (sorry!) because you were probably expecting this one, but it's a big one. Schedule personal time for yourself. Make a no laptops on Sunday policy. Take a real (yes, unplugged) vacation. Running a business is a round-the-clock job, but you can't do it on an empty tank. If you feel like you don't have enough hours in the day, take a personal audit. Identify the one thing about your  day that takes up far more time than it is worth. If you can, completely cut that thing out entirely. If it's a necessary evil, find a way to make it less evil. Maybe that means delegating something, hiring a part-time bookkeeper or scheduling a block of time on Mondays to dedicate solely to customer service rather than trying to tackle it little by little each day and getting lost in it. Whatever you need to do, do it in January so that you can start taking better care of yourself and your business this year.