I don't think that I am alone in thinking 2011 was a difficult year. In fact, I'd go as far as to say it was flippin' hard work. So what have I learned from my experience during 2011 that will benefit me in 2012?
1 Don't trust Government pronouncements…
I seem to remember the Royal Wedding being declared as an event that would stimulate growth and now it is being blamed for a poor second quarter!
There are two more big occasions in 2012 - the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics. The first gives us another four-day-long weekend, which isn't great for employers because we have to pay staff for another day off. However, I say smile and take it with good grace - and use the opportunity for a themed promotion or sale.
What benefit will the Olympics bring to small firms? It could be two weeks of utter misery as everyone watches the telly and I've already got people queuing up to book time-off for the games. Again, you can market yourself around an Olympic theme, make it work for you, start planning what you will sell, how you will go to market and use the opportunity to boost your sales. Don't forget to also think ‘against the flow' by trying to appeal to those who are fed up with the Olympics.
2 Recession, bankruptcy, Euro zone collapse, blah, blah, blah…
These seemed to be the overriding media stories at the end of 2011, and this sort of stuff can really get you down. You can't ignore it because it is important and if one thing is for certain - 2012 will be even worse - according to our leaders.
Robert Peston and Faisal Islam will be looking lugubrious on the BBC and Channel 4 news respectively and making hefty pronouncements, but I say - don't let the b******s grind you down. Life will continue and people will still buy stuff, so stay focused and keep working. You might need to move out of your comfort zone and think ‘out of the box', but both can be good things for business owners?
3 Christmas is a time to relax…
I'm an absolute idiot and a disgrace to my profession. I run an online business and have always considered the Christmas shutdown to be just that. We have a skeleton staff on and do enough business to justify opening the warehouse. In 2011, it was pointed out to me that Boxing Day is the busiest online shopping day of the year. So we held a warehouse clearance sale over the holiday and increased our turnover by five times. In 2012, I am going to be really looking forward to the Christmas break and will definitely NOT allow just a skeleton staff to be on duty.
So there you go, three opportunities for the coming year. The bigger picture on the economy is that small business closures - although climbing - aren't climbing exponentially. Interest rates are non-existent and likely to stay that way. The Government can't really cut much more. In fact, the only thing it can really do is tinker at the margins and try to make life better for us wealth and job creators. We are constantly told that we are the backbone of the nation - let Government forget that at its peril!
John Sollars, MD of printer ink retailer Stinkyink.com
Read more of John's published posts on his Google+ page