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updated: 11/7/2011 5:24 AM

Gut check: Time to start on pivotal 2012 plans

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I know we're just one week into November. Some of us still have Halloween candy to finish. Thanksgiving is almost three weeks away.

Nonetheless, my gut says we should set aside some time to work on our 2012 plans. The New Year will be pivotal for many businesses. It's time to take some serious steps.

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• Small business owners have two important tasks: Actually think about what we want our businesses to accomplish in 2012, then map strategies and tactics to get us where we want to be.

Get some insights from your accountant. A good accountant should be able to discuss ways to better manage receivables and payables; tax issues that might impact the timing of new equipment purchases; bank and non-bank financing options.

Get your advisory board involved. If your business is large enough to have a management team, get them involved, too.

• Take advantage of marketplace turmoil to buy a competitor and its market share. Conversely, start preparing your business for sale.

Although many small business owners would like to get out, others are ready to grab opportunities. After you raise the topic with your accountant, talk to a knowledgeable business broker or transaction attorney, and, if you're in a buying mode, a marketer who can discuss ways to establish your brand in a new situation.

Kick the idea around with your advisory board.

• If you haven't done so already, put an advisory board in place. The economy isn't likely to be any friendlier next year; most of us could benefit by tapping into a group of advisors-mentors willing to impart what they have learned.

Go to dinner or spend a Saturday morning together every quarter. What you should be looking for is input that will help you make decisions about your business. What you'll have to be willing to do is share your goals and your business' current situation with your advisory board.

Board members should be individuals outside your business, but ones whose opinions you respect. Figure between three and seven members -- even if yours is a one-person business.

• Spend some money on marketing. The good news is that you probably won't have to spend a lot; however, with most buyers continuing to stay on the sidelines, you'll have to reach out to both prospects, for new business, and existing customers, for repeat business.

Your outreach may include participation in panel presentations at industry meetings or a speech or two to homeowner groups.

Depending on your business, much of your marketing can be Internet-based: A website that is easy to find and navigate -- and provides reasons for visitors to buy; an e-newsletter that puts your business in front of its market every six or eight weeks.

• Jim Kendall welcomes comments at JKendall@121MarketingResources.com.

2011 121 Marketing Resources Inc.

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