The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), a program of the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), is encouraging small businesses to start the year off by making a New Year's resolution to invest in cost-saving and productivity-increasing measures that can positively impact a company's bottom line.
The MEP is a nationwide network of 400 resource centers located in all 50 states and in Puerto Rico that assists small manufacturers in becoming more efficient, productive and competitive.
"For many small business owners, there is never a right time to invest in their company," said Kevin Carr, MEP's director, "but doing so doesn't have to be expensive and can lead to gains that can have a substantial impact on a company's bottom line all year long and for years to come."
MEP's top 10 business New Year's resolutions for 2002 include:
1. Re-examine your marketing approach. Many industry pockets are experiencing rapid growth. Is your company taking steps to identify these areas of growth? A marketing assessment of your company's product and the markets you can sell your product to can help you determine opportunities in growth areas that you might not have previously considered.
2. Profile your best customers. Wouldn't it be great if you had more of your best customers? Make a list of your customers and focus on the ones that provide the best work at the best margin. Look for patterns or similarities. The result-a profile of your ideal customer-can be compared to marketing databases to find prospective customers ideally suited to your company and services.
3. Invest in sales training and technology. Make the most of existing technology, marketing databases and software to give your sales force the support they need. Send your sales force to a sales training course. Explore purchasing contact management technology to help get the most out of each sales call.
4. Refresh your business perspective. Get fresh ideas on your business by getting an objective, outside view of your company. Strategic assessments are useful in identifying improvement opportunities, informing about business practices used by other companies, and sharpening your company's game plan by providing practical ideas.
5. Streamline Your Business Strategies. Lean business strategies help companies identify and eliminate waste in the business cycle and can help a small firm attain gains that would normally be associated with a much larger company. Using lean business strategies can lead to better space utilization, quality improvement, enhanced team work, and effective communication, all of which affect productivity. And, more importantly, they provide efficiencies that translate into cost savings and increase bottom-line profits.
6. Upgrade your network security. Computer viruses are increasing in frequency and complexity. Take steps now to ensure the security of your business data and computer network.
7. Review your disaster plans. The Sept. 11 attacks impacted a variety of business supply chains. Regardless of the cause-a natural disaster, customer loss or other issue-a disruption of any kind can be better managed using a well-articulated disaster plan.
8. Invest in employee training. Promote people from within by providing them with skills that prepare them for the next job. Research the skills or technologies your customers need next. Ask your vendors what training opportunities they may have to teach you about their products and services. Whether it's a computer software course, management class or technology training, employee education pays off.
9. Take stock of what you measure and why. Are your measurements aligned with your business strategies? If you're looking for focused measures, consider inventory turns and on-time delivery performance. These two indicators often provide clues for future cost-savings and improvement opportunities.
10. Engage your employees. If you're not asking your employees about ways to improve the company-and listening to the answers, you're missing out. Engaging your employees at the grassroots level, whether it's through informal hallway discussions, employee surveys or monthly staff meetings, is one of the easiest ways to reap big rewards.
As a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce's Technology Administration, NIST strengthens the U.S. economy and improves the quality of life by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards.
The MEP has assisted more than 107,000 firms to date nationwide. For more information, visit www.mep.nist.gov. To contact the MEP center nearest you, call 1-800-MEP-4MFG.