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Don’t let 2016 pass you by - kickstart your business planning

With a new year beginning, thoughts turn to business opportunities that we may create or find during 2016.  Will this be the year when we hit upon the next big thing?  Will our ship come in?  And if it does, will we get on board or will we miss the boat?​

The truth is that as an entrepreneur, there is never a lack of opportunity.  In fact, the biggest challenge can be turning chances away in order to remain focused and on the right track.  Sometimes we will miss out.

In 1876, the Western Union declined the opportunity to purchase the patent for the telephone from Alexander Graham Bell declaring "the idea of installing telephones in every city as idiotic.  Why would any person want to use this ungainly and impractical device when he can send a messenger to the telegraph office and have a  clear written message sent to any large city in the US?"

As a business owner, you don't want to miss the boat so what can you do to keep your business on track?

 - Revisit your business plan and have a look at your tactics.  Has anything changed or are there areas that aren't working effectively for you.  If there are, then rethink those parts of your strategy.

 - Talk to a business mentor. If you feel that your business has lost momentum and you are struggling to understand which direction you need to go in, discuss it with a business mentor. They are experts in business planning and because they are one step removed from your business, they can see where your strategy has gaps that need to be filled.

 - Look at your fixed and variable costs. Make sure that your business is not locked into a range of fixed costs like office space and staff salaries.Try to keep your costs variable so you can scale them up and down depending on your level of sales. Use contract staff rather than hiring permanent staff to give you flexibility to cut costs when you need to.

 - Look at your marketing strategy. Make sure you are not wasting money in areas that are simply not working. Work out how much you earn from each sale and how many sales you need to start generating a profit. Then look at the most cost effective way of winning those sales.

 - Consider your sales tactics. Are you being seen in the right places? If you are selling a product that you need to sell in bulk to make a profit, then networking may not be the best option for you. You may want to try email marketing campaigns, automated campaigns and google adwords. Conversely, if you are selling a business service then networking may be the ideal place for you to be seen.

 - Have you considered PR? This can be a great way to profile a new business or products that are a bit different. PR is often cheaper than traditional advertising and can really help to put your business on the map.

Above all, be open minded. If a business opportunity comes your way, be prepared to take a risk and go for it. It is often risk takers in business that reap the biggest rewards. Remember - if you have a bright idea and get rejected, you are in good company. And if you've turned down an opportunity that you regret, console yourself that there will always be others.