President’s Letter: New Year, New Opportunities


Jennifer Tavares, CEcD, President & CEO

Jennifer Tavares, CEcD, President & CEO

I’m sure we all realized how fast 2016 was coming around early November, when we were scheduling meetings through January, drafting annual reports, checking on Q4 financials, and working on 2016 annual work plans. Well, here we are, and whether you are enjoying some quiet days in the office or a few last days of vacation before 2016 begins, it’s a great time to think about ways to make this year fantastic for your small business or non-profit organization.

Here are a few ideas to get your new year rolling:

  • Ensure you are up to date with new wage laws and policies impacting your bottom line. The minimum wage in New York State has increased to $9.00 per hour for all workers, $9.75 per hour for fast food workers, and $7.50 per hour for tipped workers as of December 31, 2015. Be aware of other local and state wage increase proposals, how they might impact your business, and begin long-term planning for adjustments if necessary. If your business hasn’t examined other major Federal changes that may affect your exempt and non-exempt hourly employees, contact your business advisor or the Chamber for more information.
  • Brush up your business plan or strategic plan. Many small business owners have either never had a formal business plan, or have only drafted one in order to obtain financing from a bank or SBA lender. Taking the time to create one, two, and five year plans for your business or organization will prove invaluable, and direction and clarity are often achieved before the planning process is complete. Be sure to engage a broad base of your stakeholders—customers, investors, donors, staff, and even family members.
  • Manage your cash flow & make it easier to pay and collect. Take the time to create monthly cash flow projections for the entire year based on your budget and anticipated sales or revenue cycle. Adjust this analysis monthly as the year passes, and revise your projections as the circumstances change throughout the year. Maintaining a solid understanding of your historical cash uses and upcoming cash demands will help your business manage seasonal ebbs and flows, and ensure you are investing properly in savings, equipment or building repair/replacement, and debt reduction.
  • Evaluate business structure, role descriptions, and set goals & objectives. Take time to reflect on your business or organizational structure, the composition of your team, and the effectiveness of your staffing model. Explore whether your business or organization is as effective as possible, and whether you can meet your goals and objectives within the framework you’ve created. Q1 is a great time to evaluate role descriptions for your team, verify that they are up to date and reflective of actual roles being undertaken, and identify shortcomings or staffing reassignments that have already occurred—or that should occur in the coming months.
  • Focus on marketing, social media, and new technology. If you don’t have the expertise in house for a modern marketing, advertising and social media strategy, and the software and equipment needed to operate your business or organization the way you need to, then make a plan to “acquire or hire” the know-how and the systems to accomplish your goals. In this day and age, ineffective emails, marketing messages, graphics, and websites just won’t cut it. Inefficient software and equipment will cost you both time and money. These are all important investments, but they require a plan and proper expertise to implement—and many local firms can provide you guidance regarding communications and technology.
  • Plan for time off and professional development early in the year. Making vacation plans and committing to professional development goals at the beginning of the year is critical for every employee, even though it may require some tracking and nudging from whomever manages your human resources. However, formulating a time-off plan for everyone ensures that your workplace establishes realistic expectations regarding a healthy work/life balance, while also developing your staff and ensuring top performance.

This is merely the tip of the iceberg, of course. Contact the Chamber or other local business development partners for more suggestions to help make your business or organization all it can be in 2016. Best wishes for a productive and successful year from the entire Chamber & CVB staff!

January 2015