The Year Ahead

When I was asked to write an article about the year ahead for the first The Rea Report issue of 2013, that dirty word – Obamacare – was the first thing that popped into my mind. Actually, I could’ve written the whole article in just one sentence: The number one thing I would tell business owners is that you need to understand how health care reform will affect your business by the second quarter of this year. But, the editors of this fine publication wouldn’t let me get away with that, so I’ll elaborate…and suggest a few more areas of focus for the year, too.

Get your arms around health care reform. Listen. Health care reform is going to be a serious challenge for many businesses. You’ll face difficult decisions. You really need to spend the first six months of 2013 figuring out how it will affect you so you can spend the rest of the year planning.

Don’t just sit there…do something. The media wants to convince us that uncertainty – about the economy, about tax law, about health care reform, about the budget deficit – is an impediment to running your business. To that, I say: “Nonsense.”

Running a business is always uncertain. The tax code is always changing. Instead of treading water until all uncertainty is gone (which will never happen), get a good advisor and figure out where your advantage is – and, well, take advantage of it.

Don’t use uncertainty as an excuse to not run your business the way you know you should. Always try to obtain a competitive advantage. Always meet your customers’ needs. Always operate as efficiently and as cost-effectively as you can. Map out your own strategy. Stay close to your customers and understand what they need, want and expect.

If you’re listening to the media and other owners droning on about the “what ifs,” you’re not running your business – someone else is.

Manage your balance sheet. I can’t stress enough the importance of a well-managed balance sheet. Pay attention to it. Pay attention to your cash. Pay attention to your receivables and whether you’re collecting them. Pay attention to your inventory level and whether you’re turning it. Pay attention to your bank debt. You will continue to survive downturns if you understand and manage these things.

Raise up leaders. Did you know that you can become a better organization – a stronger business – with the team you have? Have you given your employees every opportunity to excel – not only to help them improve, but to retain them as well? Your high-performing employees are important, of course, but for me, attitude is everything. I will accept less skill if it comes with an owner’s mentality.

Reward your team. Communicate with them and give them the technology they need to succeed and feel satisfied – and they’ll keep coming back every Monday morning ready to work.

As a business owner, I’m optimistic about 2013 and even more so about Ohio. Our political leadership has dealt with the difficult financial issues and continues to advance solutions to address those issues. The economy is growing, even if it’s happening slowly. Things are moving. We should all be planning on measured growth. Much success to you in the coming year.

This article was originally published in The Rea Report, a Rea & Associates print publication, Spring 2013.

Note: This content is accurate as of the date published above and is subject to change. Please seek professional advice before acting on any matter contained in this article.