Small Business Lessons Learned in 2010

It seems like it is something we just automatically do this time of year.  Reflect on the past year.  It is almost a cliché, but I think there is a lot to be learned from the lessons of the past.  It gives us an opportunity to see what worked, what didn’t and how we might approach things going forward.

So here we go.  I categorized this discussion in terms of major events/topics and the lessons learned.

The Move: The big event this year for Thread Logic was moving the business into a commercial industrial park.  All in all, I think it went fairly well.  There was no major setback or downtime.  That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a royal pain in the backside.

Lesson Learned: Moving your business is expensive and time consuming.  It is not something to be taken lightly or done very often, at least in my case.  I think it was the right thing at the right time, but I didn’t fully appreciate the amount of work that it would take.

Sales: We experienced a mix bag this year in terms of sales growth.  The first half of the year was basically flat over last year.  I realize in this economy many companies would be happy with that, but when you are accustom to much larger growth rates, a period of flat sales is not the goal.

The better news came this summer as I adjusted my online campaigns that produced double digit growth over the second half of 2010.  Now that’s more like it.

Lessons Learned: There are really two lessons here; the first was the cost of taking my eye off the ball.  With the move, I was focused on that and not our marketing efforts which I think hurt us.  And second is the fact that the position of my ads in my Google pay-per-click campaigns matters.  When I adjusted that, sales increased.

Awards: We were honored this year to be recognized with a number of awards.  The biggest was the Better Business Bureau’s Integrity Award.  A panel of judges selected Thread Logic for exemplifying ethical behavior and displaying integrity in all aspects of the company’s operations: toward employees, vendors, customers, and within the community.  I was also recognized by Finance & Commerce Magazine as a Minnesotan On the Move.

Lesson Learned: Awards and recognition are nice, but for me, the whole point is being able to use those awards to drive more business.  I am starting to work on that now so this time next year we will see how it comes out.

Teaching: This past year I did presentations for other small companies about how the Internet changed my company and how it can change theirs.  These events were sponsored by the Better Business Bureau.  I really enjoyed doing them and I believe they were beneficial to those who attended.

Lesson Learned: One of the reasons I do these kinds of events are to gain exposure to new customers who will then purchase embroidered apparel from us.  I can’t say that I have seen any new business come in from these efforts.  I may have to re-evaluate going forward.

Social media: I took the “social” plunge this year and intentionally began some efforts to be more active in social media and social marketing.  I started writing this blog and got on Facebook both personally and with Thread Logic.

Lesson Learned: The jury is still out for me if social media is right for my business.  It is getting all the buzz right now, but I have not seen the results.  It is probably working better for a business to consumer product offering than it is my business to business model. We will keep working on it and see what the next year brings.

So there you have it.  What did you learn this year in your business?  What worked for you?  What didn’t?  Please share it.

Happy 2011.

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