Neil F. Anderson, Founder & President, The Courage Group, Inc.

Breaking News-We are just a few days away from the New Year. And for many entrepreneurs/small business owners, the feeling this holiday season may be- thank goodness.

Overall, the economy was weak and anemic during 2013, which made it a challenge for many business owners. A challenge just trying to keep the lights on and the doors open for business. Much less enjoy any kind of significant growth.

But time now to forget about the past and now focus on the future. Time now to develop your New Year’s business survival and growth strategies. And equally as important, time now to follow through on them. Time now for more doing than talking.

Here are 10 tips that can help keep you and our small business on the right track in 2014 and beyond. Plus, help to keep you out of the dreaded small business failure graveyard.

Tip #1 Update Your Business Plan

Time now to revisit your original business plan; make some changes to your business model, which may need some major tweaking. Or, if you have never written a business plan, now would be a great time to write one. A business plan is simply a written description of what you are going to do and how you are going to do it. It is your roadmap to success.

One of the great benefits of writing a business plan is that it forces you to look at your competition. Needless to say, there are many competitors today, who are constantly trying to win new clients and customers away from you. Not to mention the fact that you have to try and figure out better, more effective ways to compete with the Internet and all the “do it yourselfers.” Hint-win by giving people more value.

Like many other entrepreneurs and small business owners, maybe you did not write one because you saw no need to do so. Especially if you were not trying to raise any money. Don’t look at writing one as a hassle; look at it as more of an opportunity for business survival and growth.

Tip #2 Market Everyday

Time now to think about how you are going to find potential clients and customers. You can have the best mousetrap in the world, but if nobody knows about you, your services or products, no revenue.

A couple of cost-effective marketing strategies you may want to try next year, get some few media publicity and form some select strategic alliances or partnerships. With the goal of generating a steady stream of sales leads, deal opportunities for your small business. But at a much lower cost of sale. And if you have not already done so, try adopting some social media strategies/campaigns.

Also, keep this in mind- when “pitching” the media for free publicity, they (the media) could care less about you and your business. They care only about a good story. Give them a good story and thereby increase your chances of success.

Plus, remember this-NSM. (never stop marketing)

Tip #3 Sell Everyday

Time now to fall in love, or re-fall in love with the role of sales. Nothing else matters unless you have some paying clients or customers. Become a “rainmaker” in your company. Or find someone who can, fast.

Time now to start winning new business by providing more value to customers vs. trying to compete solely on prices. You may also want to offer more flat fees vs. hourly fees/prices. People like knowing in advance, how much something will cost, what they are going to get for their money, and when they are going to get it. Plus, get more passionate and more knowledgeable with your overall sales efforts. Also important, do more listening than talking in 2014.

To shorten your sales process with potential clients or customers, you need to understand why people don’t buy. A reminder:

1. No need

2. No money

3. No hurry

4. No credibility

5. No trust

Tip #4 Don’t Waste Your Time

Time now to quit wasting your time now. As you already know, there are only so many hours in the day. If you are not marketing, selling, executing, and working with clients and customers each day, you are wasting your time.

Small business survival and growth depends on asking yourself this question; Is what I am doing right now contributing towards winning new customers/clients or keeping exisiting ones? If not, don’t do it.

Tip #5 Be More Focused

Time now to separate yourself from the many distractions of the day, as much as you possibly can. When asked what was a key part of his start-up and growth success, Jeff Bezos, Founder of said; “Constant focus.” Not bad advice for other business owners these days.

For small business survival and growth success, “keeping your eyes on the ball” at all times, and minimizing costly distractions still matters. Lose your focus and you may lose your business.

Tip #6 Visualize Success More

Time now for entrepreneurs/small business owners to begin visualizing success at all times, not failure. Your mind needs to know that although there will be many ups and downs, a light does exist at the end of the tunnel, and it is bright. By visualizing success, your actions will become more confident. And increased confidence breeds success.

Remember, customers or clients prefer to do business with people who are confident; knowing that buying their services and products will indeed help them.

Tip #7 Remember The Alternative

Time now, to keep telling your mind, (especially during the down times) why you are doing this in the first place. Remember, you are trying to create a better financial future for you and your family.

Just visualizing yourself at the mercy of others controlling your life, playing corporate politics, reporting to incompetent bosses should be sufficient motivation to keep your mind right.

Fred Smith, Founder/CEO of FedEx nailed it when he said; “For start-up success and continued growth, you have to decide that this is the one thing you want to do more than anything else.”

Tip #8 Sharpen Your Communication Skills

Time now to begin speaking more concisely, persuasively and clearly with your employees, clients, customers, media, speaking audiences or really; anyone. Time now to lose the mumbo jumbo and begin using straight forward, plain English.

The ability to speak and write concisely and with clarity is fast becoming a competitive advantage for entrepreneurs and small-business owners (and for big companies, too). Articulating clearly what your business is, what kind of goods or services you sell and how much they cost helps the bottom line. Potential customers or clients appreciate clear and meaningful information. It even can make the difference between success and failure.

Using plain English is crucial when seeking funding to start or grow a business.

Angel/Venture capitalists and bankers have little tolerance for gobbledygook. If small-business owners can’t cut to the chase with answers to their questions, their chances of securing funds are basically zilch.

Here is an example-A “next-generation MRM platform that synergistically integrates best-of-breed applications to dynamically optimize enterprise assets.” What?

Tip #9 Hunker Down

We live in a very up, down and whatever economy. During the next downturn, (which may be just around the corner) you really have only one choice; don’t allow panic to set in. This will only lead to inaction and inaction can lead to business failure.

My father was right when he told me at the outset of my own business; “Remember Neil, a hungry dog hunts better.” That when clients get few and far between, and money is tight, successful small business owners will somehow find a way to drum up some new business or sales.

The next time things get dicey, try this-put some of Beethoven’s music on. Listening to his music has helped me clear my head, helped me come up with solutions to problems.

Whether your inspiration comes from Beethoven or the Beatles, the point is to have something that works for you

Tip #10 See #’s 2 and 3 Again!

You can’t do much about 2013, but you sure can for 2014.

Cheers to a much more prosperous New Year!