How Iowa Small Business Owners Can Find Success in 2024

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By Rafael Colon, Vice President, Small Business Banker, Consumer & Small Business, Bank of America Iowa

As we navigate the new year, now is a good time for business owners to reflect on the state of their business and the factors that matter most to their success.

The most successful companies will be those with leaders who are keenly versed in knowing costs structures, focused on core competencies and understand the market. These fundamental skillsets can equate to successful bottom lines, regardless of your specific industry or economic conditions.

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Given this, here are a few steps business leaders can take to start the new year strong.

Updating Your Business Plan

Regularly reviewing and adapting your business plan is critical to ensure you’re operating in a realistic and nimble manner. When updating a business plan, there are a few best practices to keep in mind.

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  • Compare last year’s business performance to prior years by checking sales results and marketing tactics to spot trends. This will help you determine the best strategies in 2024.
  • Keep your budget in mind and ensure you are updating salaries, your projections, any fixed costs or money you’ve used to grow your business over the past year.
  • Source feedback from others when updating your business plan. Speak with your employees, your customers and fellow business owners to get a sense of what’s working well and what needs to be changed to perform better this year.
  • Evaluate your customer service offerings. At the end of the day, you want to make sure you’re keeping the customer happy, so look at your strategies, such as loyalty programs, to ensure you’re creating repeat customers.

Evaluate Your Working Capital

One resource that almost all business owners will need is capital – be it from efficiencies and cost reductions or from your bank or the SBA. In Iowa, Bank of America small business lending is up year-over-year, with $268 million extended locally in 2023, reflecting confidence and growth amongst market small businesses.

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Despite demand, many entrepreneurs face difficulties accessing capital. Traditional bank loans may feel like the strongest capital source, but it’s important to consider that it might not be the best fit for your business. This is where business grants that do not need to be repaid can help bolster your small business finances. Also, Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) can be helpful sources of capital for underserved entrepreneurs. Across the country, Bank of America partners with local CDFIs to fund projects that help strengthen families, businesses and entire communities. One of Bank of America’s local CDFI partners in Iowa is Solidarity Microfinance. Solidarity Microfinance works to create economic opportunities by providing small business loans, training services and helping with savings. Over $6 million in loans have been provided to more than 500 borrowers across the state. If you’re looking for somewhere to start, ask your banker or visit Bank of America’s Access to Capital Directory, which offers a variety of free and low-cost capital resources to consider.

Recruiting and Retaining Talent

It’s important to evaluate your hiring or retention processes, as nearly half of small business owners are impacted by labor shortages, according to Bank of America’s 2023 Women & Minority Business Owner Spotlight, often leading to entrepreneurs working more hours and raising wages. Whether it’s sourcing candidates, setting a clear employee growth timeline, or creating an internship program, businesses can explore various ways to bring candidates to the interview table. As talent acquisition grows increasingly competitive, our bankers have also been working with more businesses to offer benefits packages as additional ways to recruit and retain top talent.

The new year is also a great time to recognize your current team to set a positive tone for the year ahead. Take time in the new year to set S.M.A.R.T. expectations and goals for your team – meaning goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. If you didn’t already, it’s also important to acknowledge the great work your team did in the prior year, which can serve as a motivating factor for growth in 2024.

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As the nation’s top small business lender that has served Iowa for more than 110 years, Bank of America is proud to offer these steps that can help put your business on the path to a strong and successful 2024.

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