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4 New Year's Resolutions for Small-Business Owners Whether you want to decrease costs, grow market share or improve cash flow, now is the time to prepare for that clean slate in 2016.

By Lisa Stevens Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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At the beginning of the year, many small business owners make a list of resolutions to help them run a more successful and more profitable business throughout the year ahead. Whether it's to decrease costs, grow market share, improve cash flow or get more organized, a new year provides the opportunity to begin with a clean slate.

Since we all know that the first step toward realizing our goals is to set them, the new year offers the perfect opportunity to review your organization's goals and create new ones. Here are a few great resolutions that can help businesses thrive in today's competitive environment.

Related: 3 New Year's Resolutions to Improve Your Business Operations This Year

1. Plan ahead.

The first step toward ramping up your business in 2016 is putting a business plan in place. We know from experience and research that in general, business owners benefit from having a formal, written plan. If you have one already, now is the time to do a quick review and consider updates to reflect your current business needs and goals. If you don't have one, set aside time to put one together.

Writing a business plan can help business owners prioritize how to spend their time and money and set measurable goals. It also can help identify current or future obstacles so you can better anticipate and avoid potential risks. A business plan also may help you obtain business financing. For example, for an SBA loan and some larger business loans and lines of credit, lenders may require a formal business plan before extending credit.

2. Jump start your competition.

Every business owner wants a leg up on their competition. Taking time to research and understand your competitive landscape will not only help you to better comprehend the market and your key competitors, but will also help you to identify and map out potential customers or partners and perhaps target your next advertising campaign.

The process of comparing your business to competitors can be used as part of the business planning process. Among the resources available to help is a free, Competitive Intelligence Tool that Wells Fargo now offers as part of its comprehensive Business Plan Center to provide business owners with key insights on competitors and the market for their business.

Related: For a Debt-Free New Year Set a Budget and Stick to It

3. Re-think your payment options.

Now also is a great time to evaluate all of the payment options you offer customers and determine whether these need to be updated, including whether to transition to chip card / EMV (Europay, MasterCard, and Visa) acceptance for credit card payments. Accepting advanced technologies like credit and debit cards embedded with chips (EMV cards) is one important step to reduce the risk of fraud, strengthen security and accept more methods of payment. Taking the latest payment options, including accepting mobile payments, can help increase sales for your business by providing your customers with greater convenience and more payment choices.

4. Manage cash flow.

Even businesses with healthy growth and strong sales run the risk of owing more than they can pay in a given month. Fortunately, spending some time preparing a cash flow projection can help you identify potential cash shortfalls in 2016. To keep your projections on track, create a rolling 12-month plan that you can update at the end of each month. Look for ways to reduce expenses and increase revenues. Is it time to shop for new suppliers and vendors? Or is it time to boost your prices a bit? Once you've gotten into the habit of using a cash-flow projection, it should give you added control over your cash flow and a clearer picture of your company's financial health.

Like many New Year's resolutions, the list may seem a bit daunting. But the effort involved is worth it -- for you and your business.

Related: It Takes a Lot More Than Enthusiasm to Make Those Lofty New Year's Resolutions Reality

Lisa Stevens

Executive Vice President of Wells Fargo

Lisa Stevens, executive vice president of Wells Fargo, is a 27-year veteran of community banking. She is based in Los Angeles and is responsible for nearly 2,700 branches, 7,150 ATMs and nearly 34,000 team members serving consumers and small businesses in 24 states in the West and Midwest.

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