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Editor’s note: How many times in your life have you heard some version of the words “go get a job” from well-meaning parents, teachers, friends or spouses? But has anyone ever told you to “go start your own company”? Does that seem too scary, too tough or impractical? Yes, it can be hard. And yes, the prospect can be frightening. But whether it's a beauty salon, a mortgage company or an interior design business, ownership is an important block in building wealth and having something of value to pass on to the next generation.

Small businesses are also a major economic driver, accounting for about half of all the jobs in the private sector. With black unemployment still twice that of whites, one benefit of entrepreneurship is to grow our own jobs. Right now black-owned businesses are far off-pace with the population, accounting for less than 6 percent of all small businesses (pdf).

We asked nationally known small-business expert Melinda Emerson to share her expertise with The Root’s readers each week, with advice on how to start a business and strategies for surviving and thriving. Her column is called About the Money With Melinda Emerson. Today Melinda lays out five ways to boost your small business’s performance this year.

Sometimes you need to get back to the basics to move your small business forward. When is the last time you updated your business plan or your prices? Are you effectively leveraging social media to grow your small business? Are you killing yourself working all by yourself? Are you surrounding yourself with people who inspire you to take your business to the next level, or is your circle draining you?

I have some simple ways to get your small business moving in the right direction. Here are five ways to make your small business soar in 2014:

Develop a business plan. There’s an old saying that you should walk your dog—your dog should not be walking you—and in business it’s same thing. If you are constantly responding to the latest 911 emergency, it’s stressful and you’re working on someone else’s agenda and not your own strategic plan. Don’t just run around each day like a crazy person. Develop a business plan for 2014, and be sure to include a target client list. Don’t be one of these people who spend more time planning their vacation than they do their financial success. Develop a business plan, and use it to run your business.


Be more confident. In order to make big money in your small business, you must believe that you deserve it. Your confidence is critical. No matter how badly you need the money, you must never act that way. A scarcity mentality will scare your customers away. If you focus on lack, that is exactly what you will have. Use a vision board to get clear about your big-picture vision for your small business.   

Raise your prices. When was the last time you looked at your price point? The cost of everything has gone up, so you need to raise your prices, too, or soon you might not be making any money when you make a sale. Invent a new customer experience. Create a new product bundle, VIP membership program or refer-a-friend campaign to engage customers. Just be creative about ways to get your customers to do more business with you. 

Hire help. As entrepreneurs, we tend to think that no one can do it the way we can, but you would be surprised—someone you hire might do it even better. It’s time to get some employees so that you can stop being a one-man band. Your business can only grow as far as your hand can reach. Start with a virtual assistant to help you keep your costs down. Never spend your precious time doing $10- to $20-an-hour work. Focus your efforts on what you do best in your small business: selling.  


Invest in yourself. You should be a lifelong learner of business success. Set aside a budget to attend at least one conference in 2014, or consider hiring a coach to help you take your business to the next level. Invest in self-directed training courses and webinars to build your business skills this year. You can learn better social media marketing, budgeting, negotiation, sales and leadership skills. You can always take a business-plan course to help you with the first suggestion in this article.

If you try these five tactics, 2014 could be the best year ever for your small business.

Melinda Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady, is CEO of Quintessence Multimedia. Emerson educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. She also publishes a resource blog and is the best-selling author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months. Follow her on Twitter.