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New Year Resolutions to help get your business in shape for 2019

New Year's resolutions don't just have to be about losing weight or being more charitable - the turn of the year is a great time to think about what you can do to get your business in shape for 2019. Here are some ideas from FSB to start you off:

Get ready for Making Tax Digital

From 1 April 2019, MTD will be used for VAT returns and, eventually, will be rolled out to cover other businesses taxes. And yet many small businesses know nothing about it!

If you are among them - it's time to start reading up. MTD is about making businesses record all of their transactions digitally and upload them directly to HMRC's system.

If your business is registered for VAT, with a taxable turnover (not profit) of more than £85,000, (and you are not one of the listed exceptions), you will be affected. It may well mean a software upgrade, or even new software entirely. Talk to your accountant about it. The FSB and HMRC will be putting out more information over the coming months so keep an eye out for that. For now, here's our guide to Making Tax Digital

Consider your finance options

Is it time to look outside the main banks to find the funding needed to grow your business?

Maybe you could consider exploring some "alternative finance" options as well. There are lots of options out there: Angel investment, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer lending, asset-based funding and more. Confused? To make things easier, the FSB has its own FCA-regulated funding online platform to bring small businesses together with more than 130 finance providers, including banks, as well as offering access to finance advisors. It's all done online, small businesses can present their case anonymously to lenders who can then express an interest in getting involved.

Enter more business awards!

Why not make 2019 the year your small business gets the recognition it deserves?

There's a plethora of business awards out there, targeting different types of businesses and categories, including of course the FSB's very own Celebrating Small Business Awards. Don't think it's too much hassle - winning can pay dividends in terms of PR and networking opportunities, not to mention being a major confidence boost. Even if you don't win, you can still see the benefits. One of last year's FSB Awards winners, Wolffepack CEO David Wolffe, said: "The process of writing the application is a really healthy and uplifting way of reflecting on what you've achieved. Applying takes you out of the bubble you exist in as a small team and gives you reference points on how you're doing."

Go green?

Is it time to capitalise on growing demand for more environmentally friendly and ethical products and services?

Veganism is a growing market - and one a variety of companies, not just food and drink manufacturers, can consider moving into. Hear from FSB members who introduced vegan product ranges. Meat eaters care about the environment too. In Yorkshire, another FSB award winner, organic smallholding Rosewood Farm is committed to not using pesticides, using renewable energy and ensuring their cattle are 100% grass fed - and it has won them customers all over the country. From climate change to "fast fashion", concern about our impact on the world is growing - and fleet-footed small businesses can find new markets by trumpeting their green and ethical credentials.

Try to get out more

Have you been working away on your own without making the most of local networking opportunities? One resolution could be to get out there in 2019 and meet more fellow entrepreneurs.

You can always dip your toe in by hooking up with other local businesses online at first - via LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media platforms. Once you've built a up a bit of confidence, take the plunge and go to a networking event to make some contacts. Take some business cards, be yourself and work the room. Here's our guide to different types of networking events. You might also want to consider whether your business might benefit from better links with your local business school - which offer courses, networking and mentoring opportunities.

Be better prepared

Hopefully, 2019 will be plain sailing for your small business - but New Year is a good time to check you are ready, in case disaster strikes. Cyber security and insurance are key issues that can be overlooked by the busy entrepreneur but FSB research suggests cybercrime costs small businesses, on average, £3,000 each. Read up on our tips on how to protect your business, including regular software updates, backing up data and installing anti-virus software, or find out more about one of the most common types of cyber attacks - phishing - here and check out FSB Cyber Protection's helpline and insurance policy for members. Flooding can be a huge issue this time of year, and small businesses in flood-prone areas can find getting the right insurance cover tricky. Read up on your options here or contact the FSB's own broker scheme for members, FSB Insurance Service, for advice and to check out practical measures to protect your business - including getting a solid business continuity plan in place.

And last but not least... Make more time to look after yourselves

It's a stressful job, running your own business. And with longer hours than the average UK worker, it can be hard to make time to look after yourself. But taking care of your own wellbeing, and that of your employees, is crucial. Take a lead by talking about mental health with your staff to help put them at ease about discussing it and have regular chats about workloads. Even improving the office environment can help - with more plants or improved access to natural light. Make sure you and they are taking proper breaks. For those working alone, networking (see above) and meeting others in the same situation are a good way to share ideas and stop you getting lonely. FSB Care also provides a free service for members to talk to counsellors or therapists. Get 10 tips on reducing stress in your business from FSB member Naomi Murray here while fellow FSB member Owen Turner talks about how he balances a small business, a family and wellbeing here.