In today’s economy, your small business needs to be agile enough to adapt to market trends. We all saw many mom and pop shops close up when the Internet made it easy to order online. These businesses did not adapt to the new reality of the Information Age, and quickly shuttered as a result. The world is changing more rapidly than ever, and as a small business owner, you need to constantly reevaluate your business practices and market position, and adapt them to meet the needs of our shifting economy. Of the small businesses that fail, 42% don’t make it because there is no market for what they offer; another 14% fail because they don’t focus on customers’ needs. To avoid falling into this category of small businesses, here are 7 changes you should consider making in 2018. Cut out distractions and focus on the important projects We live in a world of constant distraction. You’re constantly being bombarded with business information, and it can be difficult to make sense of what you and your small business really need to be doing and striving towards. The first step is to cut out distraction. Don’t overstuff your calendar. Give yourself time away from your phone, email, and internet access to take a step back and figure out which projects serve your company best. If you’re thinking about redoing your website and trying to open up a new location at the same time, for example, think critically about what will offer the most benefit. Can you shelve the new website until you’ve gotten the new location up and running? Solidify or redefine your unique selling proposition Knowing what the unique selling proposition or USP (what makes you different and special as compared to your competition) of your small business and how it fits into your market is absolutely crucial. Your USP will not only differentiate you, it will give you a specific angle that will help you in shaping your business and marketing strategies. Competing on price by offering the lowest cost isn’t a unique selling proposition. Your small business will need to offer customers real value your competitors can’t, such as a unique and valuable product feature, or a special guarantee. Consider how active your small business should be on social media Social media has become almost a necessity in digital marketing. Everyone has an opinion on it, and most small businesses are constantly urged to put more effort into their social media strategy. However, there are two main pitfalls of this: you may spread yourself too thin and focus on the wrong platforms, or you could compromise your credibility. Although social media can be a way to build authority, it can also do the opposite: 33% of adults have questioned financial advisors and firms because of something they say on social media. While not all small businesses should stop using social media altogether, you may want to reevaluate how much effort you put into maintaining these platforms. So how can you make changes? Could you cut down to one or two platforms that your customers actually use, and focus more of your energy on other, more important projects? Focusing your marketing dollars in other areas, such as email marketing and local efforts could end up being much more beneficial. Get familiar with the new tax laws 2017 brought about sweeping changes to federal tax laws, many of which will impact small businesses. Even though this tax season won’t have any earth-shattering changes from last year, next year will be very different. It’s a good idea to start thinking ahead to 2019 now—especially since you’ll be documenting your deductions throughout the year. One change that affects small businesses, for example, is expenses related to tax preparation. Businesses will no longer be able to deduct this expense, meaning that even though you should still definitely hire an accountant, it might be a little more painful to do so. Focus on employee health and work/life balance You and your employees all do your best work when you’re feeling healthy, rested, and valued. Unfortunately, many people prioritize work to the detriment of their health and well-being—and then ultimately perform poorly at work, a no-win situation. If you want your employees and small business to perform at their best, you need to take charge and act as a role model. Don’t work at all hours of the night, and unless it’s really urgent, avoid answering messages during non-business hours. One study from 2016 showed that people who use their smartphones before bed have more trouble falling asleep and experience poorer sleep quality than those who don’t. You can’t force your employees to keep their phones out of their bedrooms, but you can lead by example in not answering emails at 11 PM. Encourage your employees to get enough sleep and exercise, and consider sponsoring some small perks to make it easier. This doesn’t have to be expensive! For example, if there is a Planet Fitness near your office or store, consider paying the $10/month charge for each of your employees. Be flexible when employees need to take time off for doctor’s appointments or to care for a sick child. These gestures go a long way toward employee health and happiness. Rethink your marketing efforts With so many ways to market your business, it can be tempting to try all of them at once. Unfortunately, this tactic isn’t usually very successful. Quality over quantity in social media and marketing in general is what matters. If your marketing efforts could use a facelift, dig into your analytics and what you know of your customers. Is your small business running Google Adwords and throwing away money? Pull them. If your customers mostly hang out on Facebook, make that your focus. If they respond to your emails, you know how to engage with them. Consider how your marketing dollars are impacting the bottom line—in some industries, fliers in the mail are very effective—in others, they equal some very expensive paper trash. Marketing is not one-size-fits-all, and if you’re disappointed with the impact of your current efforts, it may be time to rethink your strategy and look up the latest best practices. Take a stand for equality and social equity Businesses today can’t afford to stay out of social issues. The newest generation of consumers, Generation Z, are prepared to boycott or support businesses that align with their values. 37% have donated or volunteered to causes, and a large share of this generation care about their potential impact on societal change. This is one important reason businesses need to take a stand for social equality and social equity. What’s the difference? For example, if one student could afford to pay for college, thanks to family contributions, while a low-income student received a scholarship to pay for the same degree, it would be an example of social equity. Social equality means that both students can attend the school; equity helps to level the playing field depending on circumstance. In 2018, businesses need to take an active role in social equality and contribute to their communities. Taking a stand might seem risky, but today’s consumers see businesses as part of the solution to social problems—and small businesses need to get on board.