As a business owner, I’ve seen the ups and downs of my business this year; nothing special – it’s just business as usual. That being said, I learned a lot – both via first-hand experience and from my mentors.

small business tips
Learn from 2011, focus on 2012

Here are 5 small business lessons I learned throughout 2011 that can get you and me ready for 2012:

Related: Business Lessons Learned in 2011

1. Be lean and mean – implement the 80/20 rule

With all the pressure of the lackluster economic situation, us entrepreneurs – both online and off line – need to use all the creativity we have to improve the profitability of our businesses. One of the ways is by being lean and mean.

I run multiple websites, and throughout 2011, I have only managed to add several new web businesses – mostly blogs – and have sold – even simply threw away some websites I have – to keep my costs down and free my time to take on the most important; indeed, I am practicing Pareto’s law (or the infamous 80/20 rule.)

I “remove” 80 percent of my web properties to focus on the top 20 percent, to free 80 percent of resources to take on new, more lucrative business opportunities.

The above results in a much leaner business, focusing on the “cash cows” and high-potential websites, instead of mingling with the never ending work of website management.

I also focus on bringing more business functions to the cloud in 2012. With cloud apps and services available today, I want to stop relying on my on-premise devices and equipment so that I can truly work whenever, wherever I want.

2. Develop win-win partnership

Throughout 2011, I’ve just discovered that forming a mutually beneficial partnership is truly the way to go. I used to outsource only; I never really partner with anyone. That has changed early this year and throughout 2011, such partnership has boosted my business profits by a whopping 100 percent – all thanks to my business partners.

Blogs-wise, partnering with guest authors has proven to be effective and efficient in growing my blog sites as a business; guest authors get exposure, I get quality content – something that is highly valued today (with the Google Panda updates and such…)

I see non-monetary partnership works the best as both have motives beyond money; link exchanges, service exchanges, etc. – ever bartering services (i.e. I build you site, you give me ad spots) are effective in delivering results in the most cost-effective ways.

3. Challenge the “norm”

Best practices are great, but at times, challenges the “normal” ways to do business prove to be game changing. Even more, you need to challenge your own “norms” in doing business. Those are essential in navigating your business to the right direction, instead of insisting on doing what you think is right.

Doing things differently doesn’t mean that you need to reinvent the wheel. Challenging the norms mean that you need to do creative things that can bring the best out of you, instead of following rules, rules and rules – like those preached by Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell, Tim Ferriss and other revolutionary people.

4. Do things right – give back

As a business, you need to somehow get involved in non-profit activities. Yes, doing so and let others know will get your business noticed, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. What’s more important is that as a business owner – either online or off line – you have the responsibility to give back

You see, you are more fortunate than most and although you claim that all the credit should go to your way, you need to realize that your success is not because of you alone; your clients, employees, local chamber of commerce, etc. are the real stakeholders of your business; your business is no good without them, don’t you think?

Somehow, doing so, your entrepreneurial journey would be more meaningful; just ask Bill Gates:

“We can make market forces work better for the poor if we can develop a more creative capitalism.”

We might not have access to resources like Bill Gates, but we can do what we can to make a difference – even in our making money endeavours.

5. Don’t sweat the small stuffs

If you are working at home like I do, here’s one great advice from Business on Main’s article, Business Lessons Learned in 2011:

“I’ve learned this year not to take on too much work. I have an 18-month-old little boy who is taking up a lot of what used to be my ‘work from home’ time. Rather than stressing about all the stuff that’s not getting done, this year I made it a priority to try and ignore the small stuff, understanding that, if left alone, none of these non-actions would cause the company to go down the drain anyway.”

– Adam Koos, Libertas Wealth Management Group

Amen to that – I also have little kids and I work at home… so, that advice is a spot-on! In 2011, I’m always easily bothered by the small stuffs not done right. To me, doing things wrong in those small stuffs would disrupt my business. But as I, again, trying to implement the 80/20 rule I mentioned above on No.1, I start to see that those small stuffs won’t even do anything to my business.

For 2012, I am ready to focus on the big picture and don’t sweat the little, meaningless things.

More small business lessons for 2012

For more insightful lessons learned in 2011 to get you prepared for 2012, check out this article:

Business Lessons Learned in 2011

Ivan Widjaya
I’m ready for 2012 – are you?

Image: margolove / Flickr

Disclaimer: I receive incentives to share my views on this particular blog post, but all of the opinions are my own. My blog is a part of an online influencer network for Business on Main.