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OC Metro “13 business essentials for 2013 … and beyond”

Whether you’re a sole proprietor or have 1,000 employees, every professional needs to hone his tools of the trade to remain razor sharp in the New Year.

It’s not just carpenters and homebuilders who need a sound set of tools to optimize their work. So do those in the business world. Their hammers, drills and wire cutters are the strategies, the planning and the adaptability that make their businesses successful.

However, many experts warn that the old clunky tools for businesspeople may not work in the new year. As society grows more sophisticated, we need to grow with it. Trying to operate in today’s world with the equipment of the 20th century is like attempting to position a fiber optic wire with a monkey wrench.

“A businessperson in 2013 may want to try and forget the last few years for any guidance on how to operate in the future,” says Dr. Anil Puri, dean of the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics at Cal State Fullerton. “The last four years have taught us all to be hard-nosed about business and investment ventures that do not have good plans or well-defined objectives.”

Others say you should know how to combine sound principles of the past with a need for changing market strategies – and cultivate a new respect for social media.

We asked business experts from a variety of industries around Orange County for their thoughts on what should be in a business leader’s toolbox for success in 2013. Here are 13 pieces of advice to stay successful – now and in the coming years.

1 Recognize that not everything has to change.

“The fundamentals of sound marketing haven’t changed, just the delivery systems. And the fundamentals are even more important than ever to master and leverage, because in the world of business uncertainty, they have the power to inject critical doses of consistency and reliability into your brand.”

– Hilary Kaye, president, HKA Inc. Public Relations of Tustin, whose clients include some of the major business players in Orange County

2 Drop any stubborn notions that you don’t need to dramatically upgrade your use of social media or electronic technology.
“You already know the freedom gained by the use of wireless devices: an office that follows you instead of one that ties you down. Tap into the power of virtual workers. So get a great smartphone. More than half of the people on the planet now have cellphones, and the smartphone with Internet and enterprise-system access is the fastest growing segment. Most of these models work well for a digital native who can then state with passion, “I have an office in my pocket!”
– Dave Berkus, noted O.C. private equity investor, speaker and author of  “Basic Berkonomics”
“Tablets and mobile devices are becoming mainstream ways of accessing information, so having and implementing a mobile strategy and website will be imperative. Building media outside of Twitter and Facebook is also helpful. Maintaining a successful business in the social space in 2013 will involve staying ahead of the curve and making sure to adapt to the evolving nature of the medium. The popularity of Pinterest and Instagram continues to rise.”
– Debbie Miller, founder of Social Hospitality, which outlines ways the medical industry can use social media

3 Try video!
“What will trend forward in 2013 is the increased use of video to engage consumers, stimulate them and move them to action. They don’t need to be long or professionally shot and edited; the natural and organic feel is where we’re seeing a lot of growth. In terms of how you deliver that video, we’re looking at behavioral targeting, going after the consumer on a more granular level rather than the old shotgun approach. So we’re incorporating video into our website, our electronic newsletter and our social media.”
– Mark Higgins, vice president of sales and marketing, Trumark, an Irvine-based major real estate developer

4 Change how you talk to customers and to each other.
“People communicate in different ways than they did 10 years ago, and most people prefer a text over a call. The same is true for interoffice communication. The new email for 2013 is instant messaging. Whether it’s Skype, Yahoo! or whatever, IM is texting on your computer, and it encourages short and to-the-point entries that are documented and have the ability to create groups for very efficient communication. Instant messaging goes beyond communication, as it gives 2013 business owners the opportunity to use it as a management tool, a backup to the time clock, a recording of employee behavior and an archive of goals, benchmarks and achievements.”
– Wayne Irving, president of Iconysis Inc., a mobile apps
business in Laguna Hills

5 Treat customers – and even competitors – more like family.
“Take time to get to know the other owners in your same industry. Start working together and not against each other. If we all work together, we can achieve our goals at a much larger scale.”
– Scott and Jennifer Fontana, owners, Cristophe Salon, Newport Beach
“In 2013, it’s time to put family culture back in business. Treat your customers like they are family. Compile and coordinate every client’s contact information. Then let them know you have something going on. Most clients you gather have given you a unwritten loyalty.”
– Wayne Irving

6 Don’t be afraid to buy, because the time will be right in 2013.
“Property values for commercial buildings will be increasing. Next year is the time to lock in to renewing long-term leases before those rates increase sharply. If buying the property is an option, exercise it.”
– Jim Doti, president of Chapman University in Orange and one of Southern California’s leading economic forecasters

7 Improve how you analyze data.
“The major idea for 2013 is big data and analytics. Businesses are using large amounts of data to do innovative things, like monitor consumer sentiment about their products on social media such as Facebook and Twitter, predict future demand using data from Google Trends, and implement an early-warning system that can detect quality and service problems.
“The other trend is the continued adoption of cloud computing technologies. Cloud-based technologies such as Dropbox and Google Drive are being widely adopted, and businesses need to think about which cloud-based services to use and whether their own products are amenable to a cloud-delivery model.”
– Vidyanand Choudhary, specialist in information systems, The Paul Merage School of Business, UC Irvine

8 Don’t be afraid to be conservative when it’s called for.
“The most important item in our toolbox is a conservative and realistic growth plan that will enable us to achieve, and even exceed, our expansion goals during the next housing cycle.”
– Dave Barisic, vice-president of sales and marketing at Brandywine Homes, Irvine

9 Recognize that the economy is bouncing back, and be ready to capitalize on it.
“The year 2013 and beyond offers the prospect of success. A low-interest-rate environment, low wages and improving household financials offer the prospect of improving sales and profitability. Innovations, whether technology-based or not, will be the key to high growth. Internet-savvy businesses – it is hard to imagine any business being successful without a web strategy – will likely be the leaders. Smart marketing using social media and branding in an age of digital clutter will increasingly be the differentiators.”
– Anil Puri, dean of the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics, Cal State Fullerton
“We believe that the new-housing business is poised for double-digit growth over the next several years. So we have put together a targeted and precise plan to expand our workforce without needlessly increasing our monthly overhead costs.”
– Dave Barisic

10 Concentrate on ways to reinvent yourself.
“Find three things you want to improve about yourself and make a plan to do it. Focus on those three things. You get the future you want by taking action and making it happen. As professionals, we must be continuous learners, acquiring new skills and tools to help
us progress.
“Make a 2013 plan: Attend that seminar you have been thinking about, take that course on social media, volunteer for a new project at work – something that gets you out of your comfort zone. In other words, keep up with what’s new, and use that to your advantage.”
– Jim Ward, a professional coach at Options Group of Newport Beach, a New York-based global executive search and human capital consulting firm

11 Improve your community involvement to help your business.
“If you are not getting a local paper and skimming through it for news that can turn into business opportunities, you are missing an important tool. With readership down, the opportunity is inversely proportional because there are fewer eyes on the same news and events. Focus on events, people and community announcements. Reach out to your community and get involved.
“Also, if a business is not attached to a cause, charity or higher purpose, it will lose to its competitors who are. Find a cause that your customers appreciate and that your partners respect. Do not miss the opportunity to give back. It will surely return the favor ten-fold.”
– Wayne Irving

12 Make ethics a major part of your business company wide.
“In all organizations, ethics and leadership go hand in hand. Ethical issues and dilemmas can appear at any place, at any level, and at any time within the organization – from the C-level suites to the loading docks to the sales staff.
“Top-level executives must supplement codes of conduct with sound policies that are embedded throughout the organization, as every employee must be able to exercise ethical leadership. Ethical behavior is every employee’s business. Too much is at stake to leave ethical responsibility only to the distant bosses.”
– David H. Blake, director of BGS Center for Ethical Business Leadership, UC Irvine

13 Recognize – but don’t fear – that there are no crystal balls.
“If only there were a crystal ball to help us decipher how to plan for 2013. As business owners, our crystal ball is murky. We are affected by so many variables, here in O.C. and around the globe, that are simply out of our control. Sometimes there’s not much we can do to change potentially negative impacts on our goods and services.
“Fortunately, we do have control over many things. As you move into 2013, do a reality check in these areas and take control. Get your messages out there to the right audiences. Through social media, you are in complete control of those channels.”
– Hilary Kaye