As we enter a new year, it’s time for businesses to reflect on past successes, evaluate current processes and prepare for future growth. Knoxville Chamber staff, board members and partners collaborated on a list of 18 resolutions for businesses to succeed and prosper this year and beyond.

1. Declutter Your Work Space

Cluttered desks, cluttered calendars and cluttered email inboxes decrease productivity, cause confusion and produce frustration. In 2018, make a resolution to cleanse the clutter from your work life. Start with a clean slate. Clear off your desk by creating a filing system to include “In Process,” “Need More Information” and “Completed” sections. Make time each day to gather the information needed and file completed tasks. Next, take a look at your calendars. Are there any reoccurring calendar appointments that need to be deleted or appointments/tasks that can be delegated? Address the unnecessary appointments on your calendar to free your time for more important revenue-generating tasks. Lastly, declutter your email inbox by deleting old emails you no longer need, creating folders for things you need to keep and find quickly, and responding to emails that need attention.

Julie Massie
Member Services Manager, Knoxville Chamber

2. Set Realistic Goals

Proper goal-setting starts with knowing what you want to accomplish. Borrowing from the experts, a good, quick approach is trying to write your goals using the SMART format:

  • Specific – state the goal precisely.
  • Measurable – good measures allow you know when a goal is completed.
  • Attainable – resources needed to complete the goal are within your reach.
  • Relevant – the goal is applicable to your business.
  • Time Bound – the goal has a completion date or timeframe for being achieved.

Identify, test and fine-tune your written goals using the SMART format for a successful new year!

Laura Overstreet
Senior Small Business Specialist, Tennessee Small Business Development Center – Knoxville

3. Expand Your Network

People are eager to do business with familiar faces and companies they trust. One of the most effective ways to build this trust is through networking. The more visible your face, company logo and brand, the more activity comes your way. When you attend networking events, try to bring a tangible item to hand out, one that people want to take home and use. The Chamber has a number of events throughout the year to help you plug in – whether you’re a brand-new business or have been established for years. A helpful way to make sure you attend your top-prioritized events is to set a calendar reminder at the beginning of each month. There are also a variety of networking groups in the area to explore.

Mary McCall
Account Executive, Knoxville Chamber

4. Find Your Target Customers

Businesses are as unique as people! The process for growing your customer base should also be unique. The Chamber has several resources that can help you find your target customers. There are two types of general customers – commercial customers (other businesses) and individual consumers. If the majority of your customers are other businesses, we can generate customized business lists based on various criteria such as specific industries, employment size, sales volume and geographic location. If your customers are individual consumers, the chamber has a fee-based service called Consumer iD that can take a list of your existing base of loyal customers and generate a “Look Alike Profile” that can help you identify more people with similar traits and purchasing habits. Finding your target customers does not need to be an overwhelming process. Take advantage of all the Chamber’s resources to grow your customer base and your bottom-line sales!

Joe Riley
Research Specialist, Knoxville Chamber

5. Review Your Personnel Policies

Time magazine recently honored five women and another obscured person as the “Time’s Person of the Year” cover photo. It called them “The Silence Breakers,” the men and women who spoke up in 2017 to expose sexual harassment in the workplace. Their co-workers, bosses or owners of the businesses where they worked had used their power to sexually intimidate, harass or abuse because they could. In 2018, owners need to become very aware of their personnel policies as it relates to harassment. Prevention is by far the best policy to eliminate harassment in the workplace. Employers should establish a process for complaints to be heard and appropriate action to be taken and taken immediately. The employees should feel free to voice their concerns without fear of reprisal. If you don’t have a policy in place, get one immediately and be sure to set up training by a professional to prevent these problems.

Susan Richardson Williams
Founder, SRW & Associates
Chair, Knoxville Chamber Government Relations Committee

6. Make Volunteering an Organizational Priority

Community involvement for any business is a situation where everybody wins. It sets businesses apart from their competitors and leads to more loyal customers, increased brand awareness, happier, more productive employees and a stronger community. Community service boosts brand visibility, and volunteer opportunities that weave the mission and values of a company into the fabric of the community help them become more than just their product. Multiple studies show that employee morale and retention increases when a company is engaged with volunteer opportunities. If every company did some form of community service, could you imagine the impact on the community as a whole?

Sandi Swilley
Vice President, Leadership Knoxville

7. Encourage Healthy Practices in the Workplace and Beyond

Employers are finally beginning to realize the positive impact of wellness in the workplace. Fostering well-being not only makes employees feel valued and engaged, improving the overall morale, but it also increases productivity. Providing resources that improve employee health can also boost the bottom line by decreasing absenteeism and lowering healthcare costs. Address all aspects of wellness. Many people forget to focus on mental and financial health as elements of wellness. Provide resources such as an employee assistance program, career development options and financial education to improve the overall stress level of your employees. Lead by example, make sure that your management team is not only talking the talk, but walking the walk (literally).

Leslie Smith
Director of Human Resources and Operations, Knoxville Chamber

8. Train Employees on Cyber Security

The user (employee) is the number one cyber security threat to a business. It only takes one employee to click on a seemingly harmless link to infect the entire network. Businesses should conduct regular trainings on how to spot phishing or social engineering attacks in emails, how to tell if a website is legitimate and other cyber security best practices. A business should also develop a culture of communicating recent threats, so employees know what to look out for. Proper training and communication of cyber security issues is the biggest defense a company has to protect their network.

Kyle Beanblossom
Technical Support Representative, Knoxville Chamber

9. Take Steps to Build Financial Confidence

This year, companies in the Knoxville area should take a stand to build financial confidence to empower employees and drive growth. Studies show the number one cause of stress is finances. Whether you’re a business owner or employee, financial stress can have a real impact on your bottom-line. For business owners, financial stress can impact your ability to invest or expand your business. For employees, financial stress can be a distraction at the workplace and harm personal health. In 2016, SunTrust launched a movement called onUp to build financial skills and knowledge among Americans, and nearly 3 million people have already participated. SunTrust also recently launched a leading workplace financial wellness solution called Momentum onUp, offering the program at-cost to help build financial confidence at companies. Currently more than 60 companies, large and small, are participating. You can join the movement at

Harry Gross 
Knoxville City President, SunTrust Bank
Chair, Knoxville Chamber Economic & Community Development Committee

10. Utilize Existing Industry Services

Business support and retention are essential to the region’s economic health. The Chamber partners with various entities to help businesses thrive. Many companies are not aware of the incredible free- and low-cost programs and services available through these partners, offering resources such as workforce development, utility efficiencies and gaining access to capital and incentives. Scheduling an existing industry visit is free and one of the best things you can to ensure your organization is taking advantage of all available opportunities.

Alex Kleto
Manager of Existing Industry, Knoxville Chamber

11. Find a Mentor, Be a Mentor

The most powerful force in the world when you are stuck on a problem, business or personal, is the experience and guidance of someone who has “been there, done that.” In my personal experience, a good mentor is the ultimate business hack. They say there is nothing new under the sun, and I agree. Rarely is one faced with some problem or situation that is truly unique. So, whether you are up-and-coming, or you’re experienced and stuck, mentoring is a great way to unlock the next step. On the other side of the coin, if you’ve been successful at anything you probably have the scar-tissue that goes with it, and nothing can be as rewarding as paying it forward and helping the next person along. There are tons of opportunities to mentor in the community, one of which is the KEC mentor program, so if you want to share your experience and wisdom with the next person in line, generally the rewards are tenfold. Feel free to join us at KEC anytime!

Jonathan Sexton
Chief Operating Officer, Knoxville Entrepreneur Center

12. Build Meaningful Relationships

Building business relationships, while also gaining the trust of those you are working with, starts with an open line of communication. Since we all spend a majority of our time each week at work, having meaningful connections with people both inside and outside our office leads to a rewarding and enjoyable professional environment. To be successful in this endeavor, accepting and celebrating differences is key in creating rapport with others, since we all feel more comfortable with people who “get” us. Listening effectively, while a seemingly obvious goal, is not something that everyone does well, but is always greatly appreciated by others. By focusing on honest and transparent conversation, and by doing our best to connect with others, we can create more impactful relationships in 2018.

Jill Green 
Professional Recruiter/Shareholder, BGT Recruiting & Consulting
Chair, Knoxville Chamber Membership Committee

13. Audit Your Digital Presence

Almost every organization has a digital presence, and in today’s market, that presence has a direct impact on profit. Over 96 percent of Americans are expected to shop online this year, and 74 percent of shoppers say their purchasing decisions are influenced by social media. With the majority of consumers interacting with your brand online, are you confident your digital presence accurately represents your organization? In 2018, take time to thoroughly review all of your digital assets. Review content for accuracy, ensure website links are still active, compare your presence to competitors and be honest about what you find. Almost all online strategies have weaknesses. Identifying areas of improvement is the first step towards building brand trust – a key component in converting followers into customers.

Lynsey Wilson
Director of Marketing & Events, Knoxville Chamber

14. Engage in Community Collaboration

Everyone wants to be part of a winning team, including being part of a winning community. Locals have long realized that Knoxville is a great place to live, work and play. Over the past several years, these qualities that we love about our community are starting to draw national attention. As we build on our momentum into the new year, it is essential that we work together as individuals and organizations to build on our collective culture, diversity and experience. Being involved and collaborating is the secret sauce to success not only for our community, but for our businesses as well. This includes being receptive to ideas from “outsiders” that bring fresh perspectives. We are much better when we work together.

Ed Medford
Manager of Economic Development & Government Relations, Knoxville Utilities Board
Chair, Knoxville Chamber Transportation & Infrastructure Committee

15. Make a Commitment to Continual Improvement

Processes have a way of growing stagnant and becoming less efficient over time. Being willing to look at how your business functions with fresh eyes can allow you to find innovative ways to address problems or simply eliminate wasted time and even inaccuracies. Using simple continual improvement strategies and shifting your company culture to one of constant progress allows you to make the most of your available time, budget and skills. Meaningful change and added value can happen with incremental evaluation. Don’t be afraid to review and adapt a process even if you have “always done it that way.” Great things can happen!

Gwen Rogers
Director of IT Systems & Strategies, Knoxville Chamber

16. Evaluate & Develop Your Employees

For the first time since 2011, business owners have indicated growth is their single most important priority and nearly three-quarters are investing in staff as a means to support that growth. It’s easy for staffing assessment to take a backseat in light of a business owner’s ever-increasing to-do list, but it’s a priority that shouldn’t be ignored. Regular evaluation of employee capability and responsibility optimizes personnel usage – ensuring you are examining process efficiencies, addressing gaps and identifying training needs. Making this evaluation routine also diminishes the likelihood any weaknesses become a threat to future profitability or growth. Development opportunities are also considered a benefit by most employees, providing a competitive advantage during the hiring process and creating an internal pool of promotable workers. Continued education programs build loyalty, keep employees engaged and increase company reputation, all of which can positively impact a business’s bottom line.

Terry Turner
President, All Occasions Party Rentals
Chair, Knoxville Chamber Board of Directors

17. Be Your Own Advocate

It’s a new year – time to get out there and believe in yourself! In 2018, be confident and be your own advocate. Challenge yourself to take on a new initiative and get outside your comfort zone. In today’s fast-paced, social media-frenzied world, one has to learn to negotiate for themselves. Reach for opportunities that can help you learn a new skill or increase your market value. Pick up a new (good) habit. Don’t underestimate your own abilities, and own your success – you earned it!

Rhonda Rice Clayton
Executive Vice President, Knoxville Chamber

18. Learn Something New

In an increasingly competitive and ever-changing market, one of the primary ways a potential or current employee can differentiate themselves is a commitment to lifelong learning. Studies have shown a correlation between an appetite for education and earning potential, finding this common thread of continual study among leading CEOs, entrepreneurs and world leaders. One of the primary objections to lifelong learning is lack of time. However, at the beginning of 2017, analytics showed the average U.S. consumers spends five hours per day on a mobile device. If a fraction of these hours were dedicated to learning a new skill – even to reading new information on a mobile device, the impact on personal, professional and ultimately societal progress could be exponential.

Mike Edwards
President & CEO, Knoxville Chamber