With most of us back to work for real this week, the new year is well and truly under way. But what can you do to improve the outlook for you and your business in 2013? We asked our select panel of experts for their views.

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Kevin Horne, chief executive of NWES and lead sponsor of the EDP Future 50:

1. Learn something new – Enterprising people know that they never know it all. Invest in your own training and development to improve your business performance.

2. Get networking. Play the long term game and develop contacts; you never know when they will lead to business for you. Have a SMART approach – Smile, Mingle, Ask questions, Remain objective, Take the initiative

3. Take time to work on strategy - Give yourself two weeks each year to do nothing but concentrate on strategic issues. It seems like a long time but it is only 4pc of the year.

4. Buy local. Use local small businesses to form your supply chain. This regenerates the local economy and ensures that spending power is boosted. Everybody wins. Shout about your commitment to the region.

5. Be flexible. The pace of change is increasing and bureaucratic control means that you will be left behind. Set out your principles, stick to them and then relax the rigid rules.

6. Set goals and measure progress towards them rigidly – A business without goals is like a car journey without a destination.

7. Increase your social media usage, but go one stage further and monitor what results from you activity such as numbers it directs to your website.

8. Check what your competitors are up to.

Assessing the competition should be a constant activity, not just something you look at when you set up in business.

9. Get feedback from your customers. Successful businesses provide quality service at quality prices. By doing more of what your customers want may allow you to increase prices without losing trade.

10. Be better with email and voicemail. Many businesses don’t return phone calls and emails in a timely manner which could be one of the quickest ways to damage your business, if you don’t return calls/emails customers will move on to another provider that will!

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