Business planning is a great way to spend the downtime many businesses have at the end of the year. Use these seven tips to get your business ready to start next year off on the right foot.
Planning your business may not sound like an activity you want to pursue during the holidays, but if you’re in a business that slows down at this time of the year, planning may be the best way to spend your time.
Business planning at this time of year is especially important if your business has suffered a downturn, or even if there’s been a sudden increase in business. In either case, you need to look at trends and consider whether they’ll continue, and how your business may need to change as a result.
While it may be tempting to kick back, relax, and let things go during your slow season, savvy business owners and consultants know better. They use the end-of-year slowdown as an opportunity to take stock of what’s happened during the past 12 months and make plans for the 12 to come.
From getting your finances in order to shaping up your staffing, here are some of the most important business planning activities to do now if you want your business to be ready for the New Year:
1. Run your financial reports
Unless you’re happiest with a calculator in hand and spreadsheet open in front of you, the odds are good that financial reporting isn’t your favorite activity. However, the end-of-year slump is an ideal time to take care of some of the essential (if unexciting) tasks on your to-do list. By running the following reports, you can get a better understanding of how your business is performing financially:
- Profit-and-loss statement: Also known as an income statement, a P&L details all of a business’s revenues, expenses, and costs over a particular time period.
- Balance sheet: This document shows a company’s assets and liabilities, including any outstanding amounts owed to investors.
- Cash flow statement: Revealing how a business manages funds, a cash flow statement includes information on how changes in the balance sheet impact cash and cash equivalents.
Don’t have an accountant to help out with these tasks? Software programs like Intuit QuickBooks, FreshBooks, and Wave can help you run these reports and manage other business-related tasks with ease.
RELATED: 5 Tips for Organizing Your Business Finances
2. Consider future goals
As one year comes to an end and another begins, it’s a good time to consider your goals for the future. Along with the above financial reports, small business owners should evaluate factors like customer testimonials, employee feedback, and how successfully the company abided by its mission statement. Take a good, hard look at your accomplishments this year. If you aren’t meeting your financial and personal goals, it might be time to reevaluate your business practices. For example, you should examine your products and services and determine what, if any, changes are due. Consider what’s working well for your competition and decide whether they’re doing something right from which you could learn.
3. Review your website
As you evaluate the areas of your business that need improvement, don’t neglect your website. These days, 64 percent of small businesses have their own websites, and if yours isn’t up to snuff, you might be missing out on invaluable opportunities to grow your company. Along with clicking links to make sure they’re all working, check phone numbers and email addresses and be sure your contact forms function appropriately. Searchers are unlikely to stay very long on a site full of dead links and slow-loading images.
Additionally, owners should use the end-of-year slowdown as a chance to plan out their online content goals for the coming year. While you don’t have to outline every blog, newsletter, and social media post prior to January 1st, it’s a good idea to consider your overall content strategy. For example, if you’re going to promote a particular product line in the first quarter, brainstorm some ways of marketing those items to your customer base. It’s also useful to consider factors like weather and holidays when making content plans. After all, clothing retailers will surely promote different wares in January than in June.
If you don’t yet have or want a new website, our business website service is easy to use and gives you lots of options.
4. Start on your taxes
It’s everyone’s least favorite time of year. Still, filing taxes on time is important, if for no other reason than the IRS imposes a late filing fee of 5 percent of the additional taxes owed for each month. If you have some extra hours in December, consider taking the time to get your tax documents in order. Look over your paperwork and make sure nothing is missing. Additionally, you may want to contact a tax advisor to ensure you aren’t missing out on potentially lucrative deductions. Remember that if you use independent contractors, you are required by law to file 1099-MISC information form with the IRS by January 31 and to also provide a copy to the contractors by that date.
The ZenBusiness Money app can help you prepare for tax season by simplifying your small business’s finances. It features invoicing and expense tracking to help save on taxes.
5. Sit down with your team
Employees are the backbone of any small business. However, that doesn’t mean relationships with staff are always smooth sailing. As the current year winds down, schedule some time to speak to your team members one on one. Along with informing them about performance areas that need improvement, let them know what they’re doing well and encourage them to keep it up in the New Year. Want to avoid HR issues moving forward? Think about reviewing your employee handbook to make sure it’s up to date.
6. Assess your staffing needs
Once you’ve evaluated your team’s performance in recent months, you’ll be in a better position to determine staffing needs for the coming months. With many small- and medium-sized businesses reporting that hiring new employees is their most challenging task, owners need to make smart decisions when it comes to staffing.
Start by assessing whether you need new employees throughout the year or just at particular times, such as your busy season. If you decide seasonal help is all you need, it might be worth working with a staffing company. These businesses specialize in finding and screening part-time and temp workers who can help you out at the spur of the moment. Additionally, you can predict future needs by determining your goals for the months ahead. If you have a new project launching in June, plan to bring on additional workers a month or two ahead.
7. Take a much-needed break
While it pays to get your organization ready for the New Year, as a business owner, you should still aim to take a little time for yourself. Plan a few days away from it all when you can relax and recharge. You’ll reenter the workplace with a clearer head and a firmer commitment to building your business.