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We are approaching the end of the year. For many people this is the time for Christmas holidays, family, celebration, gratitude, and reflection. As a business owner, do you have reason to celebrate? The last quarter is a good time to take stock and evaluate your business performance. Did you meet your goals and projections that you set in the beginning of the year? Are your staff administration and client database up to date? Are your computers backed up? Take some time for doing a big clean up and set up yourself for a good start in the new year. And while you’re at it, try to find a way to celebrate or share this year’s accomplishments (as small as they might seem) with your business partners, staff, and customers.
In this article we’ve listed some things you want to check off your to do list before Christmas.
Are your sales growing but your profit not so much? Is there a need to cut costs and expenses? Do you have enough cash flow to cover any liabilities? If you started the year by setting goals, you probably are tracking your business performance quarterly. This means you have a pretty good idea about if your business is on track or not. With only a month left in the year, now is good time to take one last look at the big picture to see if any adjustment is needed or if a last push can help you get closer to the goals you set. With the help of an accountant, you can create a profit and loss statement, a balance sheet and a cash flow report that help you see how your business is doing financially. The same information helps you to lay the basis for next years’ goals, plans and budgets.
If you have employees, pull up their files and check if all personal details are up to date. Did someone change physical or email addresses, phone number, had a baby or got married? In case they came from abroad: are their permits still valid and in order? Which contracts will soon be ending and are you planning to renew them? Take into account the notice period if applicable and remember that temporary contracts can only be renewed 3 times before they turn into a permanent contact. What is the balance of their vacation days? Another thing you might want to do is hold evaluation meetings with all staff personally, to validate their performance. How do they look back on the past year and are they still happy working for you?
The same data check goes for your clients and suppliers. Is their contact information still correct? Did you establish any new relationships this year? Seeing your client base and business network grow is also progress, and you can add that to your list of business accomplishments this year. And if you are planning to thank your customers for their loyalty and business in the past year, you are making sure no one is left out because your database is nicely up to date.
If your sales and services include products or materials, the end of year is definitely a good time to take inventory. Since they have been purchased but not yet used or sold, they are part of your financial statement. It’s very important to check regularly if your stock management system is being operated correctly. Furthermore, counting stock show you which items tend to sell more than others or are being used more frequently. It might be reason to review or adjust your purchasing behavior or choice of vendors in the next year.
While it becomes more and more important in the highly technological and digital age we live in, this is a much overlooked and underestimated action in any business. Having a small business, without the support of an IT department, it may very well not be top of mind to make sure your information is safely stored and archived. We rely on computers for administration, accounting, cashier and point-of-sale systems, employee records, probably almost everything to run a business. Imagine if something happens preventing you from accessing of even using this information: your laptop gets damaged, your phone gets stolen, or your online account is hacked. Would you be able to continue your operations? Sure, software programs can be reinstalled on new devices, but certain business correspondence or transaction details may be impossible to recover when lost. To prevent this, having a proper back up system in place is critical for any size and type of business. Whether you choose to manually copy data to USB drives or external hard drives or back them up automatically in the cloud, just make sure it is done regularly and correctly.
Do you have a company website? A company website is your online business card, where you can refer to from your social media accounts. Maybe it’s a basic and static website or maybe you change and add information on it weekly, or maybe it’s an online shop for your customers. However dynamic the content is, it is never a waste of time to check if your business information is up to date, if hyperlinks still work, and if any outdated information needs to be taken offline. The same applies to your social media profiles: Don’t you hate it when you look up a business on Facebook or Instagram and their phone number is wrong, or their opening hours or physical address is missing? Of course, you can send them a DM but that takes more time and there’s probably a reason why you want this information now, instantly! It shows professionalism if all your business contact information is correct, and people don’t have any problems to reach you whenever they want.
While you are going through your records in all the previously mentioned tasks, try to collect also your business successes that might not show up immediately in numbers and reports. At the end of almost 365 days of operations, you might have forgotten some of the small or memorable events, personal achievements from staff members, funny moments, group efforts or overcome challenges that happened. Together with the quantitative business results, these might be worth sharing with your staff, customers, or business partners at the end of the year. People who are involved in helping your business grow, will appreciate being involved in your reflection process too, especially if accomplishments were made that are worth celebrating. Whether you send out a mass Holiday greeting, write everyone a personal note, or organize a big business gala event, looking back on the past year together with the people who matter to you and your business is the best way to end the year on a high note.
If some of the things on this list take up more of your time than you had expected, write the following down on your ‘Starting your business year’ to do list: make a plan on how to make this job easier for yourself next year.