It is natural to be reflective as one year comes to an end and another one is about to start. You are probably thinking about what worked and what didn’t work for your business this past year. As you evaluate the year 2013, it is also time to look ahead to the New Year and what goals you can set. Here is a simple year-end checklist to help you organize your thinking:
1. Organize your records. Whether your business runs on a calendar year or not, you will need to organize your tax records. Look for documents such as canceled checks, credit card slips, invoices for any equipment purchased and travel receipts, for example.
2. If you work on a calendar year fiscal basis, work on a budget for 2014.
3. Make an appointment with your tax professional or make sure you have the proper tax software for your small business.
4. Reward your employees. Do you do year-end performance reviews of your staff? In addition to bonuses, the end of the year is a good time to announce other forms of employee recognition such as awards or promotions for the coming year.
5. Evaluate your staffing needs. Consider whether you need to create any other staff positions in your company and how you can make that happen. In these tough economic times, hiring new employees may take some creativity. Consider the option of freelance help if your budget will not allow a new in-office position.
6. Spend some time on your company’s website. Look at it as if you were a first-time visitor. How easy is it to navigate? Can a first-time visitor get a clear idea of who you are and what you do? What needs to be updated for the New Year? Make sure that all the links work smoothly and effectively.
7. Review your company’s marketing plan. Pay special attention to how you are handling your social media accounts. How can you enhance them?
8. Brainstorm ways to expand your network. How can you get your name out there more in 2014? Think trade organizations; think sponsorships; think creatively. Is your brand name working well for you? Is there anything you need to re-tool to make it more effective?
9. If your company is a corporation or LLC, make sure to set an annual meeting. You also need to check on your state’s requirements for filing an annual report to avoid any penalties or late fees.
10. Close any inactive businesses or business accounts. Take any necessary legal steps if the inactive business was registered with the state.
11. Take some time to consider your competition. Do you have any new competitors? What are they doing that you aren’t doing? What can you learn from their successes and their mistakes?
12. Think about your customer base. Do you know enough about it? What are some ways you can learn more? Consider how your customers have changed this past year and how you can change with them so that you can stay relevant to their needs. What means of gaining client/customer feedback do you have? Do you need to consider a survey?
13. Write a list of your company’s accomplishments for the year. Look back over any goals you set at this time last year and evaluate how you have met them. Be prepared to share any positive feedback with your staff. Make notes detailing any areas that fell short and why.
14. Prepare a list of goals for 2014. Now that you have gone through the first 13 steps, you should have a clear idea of where you have been and where you are going. It’s time to use that information to formulate some concrete goals for the New Year.
Here’s where you need to try to use some perspective. We can often be most critical of ourselves, so you may want to get the advice of a few trusted friends and/or colleagues who you feel will give you honest and valuable feedback.
Where would you like your company to be 12 months from now and what steps do you need to take to get it there? Plan a tentative timetable of what needs to happen then. Start by dreaming big and then pare down what is not realistic or affordable.
Finally, now that you have thought about everyone else in your business, be sure to reward yourself a little. You’ve ridden out a difficult year, and you have positioned yourself for success in 2014. Happy New Year!