The “things to do” list is never ending for small business owners, but following a checklist (at least once a year) can make the following months go a lot smoother.
One things for sure. If you just wing it you’ll be less successful than you could have been.
I’ve broken this checklist into four key areas:
- Cash Management
- Business Systems
There are, of course, many ways to slice into things you should focus on in your small business, but in my years of experience these are the ones that can have the most impact on your success and your bottom line.
Now you most certainly can’t get all of these things done at once, but if you take them one step at a time and devote even an hour a day to them you’ll make good progress.
If you’d rather watch than read, scroll down for the video.
1. Cash Management
Hopefully, you have a good idea where you stand cash wise in your business and have done some planning to prepare for the New Year. If not, you still have a few days left. (If you happened upon this post after the new year, no worries. These are still good steps to take in your business.) 🙂
Here are some things you need to keep in mind. (Make sure you run these by your accountant.)
- Run your standard financial reports – balance sheet, cash flow, profit and loss. Take a close look at your profit and loss. No matter what kind of business structure you have, any profit will be taxable. If your profit is larger than expected, consider whether it makes sense to make some purchases before the end of the year. On the other hand, if things look a bit dire, see what you can do to get any outstanding receivables in your account before the end of the year.
- Create your cash flow budget for next year – One of the best ways to end up in good shape at the end of the year (and to sleep a lot better at night), is to create a cash flow budget for the year. Then you can monitor and update it as the year moves forward to you always have a good idea about your cash position in your company. You can get a free cash flow budget template here.
- Get rid of the shoe box. 🙂 If you’ve been keeping all your receipts in a shoe box and letting your accountant sort it out at tax time, that’s a huge mistake. Set up proper reporting for next year in addition to creating your cash flow budget and committing to manage the money side of your business wisely. Make sure you always know what’s going on whether you’re personally doing the work or not.
- Determine if current vendors are still appropriate. Sometimes we stick with companies who are serving our business just because it’s the easiest way. But it may not be the best thing for us to do. Use a critical eye to determine if each vendor is still the right one for the job. If not, it’s time for a change.
This is a biggie. And unlike our big business brothers and sisters, most small business owners don’t have an IT person who can sort everything out for us. If your business is in the online world, having your technology in good shape is critical for your business success. And it’s pretty important if your company is brick and mortar too.
- Is it time for a new computer? These days, our technology is pretty much outdated the day after we purchase it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not still useful. However an old sluggish computer can really put a damper on how efficiently you can get work done. If it’s old and you have the funds to buy something new, now may be the time for an upgrade.
- Is your software serving you well? Take a good look at the software on your computer. Does it need to be upgraded? Can you take it to the cloud instead of housing it on your computer? Do you still need all the software you have? If you have something that’s taking up space and not being used, get rid of it.
- Back up your data. You should do this on a regular basis. And if you haven’t, now is a good time to take care of that backup. It’s important to back up data on your computer and backup any important info contained in cloud apps. In particular, you’ll want to download a backup of all your email subscribers from your email service provider.
- Audit your website. Your website is a critical marketing weapon. Having an old or outdated looking site can send prospects and customers running in the wrong direction. Check every page and make sure links are still working properly. Update any content that doesn’t fit anymore. Consider getting a major overhaul done for the New Year.
3. Business Systems
Most of us tend to do things day in and day out just because we’ve always done them that way. But that doesn’t mean we should continue. Systems and processes get stuck in the past even when all the other parts of our business seem to be moving forward. And a lot of them just get stuck in our head. Not the best place to keep your systems.
- Document your business processes. We can keep a lot of information in our heads. But that doesn’t mean we should. No matter what size business you own, things get done in a certain order. Taking the time to write those things down will help free up your mind for other important business issues. On top of that, having them written down will allow you to hand them off when you’re ready to hire someone to take on the task.
- Review your current processes. Whether you have your processes written down or not (and you should), do a walk through of each process to see if it’s the most efficient. There’s no sense in continuing to do things a specific way just because you always have. Time is a precious commodity for small business, so even the tiniest tweak can save you effort. If you can shave even five minutes off a process that you do every single day, you’ll save 30 hours in a year!
- Audit the tools you’re using. If you’re using software tools to accomplish steps in your processes, make sure they’re still valid and are the right tools. There may be another tool on the market that will simplify your process a bit. And don’t forget to look at things from another perspective. If the software you’re using has tons of bells and whistles you don’t need, ditch it.
Marketing and sales are the engines that will fuel your business and keep it going. They’re what will put the cash in the bank so your business can be successful. It’s important to have a plan and take action to make it happen
- Check your customer list. You should know who your best customers are, what they bought and what things they’re looking for from you to solve their problems. It would be a good thing to connect with these customers and talk about their current challenges so you can provide what they need. If you can’t connect face to face or via phone, a survey will do to collect some general responses.
- Create your marketing plan. You should have at least a framework for what and how you will market your business over the next year. Plan it out on a 12 month calendar. Don’t forget to create a content plan for your website and a social media plan for the sites where your customers hang out.
- Prepare a marketing budget. Having a budget in place will help you make decisions about what to do and how to do it. Make sure your budget is realistic and includes “pay to play” options to help you reach a broad audience.