Every year I have to sit you down and explain to you the importance of preparing for the end of year madness that every small business is required to experience. There is a ton of work to be done, myriad details to attend, and fun that must be had; this I need like a loch in keppe, but hey, we make our own choices in life, right? The madness is best summed up in the Yiddish and there are several variations: meshuggah (which Merriam Webster defines as crazy or foolish, but also happens to be a metal band from Sweden!), meshugener (a foolish or crazy person), and (for our purposes here) mishegoss defined as general craziness, or a senseless behavior or activity.
So while you keep an eye on your team, your customers, your marketing, your online activities, and your bottom line it is now also time to get ready for tax time, perform the year-end reviews, consider raises and bonuses, clean up the office, schedule holiday vacations, and plan the company party! Here are 10 things you should be considering as the calendar ticks down and 2014 looms large!
1. Start with a look back. Now is the time to review your 2013 budget, strategies, and tactics as you consider whether you did as well as you might of and how you should adjust your approach for next year. Do you need to make adjustments to your budget categories and amounts? How successful was your overall strategy? Which of your tactics should you keep and which should you dump? We are huge believers in a lean approach to marketing and business and one of the precepts is small batch testing: stick with what works and get rid of what doesn’t. Consider what you learned this year and take action accordingly.
2. Prepare for tax time. Put together a package for your accountant and start the review prior to the end of the year. We do this every year in November and share with our accountant a package of documents and reports which lets them get a head start on tax prep. By doing this a month or two ahead, we have time to make the changes and adjustments the accountant inevitably wants us to make and when January rolls around all that is left are minor tweaks. Typical items to share include, year-to-date payroll reports; reconciliations on all bank, loan, and credit card accounts; any business intelligence reports or data you collect; and a current copy of your QuickBooks or accounting software file. Check with your accountant and prepare a checklist of the items she’ll need to do a meaningful review. If this process goes well you will save a significant amount of time on your tax preparation come January.
3. Review your website. Take the time to make sure your site is performing well and is optimized for the best results in search. Check your links, your help pages and your landing pages for accuracy and to make sure everything is working well and your links are redirecting appropriately. Make sure your user agreement and About Us pages are up-to-date and plan to work with your web developers to make sure everything is ship shape.
4. Clean house. Stop right now and look around your office. Messy desks, paperwork needing filing, old files that should be thrown out. Every spring mom would make you clean out your closet and get rid of the old junk in there and your office should be no different. Clean up, now!
5. Review your marketing strategy. The heart of your business is your marketing strategy and like all major organs it needs to be well cared for, exercised, and maintained. Dust off those documents and notes from the past 12-24 months and consider carefully what you are doing well and what is just not working for you. Create a new strategy for 2014 which leverages the best of what you did in the past year and plan for testing and implementation in the year to come.
6. Update your budget. I mentioned above that you should review your tax and accounting data in preparation for tax-time but it is also critical that you review your budget and projections for the coming year. We budget 2 years in advance and update your assumptions on revenue and expense periodically throughout the year and I recommend that you do the same. Question whether your assumptions on sales and revenues were accurate as well as your expenses. Check budget against actual and rinse and repeat as needed.
7. Do an inventory. Count everything your business possesses, not just the products in your stockroom and on the shelves, but all assets physical, virtual, and human. These assets can include everything from the people on your team, to the capabilities and knowledge you possess. They include the cash you have in the bank and the customers on your email list. Leveraging those assets is how we run businesses day in and day out, but they can also help to inform us on everything from strategic choices to financial planning. Finally take the time to crate a list of your accomplishments for the 2013 and share this with your team, your customers, your investors and your family. Be proud of what you did in 2013 and use it to do even more in 2014!
8. Give back. Giving back to your community and your world is just as important as your bottom line. What defines us a people is not just how successful we are with our enterprise but how we share our resources, our values, and our profits with others who need help. Just as many of us make individual contributions as the year ends, companies can and should do the same. This does not necessarily mean that you need to write a big check to your favorite charity, but could be asking your team to contribute to a clothing drive, take on a Toys-for-Tots event, or offer your services pro-bono to a worthy charity.
9. Say “Happy Holidays” to your customers. Never ever lost sight of the fact that without your customers, especially the best among them, you would not have a business (or won’t for much longer). Crank up your CRM and export a list of your top 100 or 1,000 or 10,000 customers and do something nice for them. Send out a holiday card, ship out some swag, or simply send an email telling them how much you appreciate them, their business, and everything they do for your company.
10. Set your goals for the New Year. Lastly sit down with your team, your partner, your investors, or your advisors and start the spitballing; define your goals for sales, customers, conversions, individual departments, financials and anything else that is appropriate for your specific needs. Don’t hold back either – make your goals as aggressive as you think reasonable and stretch hard to meet them. The best goals are those that push us to achieve more and create more value. The BHAG is your friend and you should treat your friends with the respect they deserve!
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