This time of year a lot of small businesses are in the thick of a busy holiday season, so time is precious. That being said, I think small business owners should follow the example of their larger siblings (if they aren’t already) and take a look at how the end of this year is shaping up so they can position their businesses for a strong finish and set themselves up for a good start to the new year.
Here’s a quick checklist of 11 things to consider to wrap up 2017:
- Review last year’s revenue goals: Many business owners start the year by establishing revenue goals. They also review those goals every quarter to determine how they are tracking toward them, so going into the last quarter of the year they have a pretty good idea of whether or not they are on track or are lagging. With less than a month to go, it’s a good time to take one last look to determine if you’re on track, need to adjust, or are within sight of your goals with a little push.
- Run year-end financial reports: Running your financial reports for the end of the year gives you an opportunity to look at the big picture. Sometimes it’s easy to get distracted by the day-to-day minutia of running a small business, so taking a critical look at your primary financial reports for the year is just a good idea. They should definitely include a Profit & Loss Statement (P&L), you Balance Sheet, and a detailed Cash Flow Report. If you’re interested in some of the other critical financial reports you might include you might be interested in reading what we’ve published about some of the important financial reports every small business owner should understand. You might also want to also speak with your accountant or CPA about any questions you might have.
- Update employee and payroll information: The end of the year is a good time to do an audit of the information you have on all your employees. For example, do you have the correct phone numbers, addresses, and payroll information? It also gives you an opportunity to update the status of new hires or former employees—including evaluating any access they may have to computer systems or financial information.
- Update your vendor files: This is also a good time to make sure the information you have on any of the vendors or suppliers you use is updated and correct—including any new relationships you’ve initiated this year.
- Conduct a physical inventory: This is important if your business is operated on a calendar year basis, but that’s not the only reason to do it. Conducting an annual physical inventory is not only important for tax purposes, but is a great way for you to evaluate what products tend to sell or identify which products don’t do as well. Unless slow-moving inventory is obsolete, many suppliers are willing to exchange it for something you can regularly turn over more quickly.
- Back up your computer(s): Many businesses rely on their computer systems for accounting, point-of-sale systems, employee records, or other business critical information, but taking the time to backup systems can be time consuming—and a pain. Even though all this information is critical, it’s easy to understand why taking the time to back up your computer system often gets overlooked. Although a more frequent backup cadence is probably a good idea, an end-of-year backup is something I consider really important. Fortunately, there are a lot of backup drive options available for anything from an average personal computer or a much larger computer system.
- Audit your company website: I think it’s safe to say that many small businesses appreciate the value of their website as a sales and retention tool, but once it launches they don’t give it much attention. I’m convinced your website should be a living thing that your regularly revisit to keep it fresh and relevant to your customers and potential customers. Even something as simple as updating images or headlines can keep your site looking up to date.
- Consider your staffing needs for next year: Did you notice any times when an extra hand or two, could have helped your business capture more profits. Does it make sense to add a new employee, consider a seasonal employee, or maybe a college intern for next year? When you establish your goals for the next 12 months, your staffing needs should be part of that discussion. With the hindsight of the year behind you, it can be time well spent considering whether or not you’ll need a new employee or two.
- Print a PDF of your calendar: Although there are some people who keep a detailed diary of their meetings, phone calls, events, or other travels, many of us rely on our calendars to refresh our memories when it’s time to reconcile expenses for taxes or other purposes. The habit of printing out the calendar for the year is an exercise worth starting (if you’re not already doing it).
- Back up your cell phone: If you’re like me, there’s a lot of hard-to-replace information that winds up on your cell phone. If you don’t have a cloud service that regularly conducts a backup, and you haven’t done it for a while, the end of the year is a good time to backup the data on your cell phone to the cloud or a computer hard drive.
- Create a log of your business accomplishments: You just might be surprised by all the great things that happened within your business this year, if you never take the time to catalogue your accomplishments. It can take a little bit of time, but collecting, sharing, and celebrating your business’ achievements with your employees at this time of the year is a great way to build camaraderie, increase morale, and end the year on a high note.
In all the hustle and bustle of doing business through the end of the year, don’t forget to take some time to do some small business housekeeping—it will be time well spent. And this checklist is a great place to start. If there’s something I’ve missed, please feel free to share some of the end-of-year things you do to finish the year.