- Get together with your accountant to check your books and get them in order.
- Touch base with clients to stay fresh in their minds.
- Review the state of your business by arranging a review of the year with staff.
- Mark a date for a company dinner and/or even a company vacation, during the period before work gets busy again.
As the end of the calendar year looms, the pressure is on for small businesses to clean up their accounts, review their track record and plan for the year ahead. For some entrepreneurs, it’s an annual nightmare – but it doesn’t have to be. Just follow these simple steps, keep calm, and carry on.
For many small businesses, the end of the calendar year can be a gruelling ordeal. When you’re surrounded by a veritable storm of paperwork to be completed, accounts to be closed and other errands to run, the world seems to shrink down into a narrow train tunnel with the glowing date “31 December” at its very end.
Before you get completely buried in the minute details, take a break and step back to see the bigger picture. Your turn-of-the-year planning should include accounts, client relationships, employees and your strategy for the coming year. Setting a schedule in Outlook Calendar will help remind you of what needs to be done before the next year.
Have you covered all these steps? Just follow this list and you won’t go astray.
1. Accountant appreciation day
At the year’s end, your accountant is your new best friend. Unless you haven’t managed to grow your business at all, you’ve probably found someone to help you with your year-end book-keeping.
Set aside some time to meet with your accountant to make sure that you get all of your accounts settled, pay off outstanding debts, and check your books for errors. With a good accountant on the job, you’ll be able to turn your mind to other matters, like your clients.
You should also take inventory of your company’s current assets and products at this time, making adjustments on your books as needed.
2. Calls, cards and best wishes
The turn of the calendar year is just the right time to send a thank-you card or a gift to your clients. Even if you aren’t working closely with a client at the moment, send along your best wishes. Just like you, they’re probably thinking about what’s most important in their business, and it helps if you make sure they keep you in mind, too.
In some cases, it may be better to speak with your clients directly, for that personal touch. It’s courtesy to ask if there’s anything you can help with – and who knows, you might be able to get a referral from a client. If you can’t meet up in person, try scheduling an online video call with Microsoft Lync or Windows Messenger.
Your year-end letters and emails are also a perfect opportunity to debut a revamped company identity. If you’ve been using the same templates and email signatures for more than a year, it’s high time to upgrade them. With the tools in Publisher, Word, PowerPoint and Outlook, you can quickly apply style changes to all of your templates and signatures.
3. Time to take stock
Even with the most loyal client base, you can never truly improve your business without looking inward. The end of the year is when you should put aside half a day or so to evaluate your business performance and the performance of your employees. Then, it’s time to start planning for the next year.
Compare your accomplishments with the goals you set at the start of the year, and do likewise for each employee performance review. You can create easy-to-use templates in Excel and Word to help organise the feedback from your business review and employee reviews, making it easier to help you plan ahead. Set new goals for your business and your employees that will build upon past accomplishments or overcome current weaknesses.
Tools such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM help you to analyse your past sales performance and make forecasts for the year to come based on existing sales data. There are also templates in Excel, such as the Waterfall forecasting model and the five year plan, which can organise the information you need for your future direction.
4. Recharging the batteries
With all of the stress and anxiety from wrapping up the business year, your entire team is going to need to build some team spirit. A company lunch or dinner just before the end of the year, will help to boost morale and let employees know you care. Some small businesses can even benefit from a company vacation, taking advantage of group vacation packages to lighten the costs for everyone. Remember to plan these affairs well in advance. Mark the date in Outlook Calendar, and have it send out periodic email reminders – a month in advance, then a week, then the day before.
You’ll notice that some of these steps to ending the year include activities and plans that stretch on into the next year. That’s because a savvy entrepreneur never gets too caught up in the present. It always helps to have things to look forward to, because the future’s too exciting to ignore!