Wrapping up the year for your small business
By looking ahead and thoughtfully putting away the year, businesses can get a leg up for what is still to come
November and December are some of the busiest months for small business owners. With the holiday shopping season in full swing, it can be easy to get caught up in managing the day-to-day sales and operations. But taking the time to thoughtfully wrap up the year can have a major positive impact on next year. Here are some things business owners should focus on as 2018 comes to an end.
• Accounting: This is probably the most important part of the year-end checklist. Managing financial records can be frustrating but, by getting them in order now, you will thank yourself when tax season comes around.
According to QuickBooks, small businesses should run a standard financial report at the end of every year. This will help determine where they stand compared to years prior. A standard financial report contains a cash flow statement, balance sheet, and a profit and loss statement. This will enable businesses to see where they are financially, as the year draws to a close. Reviewing these reports can help identify areas for business improvement, end-of-year tax-deductible opportunities and put the data your accountant or bookkeeper needs right at your fingertips.
• Goals: Take some time at the end of the year to reflect on your business goals. Think about any goals that were set for the year as well as the big-picture, long-term goals for the business. Gather as much business data as possible, from year-end financial reports, employee reviews, customer feedback, sales data and other sources. Then use this data to assess progress in multiple aspects of the business. After reflecting on this year, set some goals for 2019. Visualize where you want the business to go and identify challenging, but realistic things to accomplish in the next year. Create specific, measurable goals and attach a deadline to each one. Review your goals at the end of each quarter to assess progress and make adjustments as needed.
• Budget Planning: Planning for next year's budget is a vital task to complete at the end of this year - and it goes hand-in-hand with the goal-setting process. Knowing where the business is headed in the next year is important when it comes to budgeting.
Looking at year-end financial reports can help identify areas to focus on for the coming year, by showing any areas of increased spending or opportunities for growth. If profits were up this year, consider using some of that money to re-invest in the business with expanded product lines, scaled-up distribution or new employees. If profits were down this year, use the year-end reports to identify areas for reducing costs next year.
• Customer Engagement: After a busy holiday season, it may be tempting to want to relax as this year wraps up and the new one rolls in. But staying connected with your customers during the end of the year can be beneficial. About 20 percent of all December store traffic happens in the six days AFTER Christmas. Customers are shopping for deals, making exchanges and redeeming gift cards. Tap into this by offering deals and in-store promotions for customers. Use social media and customer email lists or newsletters to engage with customers and encourage them to visit your store in the last week of the year. And be sure to add any new customers to your customer database and email outreach list, for connecting with them next year.
• Giving Thanks: After taking a look at the past year, small business owners can see who was a part of their growth and success. Take this opportunity to say "thank you" to employees, partners and customers. Organizing a party, giving gifts or just offering a word of thanks can make people feel appreciated. It can take a lot of effort from many people to create a successful business; honor and celebrate those efforts by giving thanks at the end of the year.
By applying these tips for wrapping up the year, small business owners can be more prepared and motivated for the upcoming year.
Any small business owner who wants help implementing these tips can reach out to the Nevada Small Business Development Center (www.nevadasbdc.org) for free assistance.
(Note: Lauren Thomas is a marketing intern at the Nevada Small Business Development Center. She is a fourth-year marketing student in the University of Nevada, Reno College of Business and is wrapping up the year by nailing her final exams and setting 2019 goals that include graduating in the top of her class and getting a full-time position.)