Small Business Year-end Check Up 12 13On your mark, get set, go! The holiday frenzy is in full swing, and you haven’t even cleared the dishes from Thanksgiving yet. There is more on your to-do list than hours in the day, and if you have a small business or start-up, that ratio is greatly understated. But guess what? I’m going to suggest you put one more task on that to-do list, and, I will even go as far as recommending you to place it at the top.

It’s time for a check-up, and the future health of your business depends on it.

Benefit from yearly audits

If we’ve been blessed with good genes and practice a healthy lifestyle, we see the doctor once a year for our annual checkup. At those appointments, we discuss what’s happened to us over the past year, where we fall on the charts currently, and what we should do next year. The doctor tells us whether to keep up the good work, make drastic changes in our lifestyle, or maybe, suggests we do something in between.

It’s not a whole lot different in business during year’s end. Taking time in the next few days or weeks to audit your business informally is a great way to get the information you need to plan for 2014. You’re already dealing with the books in the run-up to tax time, so why not do some analysis and make some decisions to ensure that your business prospers in the next year?

Telling your story

To put you in the spirit of the task at hand, think of it as if you are creating a version of the Dicken’s classic “A Christmas Carol,” starring your business. Visits from business past, business present, and business future are the key elements necessary if you want your business’ story to have a happy ending. Ask yourself some important questions, such as what missteps were made in the past year? Where does the business stand now? Where do you want it to go, and how will I get there? To find the answers to these questions, here are a few areas on which to concentrate:

1. Get Ready for Tax Season.

Now is a good time to start pulling together all the information you’ll need for the tax man. So get the receipts out of your glove compartment or bottom drawer and onto your ledger. It’s also a good time to consult with your accountant or tax professional to make sure you take advantage of potential tax deductions before the end of the year.

2. Evaluate 2013.

What worked well for your company and what didn’t. Where can you make enhancements? This is a good time to get feedback from customers regarding your performance. Ask one simple question: On a one-to-ten scale, how willing would you be to recommend my business to others. If you get a lot of 7s or 8s, you need to rethink how you’re delivering your product/service in the coming year.

3. Review Financials and Set 2014 Budgets:

Take a careful look at your 2013 financial performance. Are you on track to meet your revenue goals for the year? If not, where are you falling short and why. Use these results to begin focusing on 2014 budgets. Do you plan to invest in equipment? Are you going to spend more on marketing? How do you plan to ramp up your sales? Be realistic in your projections, but don’t be afraid to raise the bar for you and your team.

4. Plan for 2014.

Now it’s time to talk strategy. Get your team together and set next year’s goals. Lay out a tactical plan of how you’re going to achieve those goals. Finally, start putting your plan in place, now. Get a jump start on your competition by sending 2013 out with a flash of activity.

What are you doing now to help ensure a healthy and happy 2014 for your business?

 

Susan Wilson Solovic is an award-winning entrepreneur and journalist, author of three best-selling books, multi-media personality and contributor to ABC News and other outlets, public speaker and attorney. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.