Many of us view the final month of the year as a time to reflect on our personal accomplishments and set goals we would like to achieve in the year ahead. For a small business owner, it is also a great time to reflect on your business accomplishments and prepare your business and your team for a successful new year.
Begin by examining the prior year. It is important to acknowledge highlights and accomplishments. What goals did you set for the business that were achieved successfully? Give yourself and your employees recognition for those efforts if you haven’t done so throughout the year. Alternatively, were there any goals that were not achieved that you still view as valuable? Be sure to note those to carry over to next year’s action plan.
Next, did any events or issues arise that you were not prepared to handle? As we have learned, there can be unexpected situations or even national and world events that you have no control over. It is important to recognize and accept that. It is also important to reflect on those opportunities for growth and determine what lessons you can learn.
Just as important as reflecting on objective goals is reflecting with your employees. This ensures you maintain a positive workplace culture where employees feel valued and invested. This is a vital step in your year-end review and future planning, whether you have one employee or 50 employees. Ask your staff to complete a self-evaluation with their accomplishments as well as a manager evaluation. A “start, stop, continue” exercise is a great tool for both self and manager reviews. It’s as simple as listing what behaviors, practices, and procedures should start, what should stop, and what should continue. While you cannot always implement all suggestions and requests, it’s a great opportunity to have a discussion about what is and is not working.
Once you have reviewed and reflected, it’s time to set next year’s goals and create an action plan. Lay out clear and concrete goals and break them into smaller, achievable tasks with a timeline. Make sure the goals and respective action plans are well communicated and understood by all involved parties. Make a schedule to revisit the action plans at an appropriate cadence for the size and detail of each goal.
There are also many maintenance tasks that get overlooked as the unexpected comes up throughout the year. Use the end of the year as a time to take care of loose ends such as unanswered inquiries or inventory review. This is also a great time to clean up your inbox and refine how it is organized. Are there duplicate or old folders that can be removed? Maybe your method of processing and filing emails leaves room for improvement. Do some quick research on email organization best practices to set yourself up for ultimate email efficiency.
Another extremely important but often procrastinated task is preparing your books. Make sure you have all outstanding invoices paid and gather receipts. If you have an accountant, touch base to ensure you know what you need when tax time arrives. Tax season is never an exciting time for business owners, but you can make it a little less stressful with just a bit of extra preparation.
Additionally, look at how long it has been since you last reviewed your technology platforms and vendors. Are you satisfied with all the features provided, and do they deliver what was promised? If pricing is an issue, do not ignore the possibility of cost negotiations or trying a more economical option. Define your must-haves and make sure your current products and providers are hitting the mark. If not, try something new!
Last, but certainly not least, get informed. Are there any upcoming industry rules or legislation changes that will affect your business? Make sure you are well informed on any issues that could affect your business or your employees to help prevent unexpected and avoidable surprises.
As we approach the end of a year full of the unexpected, take time to consider what you have learned from the challenges, accomplishments, and surprises. It is a great time to look forward to all the possibilities to come and plan for success. Another great way to prepare for the new year is to check out other tips and tricks in Acuity’s many blogs on running your business!