Year-end is naturally a time for reflection, and for many business owners that means revisiting the challenges and successes of the past year and working to improve their business practices in the months and years ahead.
We asked business owners for the number one thing they do every December to better their business; here’s how they responded:
Celebrate accomplishments—and start planning for next year
At the end of every year, our whole team puts together what we call a “Tah-Dah” list. It’s a list of what we’ve accomplished throughout the year. The list is usually a lot longer than we expect and reminds us of all the successes we’ve had and new ideas that were implemented in the past year. This exercise is the first step in building our next year’s business plan. To create the list, I have my team go back into their calendars and notes and dig out the successes. By going back, we don’t forget the things that occurred at the beginning of the year. We are always so amazed that something we put down in writing in January actually came to fruition in June. It feels almost magical and gives us steam in the next year’s business planning.
—Paige NeJame, franchise owner, CertaPro Painters of South Boston, Rockland, Massachusetts
Review client processes and resource needs
We are a small bookkeeping company with nine employees and about 100 clients. We have a year-end practice called the “Pre-Tax Time Meeting” that has become critical in refining our customer service experience, as well as our internal systems optimization. We review all of our processes for ensuring a smooth tax time for our clients. We also look at what processes or software we may need to upgrade or change, and the staff tell us what tools or resources they need. During that meeting, we look back on the most recent tax season and review what worked well, what didn’t and how we can improve. This process has increased our efficiency, our employee morale, as well as customer satisfaction.
—Justine Lackey, founder, Good Cents Bookkeeping, Briarcliff Manor, New York
Get a head start on training and talent development
I own several small businesses. At the end of the year, we put a plan in place for developing leaders and employees in the upcoming year. We look at who will need training, and in which areas—and we get it on the calendar. We base these decisions not only on how a person is performing in their current job, but also on new responsibilities they might take on in the near future. I find that when we wait till the person needs to put the training into practice, it may be too late.
—Quint Studer, founder, Studer Group, Pensacola, Florida
Connect with current and past clients
At my global branding and marketing firm, in Q4 I always circle back by phone and/or email with any client who during the past year did not have enough budget to accomplish their wish list of projects with us to see if any “use it or lose it” money turned up at year-end so that we can allocate the funds to the project for the next year. Many times we have been able to find adequate budget to get going on projects that would have otherwise fallen through the cracks.
—Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder & CEO, Mavens & Moguls, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Identify smart cost cuts
The most important thing we do to prepare for the year ahead is to cut costs. We tend to find that throughout the year we sign up for various subscriptions that may seem relatively cheap at the time but over the long term really add up. One tool that helps us find these cost cuts is wave. It hooks directly into our bank account so we can easily see our recurring monthly subscriptions.
—Sean Pour, co-founder, SellMax, San Diego
Review goals and spot trends and opportunities
One practice that helps me finish the year strong is to revisit the goals I had set for the company at the start of the year. I can see where we excelled or came up short, but more importantly I can complete any goals that are outstanding. There’s actually a lot of time in the last quarter to make good on any promises you made at the beginning of the year. Revisiting goals also gives you a chance to spot trends or shifts in your business that could strategically make a difference for the upcoming year. Did your target audience change? Does your business need to evolve? Are there new opportunities to take advantage of next year? Hindsight really is 20-20.
—Randy Kowlessar, owner, Hello Randy, Minneapolis
What’s the one thing your business does at year-end to get ready for the year ahead? Share your insights in the comments section below!
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