7 New Year Planning Tips for Small Businesses
The end of the year is always a good time to make evaluations, both at the individual and business level. It is the right time to prepare for the new year ahead, and having a solid plan in place can drive small businesses forward.
1. The Business Plan
The business plan serves as a guide for small business owners; a blueprint which outlines critical areas such as:
- What need is the company seeking to meet?
- Why is the company best suited to meet that need?
- In what ways are the business making money from the business model it is using?
- Who are the competition, and how does the small business fare?
- How does the business operate regarding operations, marketing, sales, and delivery?
- Staffing needs: who are you as a team and why are you suited to run the company?
Coming up with a positive plan takes vision and understanding. It is not a document that is prepared once and considered final. It is a road map, needing frequent evaluations and modifications to keep up with the reality of business ownership.
The end of the year is an ideal time to go through the business plan, conduct evaluations, and make adjustments. Evaluating the progress made so far, with a special emphasis on the year just ended, is an effective way to learn lessons that will guide the business operation through the new year. It is time to identify what worked and what did not. What were the challenges and how can they be overcome in future? Looking at months with the highest and lowest performance is a reliable way to catalyze the process.
Corrective action includes dealing with employees who are not able to stay on track and working towards converting dreams of the team to reality.
2. Set Goals
Begin planning for the year ahead by identifying what you want to achieve in the next twelve months. Divide the year into quarters or 90-day phases and make detailed plans for each quarter. Then, make a detailed plan for the first quarter. Three months is not very long, so identify only two or three key areas to focus on.
Based on the lessons from the year just ending, identify what needs to be done to improve efficiency, grow business volume, and reduce losses and wastage. Will a new person need to be hired or does someone already exist in the organization that could take on more responsibility? Is re-organizing of staff needed? Do some staff require replacement?
Areas of weakness need to be examined to chart out any methods for improvement. Do systems need to be improved, or is it the team that is weak and needs improvement? Marketing needs to be improved to grow the clientele base, or a product that is not doing well needs to be relaunched or replaced.
The first quarter is crucial as it sets the pace for the rest of the year. Major changes need to be implemented early in the year if the goals for the following months are to be achieved.
3. Ensure the Goals are SMART
Goals need to be:
One area that requires special attention is how the results will be measured. What indicators will you use to measure achievements? Will the outcomes be measured regarding growth in revenue? Perhaps the increase in online followers, or the number of visitors to the website? The number of people reached with a message?
Time passes quickly, and to avoid getting overwhelmed it is advisable to divide the quarterly goals into manageable portions. This way, employees can be working with monthly and weekly targets. These are easier to keep track of, and corrective action can be taken promptly.
4. Prepare an Action Plan
Clarity for the teams increases efficiency and frees the small business owner to focus on other matters. To ensure that teams stay on track, prepare a 5-7 step action plan to be used as a road map by the team leaders. Make sure the team leaders clearly understand what is expected of them in their supervisory role.
The action plan can be displayed in a strategic place, and used to track progress. Small business staff should be guided to follow the action plan and submit progress reports regularly, preferably every week. Reporting procedures need to be understood right from the beginning.
5. Foster Team Work
Meetings help to keep every team member on the same page as they induce team cohesion and bonding. They ensure problems can be identified early, and corrective action taken. Staff will have the opportunity to seek clarification about unclear issues.
Technology has made it possible to inject creativity into meetings. PowerPoint presentations can be made very interesting and lively, using visual images and illustrations. Flip charts can also be used in meetings.
Meetings can even be conducted visually for staff members who are in different locations, as happens with field staff or with small businesses that have branch offices.
6. Staffing Needs
In case you need extra help in some departments, check out online platforms where you can hire freelancers for distinct roles. Be it report writers, videographers, editors, accountants or virtual assistants; you do not have to hire full-time staff. These can be hired for short durations as and when required, such as when a key person is unwell or on leave.
Interns can also be hired for short-term engagements. However, the small business owner should always oversee running of the business and should not let the blind trust flow in, especially in the case of temporary staff.
The small business owner needs to have hands-on experience in order to guide staff and delegate effectively, especially when the business is still in the nurturing stage. They should be able to rely on a few employees to run it.
Typically, a small business is run by an individual possibly with support from family and friends. Financing a small business can be very challenging. Many small business owners use their savings or sell some assets to raise the start-up capital. Others take soft loans from friends and family.
In some cases, a small business owner accesses financing through a loan. This is not easy unless one has collateral such as borrowing against his own home. The use of collateral is the easiest way to access money through a loan. It has its downside; in the event of business’ failure, the owner could lose his home.
Some businesses start from home, with employee functions being handled by volunteers and family members. It can be very tough in the initial stage, but the sacrifice is worth it.
It takes time for a small business to experience profits, so financing is an area that requires regular evaluation - even more so when evaluating the business at the end of the year.
Small businesses require intensive work before they grow to a level where mechanization reduces some of the workload. The owner of a small business sometimes makes sacrifices financially during the initial phase, but the workload gradually reduces as the business grows. When it finally becomes successful, the rewards are worth every sacrifice.
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