As summer comes to a close, the fourth quarter of 2017 is fast-approaching. Now is the time to start thinking about and preparing goals for your small business in the upcoming year. Thorough planning will provide your business with a road map for informed decision making. The following six steps will ensure your planning is a productive process, and help you achieve the sustained business success you desire:
- Learn From The Past
- Define Your Small Business Goal
- Scan Your Environment
- Collect the Necessary Data
- Ask Your Employees for Their Input
- Determine what is required to achieve growth targets
Learn From the Past
There is no time like the present to look back over the previous year and assess what went well for your business and what did not. Did you have goals this year that were not achieved? Do you need to add to your team? Expand and open a new location? Take an honest look at where you have been and where you would like to be. Using this insight, review your business plan and make any necessary updates and adjustments. This will ensure it is still aligned with your current business goals, and put you on the right path to achieve those aspirations in 2018.
“The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” – Winston Churchill
Define your Small Business Goal
After assessing the past year, it is time to focus on the future. It is time to set measurable goals. Every business’ situation will be different because every owner’s situation is unique. Some business’ goals include growing the long-term value of the company, while some choose to maximize short-term cash flow. Other business owners focus their attention on selling their business within the next few years. Once you have defined your goals for the coming year, the next step is to develop projections – strongly grounded in as much data as possible – and analyze business trends.
Scan Your Environment
Once you have taken a closer look at your business, you can move on to evaluating outside factors that could affect your business plans in the upcoming year. What economic, political and competitive factors have the potential to positively/negatively impact your ability to achieve your growth targets? What are the latest business trends? How are your competitors performing? How are they marketing themselves and do they have plans to expand? These are just a few of the many questions you should ask as you scan the environment.
Collect the Necessary Data
Trying to prepare for a new business year without collecting data first is like trying to navigate a ship in the middle of the ocean without a compass. While many directions may look promising, it will be impossible to know for sure if you are leading your business in the right one. Efficient planning requires several different kinds of data: sales, costs and other financial figures from the past several years. In addition, you will need to collect detailed information concerning products, services and customer profitability. It is also beneficial to involve your customers in your planning. What is the likelihood that they would recommend your business to a friend? What do they like most about your business? If they could change anything about doing business with you, what would it be?
Ask Your Employees for Their Input
It is hard to discuss progress and growth for your small business without also mentioning communication. Effective communication is vital to business growth and success. If you have ever worked on a company’s front line, you know how much those employees see that management does not. Encourage your employees to communicate with you by providing several ways to do so (e.g. regular team meetings and one-on-one meetings). Your employees can provide invaluable information; such as, where time and materials are being wasted, what new opportunities there are for new products and services or simply how to do things more efficiently.
Determine what is required to achieve growth targets
To achieve the growth you have planned for 2018, you will likely have to increase your business’ resources (funding, materials, inventory equipment, time, staff, etc.). Will your business be able to handle the increase in time needed to devote to growth efforts? Or will it be necessary to hire additional staff to maintain day-to-day operations? Will you have enough working capital to increase inventory and purchase new equipment? (If you do need to seek outside funding solutions, make sure you clearly understand the speed, the flexibility in repayment terms and the true cost of capital.) All in all, plan ahead by determining what is required for growth, providing a cash cushion within your financial budget and making sure you have a backup source of funding – plan for the unexpected.
The fourth quarter can be one of the most crucial times of the year for a small business, as well as one of the busiest. Be proactive and start evaluating your next set of goals now. These six steps will ensure you know the direction your business is heading, and allow you to ring in the New Year with confidence.
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The fourth quarter can be one of the most crucial times of the year for small businesses, as well as one of the busiest. Now is the time to make sure you are on the right path to achieve your business goals in 2018. These six steps will ensure you know the direction your business is heading, and allow you to ring in the New Year with confidence.