By Andriana Moskovska –

Keeping your business afloat in a highly competitive market is not exactly a walk in the park. Approximately 20% of new ventures don’t even make it past their first year, so it’s important to do all that you can to rise above the competition.

With that being said, finishing up another year without your business closing down is already a major milestone. But don’t start celebrating too soon. Now is the time to reflect on the past few months, and set goals for the upcoming year. Preparing for the year to come will ensure steady growth for your business.

Poor business planning and market research are two of the main culprits of business failure. Simply put, there’s no room for incompetence in the world of business.

It’s important to avoid procrastination. Take care of smaller tasks as they come, so you can focus on the bigger things ahead.

Here are a few things to add to your end-of-year checklist so you can start the new year with a clean slate:

1. Don’t wait until the very end of the year to finish all your tasks

Although it’s easier said than done, you shouldn’t fall into the trap of procrastination. The overwhelming amount of work that piles up at the end of the year shouldn’t stop you from completing all of the tasks on your to-do list one by one before the holiday season ends. This should be a top priority if you don’t want to start another business year tying up the previous one’s loose ends, instead of focusing on the bigger picture.

To start off, make a comprehensive list and rank tasks according to their level of importance and urgency. Dedicate a schedule for each vital task to prevent procrastination and stress from the end-of-year rush. Some of the most important tasks may include:

  • Setting up a meeting with your accountant or bookkeeper. It’s crucial for any entrepreneur to collaborate with their accountant or bookkeeper and review the business’ financial and tax records before another tax season rolls in, as well as to track business expenses.
  • Measuring the results of your marketing campaign. Whether you’re performing a social media audit or measuring the effectiveness of an influencer campaign, keeping track of your results will allow you to make any necessary adjustments.
  • Evaluating employee performance. As the primary business owner, it’s important for you to give your feedback to employees. Make sure you are all on the same page. This is an excellent way to motivate them to continue to improve and ensure seamless, day-to-day operations.

2. Take a look at what your business has achieved over the past 12 months

Look back at your major milestones from the past year. Spend time figuring out areas you can improve in as a small business — what worked for you, and what didn’t. Review your numbers so you’ll know what next steps to take to further enhance the growth of your business.

A good way to do this is by calculating your profit margins from the past few months and documenting everything for future reference. By knowing exactly how much your small venture is making, you’ll be better equipped to make informed business decisions based on your results.

3. Gain actionable customer insights

Reviewing your revenue and profit margins is important. Doing so will help you make better business decisions in the future. This includes acquiring more knowledge about what your target market wants. If you don’t see a remarkable upswing in sales, gathering customer feedback should give you a head start on what strategies need some tweaking to ensure better results for the following year. Start by:

  • Collecting and analyzing customer data. This will enable you to tap into your potential customers’ thoughts and gain quality insights that may benefit your small business.
  • Updating your target market profile using available tools and platforms. Use a single- or multi-channel marketing platform. Many have opted to leverage personalization in their marketing strategies to get higher-quality leads.
  • Taking actionable steps to provide the exact solution to your customers’ needs. List an end-of-year, step-by-step plan to improve customer service for the next season.

4. Declutter your office or workspace

No matter the time of year or size of your business, having a clean work environment is always ideal. With only a few months left before the new year, small businesses with limited resources should figure out how to declutter their workspaces in preparation for the upcoming season.

You want to get started without going overboard with your budget, or affecting daily office productivity. You can do so by starting with a simple checklist. Include specific cleaning schedules and a distribution of cleaning assignments.

The assignments could involve filing and labeling physical documents, rearranging shelves and other office furniture, sanitizing the area, and making sure individual workspaces are clean and organized. Having these tasks evenly distributed among team members will help save time and resources.

5. Set realistic goals for the upcoming year

Almost all established businesses make use of the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Based) objectives to achieve business goals, and for obvious reasons. Ideally, with help from team members or mentors, you can come up with a solid action plan for an entire year, which focuses on what you want your business to achieve in the upcoming year, what steps you are planning to take, and when they should come into effect.

It’s imperative to be concise about your plans so you can lay them out efficiently with the rest of the team. Be collaborative and open about feedback, as this may benefit your small venture in the long run. In addition, it’s also important to collaborate with a trusted lawyer regarding legal matters to avoid future mishaps.

Final Notes

Every small business has its own unique needs and goals. They also have their own fair share of setbacks. With the end of the year quickly approaching, it’s important to avoid procrastination. The key to successfully managing your final-quarter workload, and preventing burnout, is by staying organized and vigilant. Establish a healthy, collaborative relationship with your team members, and your business will be ready to face the new year head-on!

Aspiring entrepreneurs and startup founders with limited resources and experience need all the help they can get. Aside from utilizing free business tools at their disposal, they should also seek the help of their local SBDC for free business consulting services and low-cost training if they want to get their business off the ground as seamlessly as possible.

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About the Author: Andriana Moskovska is proud to call herself SmallBizGenius’s community manager. Her mission is simple: to connect small business owners with the best tools and resources to help them thrive. When she’s not working, Andriana likes to go for walks with her two pet dachshunds and binge-watch documentaries, usually not at the same time.