As the owner of a business – small or large, product-based or service-based, you probably have a season or period of time when you get swamped with work. Retailers may feel this crunch over the holidays, while HVAC experts run ragged when the weather takes a turn. Those of us in the accounting industry, for example, bury our heads in work in January and come up for air only after tax season wraps up in April.
Having more work than hours in the day is a good problem, to be sure, but it can mean other critical areas get neglected or simply triaged while you attempt to keep up with everything. Here’s a look at some of the things you can do to get back on track after the rush of a busy season ends.
#1. Reflect on your victories.
Before you jump into the next big push or project, take some time celebrate your achievements over the past few months. Review your victories (even the small ones!) and acknowledge team members who may have been involved in your successes. Evaluate any potential areas of improvement or situations that could be used as learning experiences for the future.
#2. Check in with your team.
A busy season can leave everyone feeling frazzled. If you have team members – both internal employees and external consultants – check in with them to see how they’re doing. Ask for their thoughts on how the past season has gone and what suggestions they might have for similar seasons in the future. Do you have procedures in place, like vendor onboarding best practices, that can reduce stress during your busier times?
#3. Put your space in order.
One of the first things to go when you’re busy is organization, both physically and electronically. Clean your desk off and file paperwork accordingly. Take a few moments to organize electronic folders for easy reference later. Record receipts and balance your accounts within your accounting software. (If someone does this for you, it’s a great idea to schedule some time to review the numbers and ensure everything is up to date and accurate.)
#4. Forecast your income.
It’s hard to keep an eye on what’s in the pipeline when you’ve got your hands full with current activities. Take some time to review what’s coming up. Are there clients with whom you need to touch base about upcoming work? Are there tasks you need to complete now for projects later? Use any predicted sales to build an income forecast for the next month or quarter.
#5. And analyze your outgo.
This is a great time to review your expenses and identify potential areas for improvement. What are you paying for utilities? Do your insurance policies still provide adequate coverage? It might be beneficial to shop around for quotes to see if you can reduce expenditures. Managing cash flow is difficult for many small business owners, but it is crucial to operate successfully. Taking the time to figure out cash in vs. cash out can iron out recurring issues you face when paying bills and give you a better feeling of overall control in your business.
#6. Do some deep thinking.
You have goals for your company, but are you on track to reach them? This is a great time to review your goals and determine if they’re still appropriate or if they need to be modified to match your company’s new direction. Where do you want to be in one year, three years, five years? If you’re planning for growth – adding employees, building a new facility, product expansion – make a list of people or things you’ll need in place to accomplish that growth. If you’re not sure where to start, it may be time to look for a holistic advisor.
#7. Review your offerings.
Whether your business is product-based or service-based, it’s important to review your range of offerings regularly and tweak or add as needed. Perhaps you need to adjust pricing, add complementary products, or remove non-sellers. It all comes down to answering a key question: How can you better serve your customers? Take a look at what questions you’re getting from your clients. Are there any other ways you can add value?
#8. Ensure your marketing goals align with overall business goals.
A solid plan – built from the goals you set for yourself earlier – can ensure you’re approaching your marketing strategically and avoiding a scattershot approach. What new clients or customers would you like to add to your roster in the upcoming months? What approach(es) will you use to reach them? If you’re delegating some of your marketing tasks, bring them in to go over the marketing plan and get everyone headed in the same direction. It is important that your marketing goals align with your overall business goals and you have a plan, as well as measurable results, to ensure you reach them.
#9. Touch base with key clients.
This is a great time to check in with your best customers and give them a chance to provide feedback on how you’re doing. You could do this through a phone call, a lunch, or even an emailed survey. Be sure to ask not only where you could improve but also where you’re succeeding at meeting their needs. If you are looking to introduce a new service or product after thinking about #7 Review your offerings, this could be a great place to gauge interest. It is also a good time to make sure you’re thanking your clients in a unique way – always looking for ways to add value.
#10. Empower yourself with knowledge of regulation changes.
All of your plans could be waylaid by new legislation, tax reform, or policies that could affect your business and how it operates. Aligning yourself with strong business advisors such as an attorney, CPA and financial advisor can help you stay informed and on top of these changes and how they may impact your business. It is crucial to meet regularly with your advisors to review changes that could influence your bottom line – and possibly alter your plans for the near future.
Making the time investment in the above items during a slower season will ensure more efficiencies as business picks up and you strive to reach next year’s goals. The importance of taking a step back to ensure you are on the right track should not be downplayed. These strategic to-do items will definitely help you check in on your business, goals and objectives and give you a better perspective moving forward.