As we come to the end of the year, it can be either smooth sailing or the craziest time of year depending on the type of business you’re in. No matter what your industry is though, you will have to dot your i’s and cross your t’s and tie up the loose ends as we approach December 31st. Personally, I love the mark of January 1 on my calendar. It’s the ultimate fresh start and fills me with butterflies and anticipation of all the wonders that can happen in the year ahead. But that last day of the year can have the opposite effect and fill me with anxiety, dread, and disappointment when looking back at the last 12 months. As a business owner, you hope that you can look back on the last year fondly, with plenty of positives to review… but we all know that this isn’t always the case.
I decided that early December was the time to start the emotional roller coaster of the end of the year review. It made me excited about looking forward to the new year at the same time that I assessed how the year went. As you may too, I have both the unbounded enthusiasm of the self-employed, along with impossibly high standards for myself. This means that I have to deal with disappointment a lot when I reflect. It’s just never enough. We’ll get to that in a moment. First, let’s get out of our own heads and be thankful for those that keep the lights on…
1. Thank your clients, customers, and referrals.
As I have had both product and service-based businesses, I’ll include what I have done for example. With products, there can be a vast amount of customers so I thanked them in a few ways. For the top tier (VIPs), I sent handwritten cards for New Years. For the next level (subscribers), I made sure they had a special code emailed to them thanking them. For the rest (social media), I posted a thank you with a code.
Service-based businesses can also have multiple levels, but if you have few clients who represent large percentages of your business, a gift, card or taking them to lunch or dinner is appropriate. Think personalized and thoughtful. If you have referral sources who are constantly sending clients your way, you should do the same for them. Although I will add that a handwritten note or gift during the year as referrals turn into clients should be done as well.
2. Gather all of your paperwork and files for the end of the year.
Collect outstanding debts and pay off your creditors. Get all of your financial records in order and gather receipts. If you are a solopreneurer or small business, this will help you know where you stand financially at the start of the new year. I like to remove all of my files specific to the year ending, place them in a clear plastic box and move them to the closet in my office. Then I create files for the new year and am ready to start fresh.
3. Take advantage of year-end tax savings.
Look at expenses, association dues, and equipment you can buy to count as tax deductions. By doing this now, you can take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Make charitable donations. Contribute to your retirement accounts. Calculate estimated taxes and pay them.
4. Take inventory.
Count, dispose of unwanted, validate that sales match the numbers and prepare for next year. It’s also a great way to tidy up and make room for the new.
5. Meet with the business professionals that you wanted to but never did.
Have you been meaning to form an LLC? Add insurance? Hire a professional to help you take your business to the next level? The end of the year is a great time to do this. You’ll be familiar with where you stand. The beginning of the year is also great as they can help you as you are setting out on your plan and goals for the year. Honestly, though, the best time to hire a professional to help, is the day you hire them.
6. Review your marketing plan and make one for the new year.
What worked well and what did not? Look at what you did for the year (i.e. newsletters, social media, networking, advertising, published articles, shows, distribution, product releases) and compare to how much revenue was generated for each. This will help you determine where to put in the resources for the next year. Now is the time to start laying out the calendar and making the plans.
7. Review your systems, policies, and assets. Make changes.
If you do not have any of these things, create them. If you have them, review them and make sure your systems are streamlining work and your policies are accurate. Check your assets (i.e. website, social media, and profiles) and make sure everything is up to date, accurate and fresh looking.
8. Reflect on your year. Celebrate the wins and note the failures.
Let’s talk about feelings for a moment. Please do not use this time to reflect on the year and beat yourself up over all of the things you did not do. It’s well known that we humans overestimate what we can do in the short term and underestimate what we can do in the long term. If you are still in business, then you did something right at least at some point this year. Celebrate these things! Pat yourself on the back, at the very least, have a secret mini dance party with your dog. Brag about it in your mastermind group. Tell your best friend or your mom. Do make sure you are also looking at where you need work, but don’t dwell on the negative too much besides noting where you to improve and to get help. Note that if you see patterns of failures year after year, this area is screaming for you to hire help. A CPA, product photographer, someone to post your social media, to write newsletters and blogs posts. These are easy to outsource if you can’t, won’t or don’t do them.
9. Set your goals for the new year.
This is my favorite one. I love a good goal. Not because of the outcome, but because working towards something and implementing the habits, hard work and focus to get there will be invaluable to your success. Think about what you want to accomplish this year. Start by writing out on a sheet of paper where you see yourself in one year. Be specific with details. Take some time to think it out. Brainstorm projects and products that you want to work on this year. Review and adjust your long-term goals. Think big! If you want to rebrand, launch a new offering or scale your business, make it a goal. Get it on paper, break it down into manageable tasks and get to work.
10. Relax and schedule a vacation and your days off for the year ahead.
Time off is just as important for your business and personal success as hard work is. Be sure and schedule days off and actually take them. You deserve a break, you made it another year!