If you’re using the start of the New Year to craft some clever goals for your company, you’re not alone. From the CMO to the front office worker, everyone likes to use this period of renewal to create milestones that will propel them in their career. So, how can you use the eagerness and willingness of your workforce to do more in 2019? Start with these essential tasks for any business owners hoping to increase the fitness of their business. They’re vital year-round but are especially effective in Q1 of the fiscal year.
1. Tackle Taxes
No one likes them, but they are incredibly important to get right. If you haven’t started the dreaded task of assembling all your tax and financial info to give to your tax pro, do so now. There are several tax changes under Trump’s new tax plan that may change the amount you owe, so be sure to inquire about how this will affect your info gathering.
The inclusion of a new 20% deduction for certain service-based, pass-through income, for example, is available for most businesses – regardless of whether you are an S-Corp or sole proprietor.
Pro tip: The news is full of dire warnings that the government shut down may delay tax processing. Most states haven’t even finalized their tax guidelines yet, however, and the IRS won’t officially accept returns until January 29th. Regardless of how the shutdown plays out, get your papers in order so that you’re ready to start when the government’s in session.
2. Check your Credit Score
Even if you don’t need to take out a line of credit or open a new business credit card, it’s good to see where you stand. Credit-worthiness is a vital part of your whole-business financial health; doing a quick check of both your business and personal scores can give you a very accurate picture of your strengths and weaknesses. This will also give you time to make adjustments to your debt profile if you aren’t happy with what you see.
Paying down debt or consolidating high-interest debt can positively affect your score and put you in a better position for a business loan down the road. Just because you don’t need one now, doesn’t mean you won’t later. The next year can bring any number of unexpected economic and financial surprises. Be ready for anything.
Pro tip: Don’t have a business credit score? Ask your vendors if they can start reporting your payments to companies that track such matters. Those on-time payments will go far in establishing your business credit score – an important first step if you want to get a loan later.
3. Revisit your Web Presence
It’s surprising how many small businesses lack a website. With the cost of creating one lower than ever, there’s no reason you can’t snag a domain, set up a simple storefront, and at least capture Google traffic for those searching for what you offer. Don’t feel that you need to invest the tens of thousands of dollars that marketing gurus will insist you pay, especially if you’ve been getting by so far with no website (or one with very limited functionality.)
Just have a place to call your own, and that provides next steps for anyone wanting to know more about your business. Already have a site? Ask yourself what cheap, and simple fixes will make the experience better for your customers in 2019.
Pro tip: Some very small business owners make the mistake of putting all of their marketing efforts into just Facebook or a website. Remember that tech changes, and what may work today can leave customers in the cold tomorrow. Practice a balance of simple communication methods across the most popular channels that your customer regularly engage with; use as many free resources (blogs, YouTube) to learn the skills you need before agreeing to pay too much for experts you can’t afford.
4. Check Your Spending
If it’s been more than four months since you’ve seriously assessed your expenses, don’t wait a moment longer. Even shaving 1-2% from your operating budget can have positive consequences over the next year. For most businesses, it’s not the hard expenses (like office supplies or equipment) that they find the most wiggle room. It’s usually those recurring charges, such as software services, that are easiest to overlook.
Go line by line through your last few months’ credit card and bank statements; then, ask yourself if any of your regular expenses are expendable. You may find more than a few service-based subscriptions that you don’t like, use, or need.
Pro tip: Unnecessary business spending often comes when the person paying the bills isn’t in tune with the staff that’s using the services. It’s easy to assume that the marketing department still needs a prospecting tool, for example, if you’re not in marketing.
Break out each expense your business uses by department, then hand the list over to the head of each team to asses how necessary each item really is. You may find that tools that were relevant at the beginning of 2018 are no longer all that useful, and it simply needed some communication to get it canceled and off your expense sheet.
5. Finish Stuff
Finally, many businesses tie up a lot of resource in projects with long timelines, and it can be hard to get those more involved endeavors across the finish line. Getting anything that’s 80% completed done in the first quarter, however, can help you move ahead in a big way.
Whether it’s a new product you’ve been waiting to launch, an inventory assessment, or simply digitizing all your paper files, the monster projects tend to linger. Get it done! (Think of all the human capital you can get back by tying up all these loose ends.)
Pro tip: This one is especially hard for people who are buzzing about fresh projects in a new year. Go ahead and let teams plan their next big idea, but emphasize that only by finishing up old projects can there be enough resources free for innovative ones. Incentivize your business to see things through with the promise of something new.