Small business planning guide

The beginning of a new calendar year is the perfect time to take stock of all you’ve accomplished, and then think about how to make things even better. Once you refresh your business plan and set your major goals for the year, you should then go back and make smaller goals that support the bigger ones. We’ve put together a list of things entrepreneurs should include in their business planning so that their companies thrive in the coming months.

Start your financial planning and cost structure review. 

Assess your financial reality, starting with your balance sheet. From there, you’ll be able to determine whether you need to change cost structures or make other changes to support your financial stability and growth. Make sure you stick to your goals by scheduling time dedicated to your finances and getting outside help if necessary.

Go over your insurance policies and employee benefits.

This is a great time to review your health, liability and umbrella policies. Some questions to ask yourself as you’re considering whether your coverage meets your business’ needs: are any policies set to expire this year? Have you taken on new business expenses or liabilities in the past year that aren’t covered by your current plan? 

Review your vendors and suppliers.

Think back on the last year of your vendor and supplier relationships. Have their prices or billing procedures changed drastically? Are they able to be nimble and change according to your needs? If you are going to try out new contracts, you can add those costs to your financial planning. 

Check your equipment.

Whether you need new beer taps or simply a faster laptop, you have to consider equipment changes carefully (and add them to your budget). You’ll want to know whether you need to sink money into something like that sooner or later, so check your equipment at the beginning of the year. 

Decide if you’ll need to make new hires.

If, in the last year, your business has reached the size where you need more help to serve your customers, it may be time to make some hires. Whether you’re hiring your first employee or need to add to an already robust team, you’ll need to plan for that ahead of time. Thinking about your staffing needs is also a good time to reassess, or create, your employee handbook. 

Sharpen your digital tools.

Think about what might’ve made your day-to-day operations easier as part of your past-year recap. To borrow from a tech giant, there is (probably) an app for that, from tools to alert customers about their order status, send out offer codes or gather electronic signatures for key documents.

As you’re reevaluating your tech solutions, this is also a great time to make sure your website is mobile-friendly and that your email marketing service provider is the best fit for your business. 

Rethink your customer service.

Your customers are your reason for being. Gather customer insights and then look into ways that you can improve their experience. 

Invest in your community.

Whether you decide to partner with social good organizations or register as a B-Corp, you should think about how your company can make an impact beyond providing an amazing service or product. More customers than ever are choosing to spend with businesses that reflect their values, so putting yours front and center is good for your community and your bottom line. Start by listening to your clients’ concerns to begin turning your customers into a community.

Think about your contingency plans. 

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that the world can change at a moment’s notice. Get ahead of hard times (as much as you can) by creating a safety net and a contingency plan. 

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