What Every Small-Business Owner Should Do Before the Year Ends

by Sheryl Nance-Nash on December 14, 2012
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Although your mood of late may be moving from motivated to merry, there is much that you — and every small-business owner — should do before the year ends to set yourself on a good path for 2013.

Here are a few action items that should be at the top of your to-do list:

Tackle Your Taxes

Taxes are tricky this year due to the so-called “fiscal cliff.” Typically, it makes sense to maximize year-end expenditures and defer year-end revenues to minimize/defer your immediate tax burden. However, because taxes may go up in 2013, this year the reverse strategy may be best: Accelerate earnings, delay expenses. Consult your accountant about all tax moves.

If you want to take the hit but make things easier on your employees in 2013, consider paying bonuses now instead of next year to avoid gambling with changing tax rates for your workers. “It’s no extra work and will make employees happy this holiday season,” says Taylor Aldredge, ambassador of buzz for Grasshopper, a virtual phone system for entrepreneurs.

Target New Partners

Build your Dream 100 list, or the top businesses you would like to partner with or sign as clients. Develop a monthly plan to reach out to them in 2013 — whether it’s through a postcard, a phone call, or a face-to-face meeting — until they “buy or die,” says Robert Smith, founder of the public relations firm Champion Media Worldwide.

Take Stock of Your Situation

What worked this year? What didn’t and why? Analyze revenue. Where did the money come from? From there, decide what to offer/expand in 2013. “Let go of programs, products, and services that fall into that 10 percent or less of revenue,” says Tina Forsyth, author of The Entrepreneur’s Trap.

Assess your role for 2013. “As the leader, what do you need to do more of and less of? Plan for the systems and teams to support the tasks that can be moved off your plate,” she says.

Analyze costs. Where can you improve your business to make it more efficient and reduce expenses? “This year it’s particularly important to check costs. Requirements for benefits and health care will change. For example, switching to a professional employer organization,” which provides human resource services to small businesses like paying wages and offering other benefits, “could save a lot of money in the long run by offering more benefits at a cheaper rate,” Grasshopper’s Aldredge says.

Mind Your Marketing

Review your 2012 marketing efforts. “You should be able to see a report that tells you month by month what your individual marketing tactics were, your investment in each, the number of leads generated, the number of sales transactions generated, the total sales dollar amount, and even the retention value of each sale,” says business growth expert Yoon Cannon of Paramount Business Coach.

Look forward. What new products and services will you create? By when? How will you raise the bar and further improve your client relationships? These are questions Chad Barr, an internet business strategist, says you should ask yourself.

With the improving economy, look to land bigger fish with larger budgets, says Steve Strauss, a contributor to Bank of America’s online small-business community.

“Is it time to appoint a chief customer officer — a person, perhaps already on staff, who is empowered to identify what the customer needs and wants — and put the process in motion to deliver this?” asks Mark Stevens, CEO of the marketing and management firm MSCO.

Thank Your Supporters

Do things with, and for, your team members, such as hosting a holiday party or other event. Reach out to clients, partners, and vendors — the people outside your company that you rely on — to show your appreciation. If your budget allows, give gifts to key people.

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