For small business owners, the end of the year is more than just a season: it’s a reason to reflect, reassess, and reinvigorate business plans in preparation for the year ahead. Many businesses tend to slow down in December, making it the perfect time to focus on setting your 2018 goals so you can hit the ground running the first week of January.

Before you decide to make changes to your current plan, spend some time reflecting on the following key areas of your business to get a clear view of the big picture:

Your Successes and Shortcomings

Review your company’s activity over the past year with a critical eye in order to determine where you were successful and where you fell short. Ask some tough questions about your business, and be honest with the answers. What generated the greatest profit? Did any projects fail, and, if so, why did that happen? How do you rate your customer service for the year? The idea is to make sure that, going forward, you avoid investing resources in people, places, or things that are not helping you achieve your business goals.

Your Customers

After assessing what went right and what went wrong, you may want to get external feedback before deciding what strategies or tactics to change. Consider using a data-driven approach, which can be as simple as an end-of-year survey to your customers or vendors. The results are likely to give you greater insight into your company’s performance and help pinpoint key areas for improvement.

Your Bottom Line

Plan to meet with your accountant before the end of the year to discuss the financial side of your business. Key items to cover include reviewing revenue for the current year, tax planning, and determining any purchases that need to be made by the end of the year. You also can use this opportunity to discuss revenue goals for next year and any potential financial obstacles you may face in the year ahead.

Your Financing

Having the stability of a line of credit gives you access to the working capital you need to respond quickly to unexpected emergencies and opportunities. Looking at your options and putting financing in place now means you’ll have the resources to ramp up in January instead of losing time during the first few months of year.

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As you begin mapping out your strategies for 2018, here are some things to consider incorporating into your business planning process:

Address Staffing Needs

If it is becoming increasingly difficult to run your business with your current staff, now is a good time to plan your hiring strategy for the coming year. Consider consultants, freelancers, virtual employees, and part-time or temporary workers as viable alternatives to full-time staff, especially if your budget is tight.

Get Smarter

Maximize your team’s potential by offering supplementary training to refresh their skills or help them develop new areas of expertise to benefit your business. Don’t leave yourself out when it comes to learning. Consider taking a business course online or at a local community college to work on a skill that can help you take your business to another level. If the end of the year is quiet, build in time to read business blogs, books, and articles to keep pace with industry trends and incorporate key concepts into your planning in order to stay competitive.

Invest in Technology

Increasing efficiency and productivity is always a great strategy. Take advantage of end-of-year discounts to purchase new computers or invest in updated software. Use the downtime between now and the New Year to work out any kinks in your new equipment or programs so you can be prepared for the start of a new business cycle.

Get Organized

Spend a few hours throwing away things you don’t need and putting paperwork in its place. Organize or reorganize your virtual workspace as you would your physical office. Set up computer files by year and topic and get your overflowing email inbox under control. Consider committing to one new time saving strategy for the coming year, like making all of the day’s phone calls back-to-back or designating a specific time to review and answer emails instead of responding to them as you receive them.

Plan to Network

Attending conferences, trade shows, and other industry events can be beneficial for you and your business. Not only can you meet potential customers, suppliers, and others in your field, you can take advantage of opportunities to learn from leading experts. Research what key industry associations have to offer in 2018, and put the events on your calendar and in the budget.

Tweak Your Brand

This is a great time to reassess your online marketing strategy. Identify the tools that have helped your business grow, and cut back or eliminate those that have not. It’s always a good idea to Google your business to get a feel for what contacts and prospects experience when they search for you. Don’t forget to review your website navigation and refresh content and graphics to keep it current.

Be a Better Leader

It may be your business, but your team members devote their time, effort, and energy to your success. Encourage them to be more invested in the company’s growth by involving them in planning and goal setting whenever possible. You may want to set the overall direction, but drive engagement by allowing staff to help determine the outcomes. This will pay dividends by generating greater staff involvement and commitment to achieving future goals.

Small business owners who wait until January to plan for the coming year may find they are already behind. Completing your business planning now will set your company up for continued success and ensure that you and your team head into the New Year with a renewed sense of purpose.

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Summit Financial Resources specializes in working capital financing for small to medium-sized businesses that need increased cash flow. We provide working capital financing through invoice factoring, asset-based lending, inventory lending, and equipment financing.