It doesn’t matter if your financial year starts in March, which offers another opportunity to reflect, assess and plan. The important thing about the beginning of the calendar year is that, for most business owners at least, your head is fresher and your batteries more charged than usual, says Lang.
The same goes for your staff members who have taken a break. Some of the thinking and reflection you will have to do on your own, but drawing key employees into the process will not only give you fresh ideas, but it will help to get the team pulling in the same direction in the year ahead.
So before you plunge into the wild rapids of your operations, take a step back and look at your business from these angles:
- Dust off your business plan. Even if it is old, dig it out from that bottom drawer. It doesn’t matter if it bears little resemblance to your business in its current state. The process of bringing it up to date is an invaluable planning prompt.
- Relook at the market. Change is constant in nearly all markets and businesses have to adapt if they are to survive and thrive. Ask yourself what has changed over the last year, and what is likely to change in the coming year in your industry as a whole and in your little corner of it. Is your unique selling point – your specific combination of quality, price and service – still optimal for your market, or does it have to be fine-tuned?
- Take a look at your business as a whole over the past year, from suppliers, production, sales, administration to staff issues. What went well and what didn’t? How can it be fixed or discarded?
- Zoom into your financials of the past year. Which expense and sales items differed materially from what you budgeted. Are there any trends you can spot in them? Think of the corrective actions you need to take to make your plans and budgets realistic for the year ahead.
- Now look towards the New Year. What are your strategic objectives? Is it for example growth, survival, improving efficiencies, or better profit margins?
- With your strategic objectives in mind, spend some time to focus on your marketing strategy that will help you reach your goals for the coming year.
- Look at your non-financial resources, including your staff, infrastructure and premises.Are they ready to support your objectives? If not, how will you be building them up?
- Look specifically at your equipment. Does it have the capacity to accommodate your plans for the year? Which need to be serviced, improved or replaced?
- Evaluate your plans from a cash-flow point of view. Do you have enough cash reserves? At what point do you run the risk of your cash drying up, and which grants, finance and supplier credit should you be applying for in the year ahead.
- Review your suppliers. Are you in a position to negotiate better terms, prices and service? Look wider at alternative suppliers.
- Insurance is easy to neglect. Spend some time checking your coverage to make sure it is still adequate, and whether you can negotiate better premiums.
- By this time you’d have scouted your market to see if your offering is still relevant, but what about completely new offerings? Even in difficult markets there are always opportunities for new products and services, some of which can complement and strengthen your current business.
- Finally, look at the macro environment around your business and your market. Are there potentially new laws and regulations that can affect you? What about the actual physical environment, like the drought and water restrictions, new technology that can either disrupt or aid your business. What major activities are taking place around the world that may have a direct or indirect impact on your business? Once you put down your head and get stuck into the nitty-gritty your business, it is good to have the broader picture at the back of your head.