With holiday hustle and bustle in high gear, many business owners are winding down—carving out time for the annual office party and preparing for a smooth coast into 2014. Though distractions tend to be abnormally high, the month of December is a valuable time to plan for success in the new year.
Make the last few weeks of December count by implementing these 12 holiday housecleaning tips—our version of the “12 Days of Christmas for Your Business.”
- On the first day of Christmas, create a business roadmap: Throughout the year, it’s easy to lose focus of true business goals and priorities because we’re tackling urgent day-to-day activities. But what about our long-term business goals? With a new year just around the corner, now is the time to make sure you haven’t dropped the ball – no pun intended. Reassess and get reacquainted with your ambitions. Ask yourself: Where is the business now? How far has it come? Where do I want it to go. Once you pinpoint these answers, create a detailed 2014 goal-fulfillment plan with checkpoints throughout each week, month and quarter of the new year. Remember, establishing quarterly goals is essential to achieving annual goals, which move you closer toward long-term goals.
- On the second day of Christmas, review your finances: An annual financial review can help you spot small problems before they become big ones. Start with a personal review of your financial statements. If you are looking to sell, attract investors or receive financing in 2014, it’s important that your statements communicate not only how much money you made, but also how you made it. Go beyond the high-level overview to itemize your gross profit. This will allow buyers, investors or loan officers to assess what’s really driving profit for your company and create a better internal understanding of your financial situation.
- On the third day of Christmas, forecast your financial growth: Understanding how much money you need for the next stage of your endeavor is a crucial step in planning for the year ahead. To forecast future growth, you can make assumptions based on previous performance data. On average, reviewing and analyzing 26 months of data for an established company is a good indication of how your business performs.
- On the fourth day of Christmas, assess your brand: A successful 2014 starts with understanding your company’s personality. Reflecting on what makes your business unique, trustworthy and valuable will help define and more accurately direct your brand to a target audience. Once you’ve reflected on your brand, design a plan to stay the course or redirect your company’s brand.
- On the fifth day of Christmas, evaluate your company culture: According to Forbes, disgruntled and disengaged employees cost the American economy up to $350 billion a year in lost productivity. On the other had, happy employees are twice as productive, more energized, apt to stay in their job longer and take fewer sick days. Company culture is the magic that makes or breaks a company.
- On the sixth day of Christmas, tune into your personal goals: What are your personal goals? Do you hope to retire in five years? Are you a serial entrepreneur who wants to jumpstart several more companies? Do you want more family time? Reconnecting with your personal ambitions and desires should be part of your company’s plan for 2014.
- On the seventh day of Christmas, evaluate your management team: The employees who help run your organization strongly determine the success of the business. Are you confident that your management team is secure in 2014? Are a handful of your company’s leaders reaching retirement age? Do you have junior managers who are prepped and ready to fill your senior managements’ shoes? The stability of your management team determines your day-to-day flexibility as CEO and is a major factor if and when you decide to sell your business. Buyers and investors value your company largely on the stability of your management team. After all, they’re the individuals who will remain if you exit the company.
- On the eighth day of Christmas, focus on working smarter, not harder: To take your business to the next level, you must rise above the day-to-day grind and evaluate the systems and processes currently in place to ensure peak performance. So often, we mask challenges with quick fixes instead of addressing the root of the problem. In doing this, we continue to run into the same issues, which consume valuable time that could be used to grow our organizations. Think about constant challenges that arise in your business, and design a system that will act as a permanent solution.
- On the ninth day of Christmas, evaluate your facility: Your facility’s design, structural appeal and location could play a large part in the customers and employees you attract. Additionally, if you’re planning for growth, you should ensure your existing location is able to support that evolution. Finding space, securing financing and negotiating a new lease or purchase can take anywhere from a few months to more than a year. Keep this timeline in mind as you plan for the coming year.
- On the tenth day of Christmas, research your financing options: To grow, you may require financing. Traditional bank loans can be difficult to come by and may end up costing more than necessary. Talk with your investment banker to learn about securing financing options unique to your company, the possibility of private equity investments and debt financing solutions.
- On the eleventh day of Christmas, survey your clients or customers: Your business’s mission revolves around serving your clients. There’s no better way to determine how you’re doing than by asking. Now is a great time of year to send a survey because as we all know, most people and businesses slow down around the holidays. This month, your clients will have time to reflect and give you genuine and useful feedback. There’s one condition, though: after your clients take the time to offer their opinions, start putting them to use.
- On the twelfth day of Christmas, celebrate: You and your team have worked hard this year. Host a party or small get together for your team so you can enjoy the year’s successes together.
After you’ve accomplished the tips on this list, and checked them twice, you’ve successfully wrapped up 2013. Here’s to a happy and fruitful 2014 for you and your business.
About the author: Frank Williamson currently serves as managing partner of FourBridges Capital — A Tennessee-based middle market investment banking firm. He has had a 20-year career managing mergers, acquisitions and financing as an investment banker and corporate executive. He holds a master’s in business administration from Harvard Business School and a bachelor’s degree from Williams College.