The start of a new year is an ideal time for businesses to review and renew, and to resolve to make this year better than the last. Here's a five-step checklist to get your business started — or restarted in 2020.
Step 1: Review Your Business Plan
You remember your business plan, don't you? Creating it was one of the many items on your checklist leading up to your launch. And while it probably contained a fair amount of boilerplate language, it likely served as a pretty good roadmap for your prospective business from day one all the way through your exit strategy.
You might be surprised how much you could gain by reviewing your plan today. Whether you're ending year one or year four of your five-year plan, it can be helpful to remind yourself of what your original goals were, along with your projected trajectory for achieving them. Has your business substantially changed since the day you opened your doors? If so, why? Is it because the market has changed? Or is it your company that's changed, based on what you've learned along the way?
Regardless, your year-end financials provide a good framework for making those assessments. Using hard numbers as a basis, you can evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and assign action items where appropriate.
Step 2: Understand Your Numbers
Before you make important decisions based on numbers, of course, it makes sense to be sure you know what those numbers mean. Business finances can be complicated; there's no shame in asking for assistance to interpret your year-end numbers.
Step 3: Take a Realistic Look at Your Numbers for 2020
While a solid grasp of your 2019 numbers can help you understand how you got to where you are today, it won't necessarily tell you where you're going tomorrow. Budgeting and forecasting require careful financial analysis — again, with the insight of a seasoned professional. To cite just one example, you need to determine which market forces, including those beyond your control, could potentially impact the cost of goods sold.
Step 4: While You're at It, Look at 2021, 2022, 2023 ...
As you update your business plan to include projections about where you expect to be in five years, or even three years, it's important to factor in changes you expect to make in 2020 (or filter them out, as the case may be).
Are you planning substantial growth this year? How will that affect your long-term projections? Adding employees will create a fixed cost that will carry forward, for example, while the cost of other fixed assets (e.g. vehicles or other equipment) can fluctuate. Plan accordingly.
Step 5: Set Goals for This Year
As valuable as it is to have a budget and a forecast that are based on verifiable numbers, having tangible goals is even more valuable. Business goals can take many forms, ranging from improving client delight to streamlining the efficiency of your business infrastructure through outsourcing.
Once you've identified your key goals, list them in order of priority. For instance, if your social media strategy is inefficient, or even nonexistent, perhaps you should consider it a top-tier priority for 2020. Listing your priorities, instead of simply keeping them in your head, helps with decision-making (e.g. can you set aside enough money to successfully execute your social media strategy without compromising other high-priority initiatives?).
Ring in the New!
The holidays are a good time for both personal and professional reflection. Take the time to look back on what went right (and wrong) in 2019 and use those insights to make your business better in 2020 and beyond.