Believe it or not, we're only a cocktail or two away from 2020. As a small business owner, I have to resist the urge to jump on the table and don my finest lampshade (at least for a while). Why? Because this week and next, we all have the opportunity (and the obligation) to refine our business goals for 2020. Unless you're in the cocktail or lampshade industry, this time of year usually provides a window where you can breathe for a few minutes and take stock of where you are, where you want to be and how to get there. So let's take a breath and consider (number) goals worthy of serious consideration for the new year.
Goal #1 - Create/enhance employee policies
Bet this was a surprise! Why not lead with sales or marketing? Well, who makes the sales and who creates the marketing? Yep, your staff, and they need to fully understand your business goals, how their roles support those goals and the resources they can count on. But of equal importance, your team needs insight and specifics on company (i.e. your) expectations. Do you require them to do jobs a certain way, or can they wing it as long as customers are happy (and keep spending)? Do they need to be at their desks at 8:00 am sharp, can they work from home, or some combination of the two? Do they have performance incentives, and if so, are they sufficiently transparent to avoid unpleasant surprises and hurt feelings later? I know many small business owners who don't have any written staff policies, and believe me, this is a train wreck waiting to happen (particularly if there are no disciplinary policies). I strongly encourage you to get these done this month, but don't be afraid to buck "tradition." For example, giving up a little control (by allowing some work at home days) can pay enormous dividends in productivity and increased employee morale and retention. This will also ring your register all year round!
Goal #2 - Delegate and automate
The vast majority of us can't be in two places (doing two jobs) at once. And even if you could, why would you? At some point your "double-ganger" will be totally booked up again. To get ahead in business you need associates you can trust and advisors who will point you in the right direction. But just like writing an employee handbook, training someone to take over important functions takes time that maybe you don't have. You'll need to find it. It's the only way to get ahead. Do you really need to preside over payroll twice a month? Is it really necessary for you to review all receipts from the employee lunch or consider all of the holiday card designs? Delegate, and then automate. Schedule those social media posts, scan and input those receipts and business cards with an app, then run your campaigns with a good CRM (or hire someone to do it, wink, wink). Your day is a basically a math problem - total input times hours equals work accomplished. You can either work more hours (up to 24) or increase the total input through delegation and automation.
Goal #3 - Boost the bottom line
Why not take that week of extra time you just created (through goals 1 and 2) and consider creative ways to boost your bottom line and improve your liquidity going into 2020? How do you feel about your expenses? Joining a warehouse club might save you money on supplies, new furniture or even travel - pay one a visit and do some price shopping. It can be a pain to change utilities, but now many areas of the country offer choices and the savings can be substantial. And there are less obvious ways to boost your bottom line. If you will be needing a new credit card for some of your start-up expenses, look into a cash-back card. Some (like Discover) will double your cash back for the first year and also offer bonuses (like 5% cash back) for different categories throughout the year. Even with modest monthly spending this will amount to $600 or more annually which you could use to pay down business debts before you apply for a new (or your first) corporate credit card. Your grandparents were right - the time to apply for a loan or new credit is when you don't need it. Do some research, fill out some forms and try to get it done now. I guarantee any LOCs you can secure now will be on better terms than those you seek under financial duress (and the reduced cost is yours to keep).
#4 - Consider new systems
There are a number of reasons why launching (for example) a significant system upgrade or migrating to a new CRM at year-end or early in the following year is beneficial. First, it will seem more natural for employees to train and switch to a new system in early January than, say, August 20. You will also have less data that may need modifying to successfully migrate, and also a reduced likelihood of reporting glitches when you need them least. Keep in mind that financial statements and paying sales and payroll taxes will not wait just because your IT folks are at a "conference" in Cabo. Year-end is also a great time to reassess what you are spending your time on - are you holed up in your office fixing other people's data entry because you're the only one who can do it? Then it might be time to have an expert run the migration and handle the monthly administration for you. The monthly cost will be well worth it when considering the peace of mind that (for example again) trouble-free bookkeeping or cloud-based backups can bring. And there are cost savings to be realized when your CPA has pristine books to review, and new revenue when you can dial up all your pending contracts from Starbucks during a hurricane and land those new clients. Part of the challenge of launching anything is the unknown - how do you know which new system will be best and if the migration is an easy DIY? You can either research it to death and still face all the work of implementation, or consider hiring an expert. Without the right expert, post-migration could feel like squirrels at a rave - not the path to a stress-free 2020!
Take advantage of year-end
You will have some time to think and breathe this month - take advantage if you can by tackling some of the goals we reviewed. It can be difficult to carve out the hours (and sometimes days) needed to consider and compare new systems or write new policies, so this could be your chance. Seize the moment, get it done (alone or with some help) and launch strong into 2020!