Small Business: Reviewing what worked, planning ahead
The end of the year is often a time of thought and reflection.
As 2013 winds down, it's a good idea to take a step back and evaluate what worked and what didn't, to re-strategize and identify areas of improvement and growth opportunities.
"Periodic planning is very important," says Eric Siegel, a lecturer in management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and founder of Siegel Management, a consulting and investment banking advisory firm in Radnor, Pa. "You need to define your objectives and plan to achieve them."
At the very least, you should prepare a financial forecast for 2014. This would typically be an income statement looking at forecast revenues, expenses and profit on a monthly or quarterly basis, explains Siegel.
Go beyond the numbers and understand the strategies and tactics that will influence performance, he advises. For example, if part of your 2014 growth strategy is hiring three more salespeople with a $50,000 base salary plus commission, that will have a definite impact on your forecast and must be accounted for.
Look at each aspect of your business, including products and services, pricing policy and how you deliver or create what you sell, he suggests. There could be opportunities for growth or improved efficiencies.
Create a set of objectives with a sales goal and time line to go with it, says Siegel. Review it at least quarterly.
Focus on people. Don't just look at the financial and organizational side, but also focus on your human capital, suggests Marc Miller, a Plainview-based executive coach and business consultant. "What business owners often forget about is their people," he notes.
Consider their level of job satisfaction, engagement and how much they're included in decision-making, he notes. Include staff in some of your goal setting and planning, suggests Miller, who's on the board of the Long Island Coaching Alliance.
Perhaps develop new areas of interaction and communication with employees, he notes.
The same goes for interaction with your customers, says Miller. "Don't take your employees and customers for granted."
Succession planning. Likewise, don't ignore succession planning, says Mitchell Barber, a financial services professional at the Syosset-based Center for Wealth Preservation, an agency of MassMutual Financial Group.
Make sure your succession plan is updated regularly, he notes. For example, be sure your buy/sell agreement, which dictates what happens if an owner dies or exits the business, is up to date and that business valuations are current.
Ask hard questions, says Barber, such as: What if a business partner becomes disabled and can't equally contribute to the business? And don't forget to update the beneficiaries on your financial and insurance accounts.
"These are organic documents that need to be checked periodically," he says.
Schedule, time. Incorporate time for review into your schedule.
That's what Natalie Karp, co-owner of Karp Loshak Long- Term Care Insurance Solutions, in Roslyn, does with her partner, Rona Loshak. They block out half a day in early January to look at the prior year -- what worked and what didn't, and where their time was best spent.
As part of their review, they look at the professional associations they're part of and consider their value not just in terms of money, but time. They also review their technology infrastructure for safety, backup and security.
And they look for growth opportunities, which next year include expanding some of the continuing education credits they offer to professionals.
"We look at where our time is most valuable and appreciated," says Karp.
Some top priorities for 2014.
Increase brand presence (41%)
Raise funds to grow (26%)
Develop new products (13%)
Hire new employees (6%)
Source: Rocket Lawyer Semi-Annual Small Business Survey