A checklist provides a way to get your priorities in order, and a good checklist makes sure you don’t let things go or miss something significant. If you’re in business, an end-of-year checklist is critical to a good finish for the year, and essential for a more profitable new year.
If your new year has already started, you still need a checklist to verify that you haven’t let something fall through the cracks; if your new year starts after January 1, you have more time than the rest of us, but don’t procrastinate.
6 Tasks for Your End-of-Year Checklist
Some businesses coast through the end of the year. People are gone. Everyone is celebrating. It’s hard to get motivated. Other businesses, especially retailers, rush through the end of the year; it’s profit-making time. The focus is on sell, sell, sell. But, there’s more to a profitable business than that.
Both perspectives are understandable, but they don’t do much to prepare a business for the next year–and beyond.
Be sure the following tasks are on your checklist. Each one focuses on the improvement of one of the six essential parts of every business:
- Books and recordkeeping–Close out the year by getting your books ready for an audit and fixing any problems from this year. You may not get audited, but doing so will make you pay closer attention to the processes you use and find better ways to track time and costs as well as revenue.
- Hiring and training–Review and improve your administrative processes for hiring, onboarding, training, and retaining employees. Start the year off right by hiring any new employees you need. At the end of the year, there are plenty of people looking for a better future, and you might find some real gems.
- Sales–Review and learn from your sales plans from this year and last year to set more accurate goals for next year. Also look at your sales processes. Determine if they match up and then make adjustments. Explore how to reduce your sales cycle time from contact to close, and increase the value of each sale by developing better ways to pre-qualify prospects, upsell to existing best customers, and resell to former platinum customers that no longer buy from you.
- Marketing plan–Adjust your marketing plan to support your sales plan. Make sure you’ve included plenty of checks and balances. It’s easy to fall in love with marketing but not see those efforts turn into profitable sales.
- Business processes–Compare what you do and how you do it to your platinum competitor, the one that you want customers to compare your business to. Yes, you do want customers to compare; if they don’t, they usually don’t buy. Identify more efficient processes that will maximize the differences and make them more apparent to customers, influencers, and other stakeholders, and will leverage what you are already doing.
- Goals–Put this one last on your list, but first in priority. Adjust your costs and revenue projections to more accurately match up with the goals and plans of the other five parts of the business. Reexamine your long-term goals, and exit strategy for the business. You never know. This might be the year someone offers you a deal to buy your business–a deal that you can’t refuse!
How to Look at Your End-of-Year Checklist of Tasks
It can seem like too much work. Or, as was the case of these small and large companies, they saw the end of the year as an opportunity, and took steps to turn opportunity into reality:
- Art + Artisans, a well-established art consulting firm, went through the hiring process to get ready for a big year already on the books.
- Time Warner Cable closed out its year before December 31 and introduced a new sales and marketing strategy based on territories.
- Austin Business Journal held a major economic summit that was standing room only instead of having a holiday party.
Look at your successful competitors; you will see that they used the end of the year wisely. Do them one better. Make your end of the year more efficient in terms of next year and you will be more profitable as well. If it takes a little extra time, it’s okay. Just do it!
If you’re looking for a good book on checklists, I always recommend The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande to my clients.