How is your business doing? Have you conducted a business
review lately? As the year draws to a close, there is no better time to start
planning again – and this invariably means taking stock of the business year,
reviewing your market position, and deciding where to take your business in
Conducting a holistic year-end review has meaningful
benefits for every small business owner – not least of which is planning for
and positioning your business for economic recovery in the year ahead.
Below are some tried and tested tactics you can employ to
review your business performance, together with some tips for seeing beyond the
malaise of 2009 and finding optimism in your accomplishments.
Give Yourself a Pat
on the Back – Focus on Your Accomplishments
Where better place
to start than focusing in on what your business has done well – a year is a
long time in business and while we celebrate the highs, it is often the lows
that stay with us. Change this attitude by reading Make
Your Year End Review A Morale Booster from About.com’s Tana Woodward.
Not only do Woodward’s tips help remind you of your successes they can help you
Next you will want to
assess key areas of your business including core activities, sales and
marketing, employees, and business finances, here are some things to consider:
your Core Activities (i.e. What you Do and Who Your Market Is)
Core activities essentially encompass your business
operations – areas to assess include your core products and services as well as
your customer base. Ask yourself questions such as:
products or services are the most profitable? How can you optimize
operations around the success of these?
products that are failing? Are there any changes you can make to enhance
their sales or profitability (production, distribution, sales, marketing,
products or services still aligned with your target market? Has your core
customer base changed in the past year, what market forces impact your customer
base? If the answer is yes, you may need to go back to the drawing board
and assess what your customer needs are. Read this Market
Research Guide to help you make more informed decisions about your market.
you do to optimize your cost base? Many businesses have closed their brick
and mortar establishments to operate online only (get tips on starting an online
business). Others have become home-based to save costs.
Where can you realize efficiencies?
What do your customers think of you? In this *article on OPENForum, Karen Rogers, Vice
President of FedEx Marketing and Jeff Barry, Vice President of the Enterprise
Council on Small Business, stress the importance of having a “customer-centric”
approach to business. More than just customer service: “…successful businesses
watch the customer, become the customer, and involve the customer. Frame your
market research in terms of living the customer’s life…” In The
End is Near (of 2009!) – Are you Ready?, Denise O’Berry offers some great tips for doing exactly this.
a Sales and Marketing Review
In addition to measuring your sales performance and
marketing ROI against your objectives and business plan, a full sales and
marketing review should also include an analysis of market forces and the
benchmarking of your business against the competition – an efficient way to do
this is to conduct a SWOT analysis. Read SWOT
Analysis: A Great Strategic Tool (courtesy of Chemeketa. OR, Small
Business Development Center).
Annual performance reviews are traditionally always
something that managers and employees alike tend to dislike, if not dread. But
a well prepared and honest performance review is an invaluable way to base line
employee performance (strengths and weaknesses), recognize achievement, and
ensure that individual goals are aligned with overall business goals. Get more
tips on employee performance reviews from SCORE here. Once you have held reviews, you may need to revisit
job descriptions and look for training and cross-training opportunities to
prepare and align your employees with your changing business landscape.
your Business Finances
Every business is different so it’s worth talking to your
accountant about your individual circumstances, but as a guide you will need to
Budget – Do
you have one and are you sticking to it? Read 5 Tips on Budgeting from
– Is it sufficient? Can you forecast cash flow trends so that you can anticipate
problems and prepare for them in advance? Do you need and have a contingency
plan? Learn more about Managing
Your Cash Flow from SCORE.
Profit – What
is the state of your gross profit margin?
and Pricing – Review your cost base (constantly). Do you need to adjust
pricing – how will this impact your customer relationships?
– Are you staying on top of your business loan or overdraft obligations?
Should you options for refinancing?
- Taxes – Get a
step ahead of tax season pressures now to help maximize your deductions and
sail through tax season. Read Small Business Tax Preparation Tips – Stay a Step Ahead of “Tax Season” Today for tips.