Gwinnett Innovation Park is the home to many successful companies offering a diverse array of products and services, but the one thing they all have in common is a business plan. It’s that time of year, to review the results of this years plan and finalize budgets and goals for 2011.
The following article recently appeared in the Gwinnett Business Journal, written by Bob Koncerak, a principal at BankForward Consulting, LLC, it outlines the importance of looking back as you are planning forward.
Fourth and Goal -Assessing Your Year
As 2010 draws to a close, it’s time to review your business game plan, assess how you scored, crunch some numbers and plan for the future.
Small business owners awake every morning to the cold, hard reality that you can’t control the circumstances of a tough business market. You can, however, control response to circumstances on the field of play. Take an offensive position during the fourth quarter and finish well – regardless of opposition.
Review your 2010 business plan and make a candid assessment of what you can get accomplished by year-end. Decide what you want to be grateful for on New Year’s Eve and get on it now. Rank your goals by priority and by likelihood of success. Bear in mind that November and December are execution months only. Any planning at this juncture had better be for 2011. Every business, no matter how small, needs a written business plan complete with priorities, goals and timelines. Set aside time during the fourth quarter to create your 2011 plan (more on planning coming in next month’s GBJ).
Profit is an opinion, but cash is a fact. Forecast your financial situation through year end and get advice regarding what to purchase, forego or delay into 2011. Budgeting cash on hand and keeping tabs on sources of available credit is crucial for small businesses. Contact clients before delivering products or services late in the year and arrange firm payment arrangements. Larger companies like to defer bill payments into January to conserve cash over year-end. Being assertive prior to shipment can prevent the need to be a bill collector between Christmas and New Years. Also, forecast fourth quarter tax obligations with your accounts. Many tax changes are in store starting next year. Lastly, check with HR before hiring or terminating employees at this time of year. Tax credits are available in some circumstances for 2010 hires. Alternately, state unemployment taxes (SUTA) are shocking many small businesses that didn’t plan in advance before downsizing.
Check in with key business partners and get an assessment of how they’re doing and the status of your business relationship.Vendor assessments are critical for small businesses, especially during volatile times. Make sure that your key suppliers, credit providers and customers can meet your expectations. Vendors and partners will rarely volunteer negative information unless approached directly. Ask. Forewarned really is forearmed.
Ask for referrals during those conversations and request introductions from key contacts. It’s a truism that your best customers are the best opportunity for referrals to new customers. The holidays present opportunities for opening doors to new relationships as well as for celebrating old ones. Invite potential clients to a planned event to celebrate common interests and to get introduced.
Don’t get overwhelmed by health insurance and benefit plans. There won’t be any pain relief in 2011 health care premiums, but the biggest decision will be to determine what type and level of benefits you will provide to your employees. As part of designing your 2011 plan, be candid and direct with your staff regarding what your business can afford. In turn, survey employees as to what level of benefits they’re willing to absorb beyond the company contribution. To the best of your ability, design benefit plans with your staff rather than for them.
Reward and invest in your best people. The fourth quarter is historically time for company planning meetings and employee reviews. Don’t miss this opportunity to have employees share their best ideas and constructive concerns. Find out what they’d like to accomplish in the year ahead and share company goals and objectives. Experience shows that you’ll always be surprised by what you learn. Find ways to recognize and reward your employees and partners. Every member of your staff is depending on you to lead a successful enterprise and develop good talent. Be generous with your praise for top talent and straightforward in assessing underperformers. Nothing discourages high achievers more than the tolerance of mediocrity.
Every game is won and lost in the fourth quarter. Everyone wants to win; but not everyone is willing to prepare to win.