Don’t Fail to Plan — Plan for next year while you have the time to do it right

Labor Day weekend is fast approaching.  Yes, that means cookouts, the end of summer and the return to school.  Back to the “everyday” routine.  This last big three day weekend until the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays come can also be a good time to look at your business.  It’s almost the end of the third quarter and you have enough data to start projecting for next year.  Sure you can wait until December to pan for next year, but some things will cross your path in the fourth quarter and you’ll have to make a decision in regards to committing to them.  So, now is the time.

I am sure that many small business owners feel like this is just another administrative task to put on the pile with all the others until there’s time to do them.  However, goal setting for the next calendar year is too important to lump in with the regular tasks of paying bills, running payroll, invoicing clients, etc.  There’s no better time than right now to sit at your desk uninterrupted and take a look at the past eight months and make some projections going forward.

Goals are a roadmap and are always evolving.  They need not be written in stone, but they must be written down.  Your financial budget comes first.  That will answer some other questions along the way.  Don’t just look at the past year, but the past three if you’ve been in business that long.  Place your P&L’s side by side and look at your expenses.  Have any risen unexpectedly?  Did you have a one-time expense this year that you likely won’t have next year?  If you are looking to make cuts in an area, be realistic & decide if it affects another area.  If you choose to cut staff, you will save on your payroll, but if it means that you will have to be in the store more because of that change, you must allocate some of those saved dollars to marketing.  If you’re in the store more, you’re in the community less.  You still have to tell people that you exist.

Making sure goals are achievable is the hardest part for some people.  We all want to double our sales next year, but is that really obtainable?  Always budget for growth, but be honest with yourself.  What type of growth have you had in the past?  Goals are not limited to budgets, though.  You need a few long term goals for next year and a few short term goals for each quarter.  Maybe it’s training that key employee to handle some new responsibilities.  Maybe it’s attempting to block out a half day per week to shut the door and handle your administrative tasks, so that you aren’t working late at night or every Sunday afternoon.

Revisiting your goals and looking at your actual financials versus your projections is vital.  Do this on a monthly basis after you’ve closed out the prior month.  Did you begin any of your long-term projects?  Where are you compared to where you hoped to be and do you need to make any adjustments?  Of course all of this sounds like a good idea, but it also sounds tedious.  You went into business for many reasons, but I’m sure none of them were to work seemingly day and night until you just couldn’t handle it anymore.  Taking your business to the next level requires a strong plan and following up on that plan.

Utilize resources that are right in front of you.  Ask a close colleague about your goals.  You don’t have to share revenue numbers, but talk about expenses that seem to be constantly on the rise.  Someone you trust just may have a solution that they used that could be helpful.

Do you set long and short term goals for your business and review them on a regular basis?  If so, what do you find most helpful about this process?  If not, how often do you look at your business goals and adjust them?

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