How to prepare your small business for Q1

By Lexie Lu

As the current year nears a close, you may be ready to turn your attention to the first quarter of a new year. Hopefully, you’ve had a lot of success in the fourth quarter and are ready to launch forward, growing your brand even more. The first quarter is a unique opportunity for businesses to make a fresh start and prepare for the rest of the quarters that will follow.

In its Economic Outlook Report, the Conference Board predicted a very slight increase of 2.6%  in consumer spending for 2020. Traditionally, January, February and March are fairly flat months for spending, as people are still recovering from holiday purchases, and the weather in some areas of the country prevents folks from getting out. If your business experiences a decline in sales during Q1, there are a number of things you can do to prepare for the slower season and spend your time wisely.

– Ramp up marketing

Just because the first quarter is traditionally a slow time doesn’t mean you can’t ramp up your marketing efforts and keep some momentum going. The beginning of a new year is a good time to test out marketing ideas you’ve wanted to try. Test social media targeting to try to pull in new leads. Host an event to get people into your store. Spend some time on all those efforts you can’t devote your attention to during busier seasons.

– Complete building repairs and improvements

The first quarter is a good time to complete any repairs or improvements needed. You should have a clearer view of how much profit you made the year before and what you can and can’t afford to invest in. You might need to update due to regulatory prohibitions (such as removing asbestos and lead), and those types of improvements should come first. Fines can eat up your hard-earned profits. Or, you might want to add some more trendy features, such as solar energy solutions or LED lighting.

– Revamp your website

A new year is a good time to take a new look at your website. Trends in web design change frequently. The last thing you want is an outdated website that turns shoppers off. Make sure your site is mobile-responsive, add some cool hover effects or focus on the user experience and speed up delivery.

– Set goals

New Year’s Day is a natural time to set some goals for the coming year, and creating a few business objectives is a natural step. Think about how your business grew the year before and what you can realistically expect during the next 12 months. Write out your goals and make sure your employees and other leaders in the company are on board.

Next, write out the steps required to reach each of the goals. If you want to increase revenue by 5%, how many more customers do you need in order to reach that target?

– Hire new workers

Since Q1 is typically slower in sales, now is a great time to hire new employees. You’ll have plenty of time to focus on seeking out the best candidates possible and training them in the culture of your company. It takes a new hire at least a few weeks to get a feel for your business and start understanding their role. Hiring someone in January or February allows the person to grow comfortable with the work before the busy season hits.

– Clean up your books

If your business is small, your accounting may not be as neat and tidy as you’d like. Quarter 1 is a good time to clean up the books and get things together for your tax preparer. Make sure you’ve entered all expenses so that you don’t miss any important deductions. You might even want to migrate to a more automated bookkeeping system.

– Conduct a S.W.O.T. analysis 

Q1 is a good time to run a S.W.O.T. analysis:

— Strengths: Look at your strengths as a company. What do you do well, and can you do it even better?

— Weaknesses: Where can you improve?

— Opportunities: Do you have a chance to open a second location? Perhaps you’ve been invited into a business owners organization. Look at the upcoming opportunities and determine which ones are worthwhile.

— Threats: What might harm your business in the coming year? Is there new technology that threatens to replace your service? Did a new competitor open across the street? How will you handle these threats?

Spend some time reflecting, and decide what endeavors are worthwhile and which ones you need to set aside for another time or perhaps forever. With a bit of focus, you can use any downtime in the first quarter to improve your business and move forward.


Lexie Lu is a freelance designer and writer based in Williamsport, PA. She co-founded the blog, Design Roast, a resource for web designers and marketers, in 2015. She specializes in graphic design, web design, branding, UX design, and mobile app wireframes. She earned her BA from Lycoming College. While not working in her home office, she enjoys walking her goldendoodle, cooking for friends and family, and watching way too much HGTV.

Lexie’s work and writing can be found on well-known sites such as, Website Magazine, Marketo, and Envato. Feel free to connect with her on Design Roast or via Twitter @lexieludesigner.

Leave a Reply

The Self-Employment Survival Guide can help you succeed. Learn all about it here.

Self-Employment Survival Guide book cover