Small business owners: 5 ways to finish 2011 strong!

On Thursday, we’ll be down to just one month left in 2011. Instead of asking futile questions like “Where did the time go?” let’s instead focus on finishing off the year as productively as we can. Here are five things you can do in December to build a better, stronger business and get in position for a great 2012:

• Check out your tax situation before it’s too late. I’m not a tax advisor, not do I play one on TV. But I do know that you still have time to take some actions that will lower your tax bill come April 15. Google “year-end tax strategies” and you’ll come up with a boatload of helpful – and free – advice. Do pay attention to where the advice is coming from; you’ll find plenty of legitimate media outlets to peruse without going too far off the beaten path.

The chief year-end strategy I’ve always followed is to speed up purchases (i.e., deductions) and delay income to the following year. Is there any piece of technology that you’re considering getting soon? Why not buy it in December rather than waiting until January or February? Check your office supplies; you may still have a few months’ supply of this or that, but why not replenish things now and get that deduction in 2011 instead of a whole year down the road?

• Take stock of where you’ve been. With the economy still floundering, 2011 may be a year you’d prefer to forget. But it’s still advisable to take time to think about what has worked this year and what hasn’t.

If you have employees, you might want to make this the subject of a staff meeting and get input from others. To make sure this doesn’t turn into a major downer, ask people to name one positive thing along with one negative thing. And instead of focusing solely on the things that didn’t work, be sure to also talk about how you can make the positive things even better.

• Get the big picture on how to improve in 2012. You may come out of the taking stock meeting with a laundry list of things to do that seems overwhelming. To avoid this feeling get a big picture view of what’s going on by categorizing the items on the to-do list into the business functions the actions fall under. This will help you develop a more focused approach on how to proceed. For example, if you find you have 20 items under the category of Marketing, this probably indicates that this area is a weakness that needs to be totally retooled instead of just tweaked.

• Take time to say thank you. Have any of your employees worked especially hard to make a difference for your business in 2011? Did a business colleague provide you with some critical advice that really helped you navigate a tough situation? These people deserve a year-end thank you. And then, of course, there are your clients or customers. They deserve a thank you too.

If you can give a small gift, do so. But if your budget only allows for a hand-written note, that will be appreciated, too, especially in these days when hand-written thank-yous are becoming rarer and rarer. People will take notice and have positive feelings about you and your organization going into 2012.

• Get some R&R…if possible. Okay, for those of you with seasonal businesses that are at their peak just now, stop laughing and just ignore this point. But for the rest of you, see if you can’t carve out a few days to recharge you batteries. I try to take off the last week of the year (key word being “try”). It doesn’t always happen, of course, and it isn’t looking hopeful for this year due to a heavy workload. But I urge you at least make an effort to slow down a bit if your situation allows. The new year will be here before we know it and we’ll all need all the energy we can get for what is sure to be another challenging year for small business owners.

3 comments

  1. This is very good stuff, and it is good for those person who would like to open for his/er small business. Thanks for such a post.

  2. homeinsteadspringfield says:

    We are committed to a lot of what you suggest. Great advice. I am working on my 2012 business plan, and I am finalizing how I am going to thank those who help me open my doors each day. I couldn't do it without them. "No one plans to fail. They fail to plan."

  3. JeanneYocum says:

    "No one plans to fail. They fail to plan." Those eight words hold a lot of wisdom! Thanks for your comment. Glad you liked my post!

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