Ten top tips for Canadian SMBs in the New Year
Nancy Harris, vice president and general manager at Sage 50 Accounting, gives Canadian businesses ten handy hints to clean up your operations before the new year.
1. Review and revise your business plans
As you wrap up the year, it’s essential you take some time to evaluate which strategies worked well during 2012 and which didn’t, as well as remove or modify the latter from your business plans. However, when reworking your tactics, don’t focus solely on the state of your business, but rather consider the bigger picture and what’s to come. What is the current and projected state of the economy? Do you have any particular concerns about it? How will the economic environment affect the outcome of your planning?
2. Be prepared
Although the Sage Business Index Survey findings from September 2012 revealed that Canadian businesses were feeling positive about the domestic economy, recently reported news indicates an economic deceleration. Whether it is the economy or an industry trend, situations can shift quickly, so it’s imperative to always strive to be ready for both foreseeable and unforeseeable change. While preparing for the new year, read expert predictions for 2013 and include staying abreast of business and economic news and the creation of an emergency preparedness plan on your resolutions list. Only through adequate preparation can you react and adapt as efficiently as possible to the ever-changing economic environment.
3. Track spending and chart your budget
According to the recent Sage Small Business Financial Literacy survey findings, nearly one-fifth (17%) of small businesses struggle to identify the costs that affects their business the most. In order to increase financial control and account for fluctuations in the economy in the new year (like the U.S. fiscal cliff, which can also potentially affect Canadian businesses), finding a way to track spending and charting a budget that works for you is an absolute must. Accounting software is your best ally for this task, since it speeds and simplifies the process greatly, but as long as this task is on your priority list, any tool you are comfortable with should do.
4. Organize your digital and physical workspace
Start 2013 off with a clean slate by keeping only the information and materials you absolutely need. It’s always a good idea to do maintenance and cleanup of on-site and cloud systems at year end. Purge old data and documents, and run diagnostics to ensure your systems are in working order. Also, call your solution provider if you any outstanding issues. Performing such tasks will increase your business’ efficiency significantly in the new year. Additionally, a clean, top-performing work facility will help decrease the chances of setbacks and missing items, as well as provide a positive impression to transient customers. Clean thoroughly, organize and dispose of outdated and damaged products/items.
5. Perform computer and software upgrades
After you have finalized all your transactions and processes, things will likely slow down for a few days. Use that time to perform needed computer and software upgrades. These activities can take a bit of time and you will be happy you took care of them once things ramp up again in January.
6. Update client and vendor information
Efficient client and vendor relations in the new year will largely depend on having up-to-date information about them and your mutual interactions. Go through your database, add any missing information and update or remove superfluous data.
7. Prep for 2013 tax changes
A number of tax changes are expected for Canadian businesses in 2013. Check your province’s website or with your Chamber of Commerce for any new regulations and prepare your financial documents accordingly.
8. Evaluate – renew or cancel
While you probably didn’t subscribe to all your services at the start of a new year, you likely have one or two that may need to be renewed near the beginning of the year. Before doing so, it would be worthwhile evaluating whether the subscription is something you need. Did you get a good return on investment from it? Is there a vendor that can provide the same service at a better cost?
9. Check your customer appreciation and retention strategies
Your business is nothing without its customers. Whether you provide products or services, you won’t survive unless individuals or other businesses maintain interest in your offerings and want to pay for them. Achieving customer satisfaction that keeps clients coming back entails much more than selling a good product or service, so be sure to spend some time analysing your strategy. Do you pay enough attention to your customers’ feedback? Is your team providing outstanding customer service and experience? Do you have a reasonable rewards program for loyal customers? Are you sufficiently connected to your clients through your marketing efforts?
10. Don’t hesitate to look or ask for help
The Sage Small Business Financial Literacy survey also revealed that Canadian small businesses still struggle with certain areas of their business. Although surveyed small businesses are becoming slightly more comfortable with the business activities they reported being a weakness last year, they still recognized the need to know more about financial planning (67%), tax payments (65%), and cash flow (58%). Such issues are completely normal, but they should be addressed to prevent a negative impact on business. If you have struggled with certain aspects of your operations this year, take the last few days of 2012 to do research, consult with a professional or even sign up for a course.