The year-end brings with it a chance to step back and take a broader look at your business. It is so easy to get caught up in day-to-day operations, that sometimes this is the only way to spot problem areas and capitalise on successful ones.
So here are five ways to review progress, plan for the future, and make sure you thrive in 2015:
Put your business under the spotlight
Only by looking back and analysing what worked and what didn’t, can you truly understand how to move the business forward. This involves looking at profit levels, sales figures, marketing results – anything that provides valuable insight into how you have attained your current market position.
Thinking about core products or services, it is worth considering which ones deliver the highest profit margins, how you might improve them, and which are not performing well – maybe you could do things differently to lower operational costs?
Evaluate your marketing
Are you seeing results? Are you actually doing any marketing? It is important to identify which marketing channels work best for your business – maybe that is social media, local advertising, or direct mail – and then focus on the ones that bring results.
Tracking those results is crucial to understanding your target market’s response to various channels, and thanks to the availability of online data, never has it been easier to see where your efforts should be concentrated.
If Pareto’s principle is anything to go by, 80% of sales will have emanated from 20% of your customers. Use this to your advantage by focusing marketing efforts on this lucrative section of the customer base.
Know your figures
Your business plan may be neglected and gathering dust, but by updating it with current and projected figures for 2015 it will help to focus the mind, and provides a specific target to aim for.
Analyse cash flow and profitability for the year using budgeted and actual figures, as variances can reveal potential problems that may have gone unnoticed in the hectic day-to-day reality of business life.
Problems such as poor credit control, a creeping inability to pay suppliers on time, or an out-of-date pricing structure, will all reveal themselves if you look closely enough.
Systems and procedures
It is a requirement of HMRC that all businesses keep clear and logical financial records, so put technology to good use and simplify all systems and procedures.
Whilst on the subject of technology, you might want to consider whether business needs are being met by your current software. If not, have a look at industry-specific management information packages. They will support business growth by providing real-time data that offers agility should your market change.
Foster good relationships
As Theodore Roosevelt once said,
“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”
From customers to suppliers, financial advisers to employees, you can develop a competitive advantage simply from fostering good business relationships. Social media allows us to keep in touch with each other 24/7, and it takes no time at all to send an email or Tweet to a business contact or potential lead.
These three strategic questions will help you to focus and start getting your business in shape in 2015:
What stage are you at now?
Where do you want to be this time next year?
How are you going to get there?
Once everything has been analysed and evaluated, it is time to update that business plan and use it as a roadmap for the New Year.