4 ways to refocus your business before year’s end
December 7th, 2017
I’ve always admired marathon runners who seem to be able to pull energy out of thin air to make that final push across the finish line. Having run a marathon or two myself, I know part of it is fitness and part of it is mental toughness—but a lot of it has to do with race strategy and planning to finish strong.
As a business owner partway through the last quarter of the year, with summer and most of fall in the rearview mirror, you may be starting to feel the pressure of your busiest season. Even businesses that don’t depend on a busy holiday season want to end on a high note and get a head start on next year’s first quarter.
With that in mind, here are four things you can ask yourself if you want to finish out the year strong:
1. How have you done so far?
If you’re like many business owners, you probably set some goals at the beginning of the year. It’s admittedly hard to see the future, but you probably thought about potential opportunities to grow your business, projected expenses associated with your objectives, and you’ve tracked your performance each quarter. Runners pay attention to their mile times over the course of the run and review their split times at milestones like the half marathon, but ending the marathon strong means they’re very aware of how their body feels in the last few miles of the race, helping them decide just how deep they can dig to set their personal best.
I spent over 20 years in a very seasonal small business where we depended on the end of the year to fuel the business over the first three months of the next. We always paid close attention to what was happening over the last quarter, making adjustments in our plan as needed, and trying to dig as deep as we could to capture as much business as possible. We spent time focused on removing roadblocks to success during our busiest time of the year.
2. Are you ready to recommit and dig deep?
Once you know where you are compared to the goals you set at the beginning of the year, you can determine if you can stay the course or if you need to make a course correction for the last few months of the year. You could also find that things are going better than expected, and with a little extra effort, you can finish off with an incredible year.
3. What are the numbers telling you?
If there was anything I could do again as a small business owner, I would spend more time with the financial metrics of my business. I don’t mean to imply that you need to become an accountant, but there are a handful of important metrics that you should know and watch. If you do, you might find opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise recognize or even recognize potential challenges when they’re the easiest to address.
I’m a big advocate of transforming the relationship a small business owner has with their accountant from transactional to consultative. Big companies often have a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) who minds the financial metrics and consults with the CEO about those matters. You might not have a CFO, but most CPAs or accountants would welcome the opportunity to help you build a thriving (and financially sound) business.
4. Is everyone on the same page?
Because your employees are often the people your customers see the most, it’s important to get everyone on the same page—regardless of whether or not you decide to stay the course or dig deep. Give your employees insight into what you want to do for the end of the month, give them an opportunity to contribute to the game plan, and you might be surprised at how much ownership they take and how much effort they give you to meet your year-end goals.
Early in my career I had an employer who shared his goals with me and a few other core employees. He asked for our input, gave us opportunities to contribute, and encouraged us to take ownership of the goals. He kept them front and center, and as a result, we were very focused on achieving those objectives. I don’t think we were that unusual, and I’ve observed that most people want to do more than simply put in time at their jobs. Your employees are no different.
Running a small business and running a marathon have a lot in common. Both involve things like pushing hard, thinking strategically, making smart decisions and creative problem-solving. Give these four suggestions a try and let us know how you ended the year.
Ty Kiisel is a contributing author focusing on small business financing at OnDeck, a technology company solving small business’s biggest challenge: access to capital. With over 25 years of experience in the trenches of small business, Ty shares personal experiences and valuable tips to help small business owners become more financially responsible. OnDeck can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.