You’ve just recovered from the end of financial year and you may be thinking of taking a break to recharge your batteries. Now is a great time to pause and reflect on the previous financial year.
Are you running your business as well as you could be? Use this 10-question checklist to evaluate your progress. Download your free checklist.
Are your customers happy?
Even the best businesses struggle to keep customers happy from time to time. Review any complaints you've received last financial year. Are there repeating patterns? In addition, consider surveying your customers. You can't address problems you can't (or won't) see.
Are your employees happy?
It's impossible to keep everyone on the payroll happy, but research shows that happy employees tend to perform better. Have you talked with your team lately? Find out if there are frustrations you could remove with a small amount of effort and investment and put these changes into action.
Are your partners happy?
Unless you are a solo operator in a services business, odds are you have suppliers and fulfillment partners. Think win-win here. When was the last time you had a check-in call with your top supplier? Have you asked about how profitable it is for them to carry your products? What do they hear about your competitors? Running your business is like managing a network of relationships. Treat your partners with respect and they may surprise you with the value they deliver in return.
Is your marketing funnel full?
Think about how new customers find you. What do you spend to get those leads? Can you lower that cost through social media marketing? What about search advertising or adding existing customer testimonials to your blog? A healthy, well-stocked pipeline of new leads is the lifeblood of a growing business. Checking to make sure you have one is a must.
Is your business adequately staffed?
Every small business has pain points. What tasks could you either eliminate or improve? Hire to ease the pain and then be aware there will be some staff you'll want to keep long-term — even if you're running a seasonal business.
What investments aren't paying off?
Now is an excellent time to review all your operations. Think big and small. Are your shipping costs appropriate? Do you have too many or too few people providing support? Does your tech infrastructure need an upgrade? Budgets and financial statements tell the big picture story of your small business, operational details provide the context to help you make better use of capital.
Where should you invest next?
Understanding what's not working is half the story. Take time to complete a careful review of what's creating value for you and your customers. These are the areas where you can choose to invest. Be creative! Instead of concentrating capital in one project, try funding a few, measure the results of each experiment, and then concentrate on the most successful.
Do you need to re-forecast the budget?
The more committed you are to growth, the more planning you'll need to do. Your budget is the blueprint for funding your future plans. As you go through this checklist, take notes on what budget items could be affected by your fine-tuning — you'll recalculate all the line items later, first you need to take stock. Then, use the re-forecasting process to assess your ambition. How much change are you looking at? Is it realistic that you'll come back from vacation ready to make so many adjustments? A good budget is a working document. Let it serve you, not control you.
Are your legal agreements up-to-date?
Legal filings shouldn't be refreshed as frequently but a review of your key documents — including articles of incorporation, lease agreements, credit arrangements, and the like — is worth incorporating these into you checklist. You can do this with or without an attorney, but paying for a short consultation to make sure everything is in order can be worthwhile if you've not seen a lawyer in a few years.
What contracts need to be updated?
If you're in business, you have contracts. And if you've been in business for a while, you probably have old contracts that need reviewing, updating, and (maybe) terminating. Make a thorough contract review a regular part of your business checklist. The same holds true for compliance forms and documents. The larger and more distributed your company becomes, the more often you should be reviewing agreements and obligations. Every six months is a good cadence.
Business isn't just business. For many business owners, it's a lifetime affair of long hours, deep dedication, and family support. It's personal you too and may be for your employees.
A good new financial year check-in can help to make sure the business you're running today is on the way to being the one you dreamed of on the day you started.