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It’s that time of year again! One year will be ending and another beginning very soon. While many people focus on holiday celebrations and new year’s resolutions at this time, small business owners also need to focus on year-end business planning – plus taking stock of the year nearly past.

These activities – taking stock, preparation, and planning — are key to running a successful business in the future, as you think through aligning goals and resources and taking advantage of new opportunities.

But, because the end of the year can also be hectic, it’s not always easy to keep up with all the preparations you should be doing to wind down 2020 and plan for 2021.

That’s why we’ve prepared this year-end small business checklist! Here’s a rundown of everything you need to do before 2021 becomes a reality. The year-end checklist includes both the major requirements and the minor ones, so that nothing gets left out.

Small Business Checklist: End of 2020

    • Balance sheet
    • Income statement
    • Cash flow statement

Small Business Checklist: Start of 2021

To-Do: End of 2020

Prepare Your Key Financial Documents

Basic financial documents play a crucial role in your company. First, they provide a guide to your company’s financial position and health, with both snapshots and details on your assets and liabilities, your profit and expenses and your cash flow. They allow you to see if you’re running a healthy business or if you need some belt-tightening going forward.

Second, if you do need some adjustment (more sales, say, or fewer expenses), financial documents show you where adjustments are needed and provide a guide to how much you need to adjust.

Third, if you are in the market for funding, expansion, or mentorship, financial documents are often required to let interested parties see the financial records of your business.

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The financial documents you need before year-end are:

  • The balance sheet, showing all the assets, liabilities, and equity.
  • The income statement, showing revenue, expenses, and profit.
  • The cash flow statement, showing opening and closing cash within a specific period, with inflow and outflow itemized. It’s a good idea to itemize the:
    • Cash flow from operations, such as revenue and expenses.
    • Cash flow from investments, such as assets bought and assets sold.
    • Cash flow from financial decisions, such as loans and their repayment.

From these documents, you can then calculate your

  • Current ratio – the current assets divided by your current liabilities.
  • Total debt ratio – your total debt divided by your total assets.
  • Profit margin – There are several ways to calculate profit margin. Net profit margin is often calculated as (net income over revenue) times 100.

Debt and asset ratios let you know if your business is overleveraged. Profitability metrics let you know if you are making or losing money on an ongoing basis.

Small business owners should keep these statements on a monthly or at least a quarterly basis. You want to know the state of your business consistently, so you can plan accordingly. If you want to expand, you need to know you can, for instance. If your business is starting to show red ink, you want to know as soon as possible!

However, especially if your business is a new startup, you may have put off either compiling the information or having it done. There’s no time like the present!

Get Your Tax Documents Together

Get your tax documents together as well. Compile your income, both business and personal, if relevant. Gather all your deductions.

Assess Your 2020 Goals

If you had a specific 2020 goals list, go over it, and if you didn’t, write down what your goals were (and consider a written list of goals for 2021). Then, review your goals systematically and assess them using the following questions.

  • Were your goals achieved? Why or why not?
  • If they were exceeded, why did that occur?
    • What are the next steps? (Do you want to use higher than anticipated revenue to expand, for example, or to pay down debt?)
  • If they fell short, why did that occur?
    • What are the next steps? (Do you need to pull back on your product line, for example? Pare down your forecasts? Lower prices?)

Plan Employee Morale Events

Don’t forget your employees in your year-end planning. They are an important ingredient in your business success. Not only that, but the year-end holiday season provides multiple opportunities to reward them for what they’ve done.

You want to boost morale and company loyalty, with an eye to maintaining or increasing job satisfaction. What do your employees most want that would achieve those things? A big holiday party? More time with their family over the holidays? (If so, can you swing extra days off for everybody?) Flexible time to shop? (Could you give flex hours so they avoid the huge crushes in stores?) Company time to conduct a drive for charity? Could that be used for your business’s benefit?

Plan Your Own Vacation

All too often, busy small business people put off their own vacation until…they haven’t had any! Everybody needs some time to recharge and relax. Plan a vacation or think through your time off before the year is out.

To-Do: Start of 2021

Once you’ve drawn together the material for year-end 2020 planning, it smooths the way for new year planning. It makes certain goals and needs visible and makes planning less time-consuming and more convenient.

With that in mind, here’s what to do as the calendar moves into the new year.

Plan 2021 Goals

Your review of 2020 goals should have given you a clear picture of at least some of your 2021 goals. Now’s the time to write them down. Do you need to increase sales? Expand your offices? Hire new employees? Institute more thorough training? Reduce costs? Which costs? How might you achieve that?

Don’t, of course, rely only on past goals to chart your course. They’re crucial, but not sufficient. Did circumstances or changes in 2020 point out a need for new goals? Interest rates, for example, fell significantly in 2020. Could you get a loan for small business needs or refinance your current funding? Did your tax position indicate you could benefit by a new corporate structure?

If your financial statements indicated a need for improvement, how can you improve them? What are the most advantageous ways?

Is your business or sector itself experiencing any changes you need to plan for? Are your products likely to be increasing in popularity? Staying the same? Experiencing a decline?

Develop Action Plans Based on Your Goals

Once you’ve determined your key goals in the new year, devise an action plan for each.

The best action plans are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based. Plan specific measures that you can measure and assess on an ongoing basis. What can you and your employees achieve? How many months or quarters will it take to achieve them?

Align each action with a specific goal it’s intended to achieve.

Create Your Marketing Plans

Early 2021 is also a great time to plan your marketing campaigns for the year. What areas of marketing will you focus on? A relatively new social media, such as TikTok? Do you need to hire staff to plan marketing? Do you need to change your marketing, or keep it constant?

If there any specific area or product you need to focus on? Should you target or emphasize a new demographic? A new sector? A new trend, such as sustainability or climate change?

Plan Time to Keep Financial and Tax Records Up to Date

If you haven’t been keeping important financial statements up to date each quarter, book in time in the new year to do that.

Do the same for tax records and any meetings with accountants or other financial advisors.

Assess Employee Engagement

Do you need to review your compensation and benefit structures to make sure they’re in line with your industry and region? Morale could suffer if this doesn’t occur at least once a year. If the compensation and benefits you offer aren’t competitive, your top people could walk out the door, leaving you with gaps to fill.

Do you have promotional paths in place? Companies that do reap significant gains in loyalty and longevity.

Keep employee morale events going, too. Again, you want to foster job satisfaction and loyalty to keep top-notch people. What does that the most? What returns the most to the company for the expenditure?

Planning for the year allows you to choose times that are advantageous to you and everyone. Some companies host summer barbeques or spring hikes as get-togethers, for instance. What works for your company?

Plan Vacations

Don’t forget to plan vacations, both for yourself and your employees.

For yourself, map out what you’d like to do and what is advantageous for the business. Many small business owners like to take their vacations in down time – or at least less busy periods.

It’s a good idea to have employees give you (or their supervisors) their vacation plans far enough in advance to know when you have coverage and when not. If there are any peak periods when a cluster of vacations might be problematic, let employees and supervisors know so they can plan accordingly.

Here’s to a successful conclusion of 2020 and a great start to 2021! And if growing your business is on your roadmap for 2021, learn more about your options in just a few minutes with our prequalification tool or chat with one of our financing experts.

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By pressing “Get Started,” you agree to this website’s Privacy Policy. You also consent to receive information from Guidant Financial at the email address or telephone number you entered. This information may be provided by a phone system that can auto-dial. You aren’t required to consent to use our services.