If you’re a business owner, you have a lot to think about at the start of the new year. Whether those things include employee raises and performance check-ins or renegotiating contracts with vendors, the new year is an ideal time to examine various facets of your business. But the first quarter of the year doesn’t mean you should be thinking about Q1 only. Instead, use this time to plan for the entire year.
Here are seven crucial tasks every business owner should set in motion now to set their business up for year-long success. Accomplishing these could even make or break your year.
1. Set year-long goals.
Start the first quarter by setting goals — including company objectives and financial milestones — your team can achieve in the year ahead. Determine your long-term intentions and hopes for the business, and then set deadlines to help you achieve those goals. Create short-term goals that can be accomplished along the way as you work to fulfill your long-term plans.
These goals, sometimes called key performance indicators (KPIs), can span from small, individual objectives that vary from employee to employee to large-scale projects that impact the entire company’s operations. Goals to consider for the year could include reaching a certain number of social media followers, organizing your business inventory, onboarding a set number of new employees within a certain time frame, achieving a certain standard in the year ahead, or improving company culture in accordance with specific metrics.
Once your goals are established, share them companywide so your entire staff can understand what the months ahead will look like. In doing so, you may also inspire team members to set their own professional goals for each quarter. If you fail to outline your objectives early enough in the year, you will have wasted vital execution time. [Check out the best tools to track your business’s KPIs.]
2. Evaluate industry trends.
Thoroughly research industry trends and predictions, such as how your market and sector are changing and any industry advancements that may benefit your business. From here, decide how you want your company to address these trends in the coming months and determine any changes you need to make in your business plan to stay up to date. If you’re proactive and look for trends as they emerge, you can ensure your business is ahead of the curve rather than falling behind.
The new year is also a good time to evaluate your rivals with a competitive marketing analysis. Determining where your competitors are succeeding and where they’re falling short can guide your own company’s strategies. For example, what mistake did your top rival make in Q3 last year that you can prevent now in Q1? Adjust your business plan as needed to adopt any changes that will help your company grow as a stronger competitor in the new year.
Keeping up with the latest industry trends can set your business apart from the competition and help you develop a reputation as an industry leader.
3. Review your budget.
To ensure you have the financial resources needed to make it through December, review your budget now and determine what aspects you need to account for. Will you need to make purchases at some point to replace equipment such as computers, machinery or anything else your business uses regularly? Take stock of your inventory and determine whether you’ll need to make repairs within the next year or if your equipment will last beyond that time frame.
As you review your budget, consider whether your staffing needs will change within the next year — not just in the next quarter. Do you have plans to expand or bring new team members aboard? Will a new office branch be opening? Are certain employees planning to take leave in Q2 who will require a temporary replacement? All of these things cost money. When businesses keep the entire year in mind while reviewing their budgets, they can plan accordingly to account for potential upcoming expenses and avoid shortfalls.
4. Touch base with employees.
Many people view the beginning of the year as a way to start anew. Host one-on-one check-ins with each team member so you can talk about their job responsibilities and outlook on the year ahead. Find out what employees are looking forward to as the year progresses, and listen to where they believe the company could improve. Use these meetings as a time for staffers to share any concerns or difficulties they’ve encountered so you can work together to resolve the issues going forward. You don’t want a problem to fester and explode later in the year when you could’ve handled it now.
When you check in with your team, provide them with updates on the company’s plans for the new year, not just the first quarter. If you discuss the company’s year-long goals and give your staff a glimpse into the full year ahead, you can motivate employees for everything to come between now and December. This also goes a long way toward ensuring everyone is on the same page and operating effectively with the same objectives in mind.
5. Review your vendors and suppliers.
The beginning of the year is a great time to review your contracts with vendors and suppliers — especially if you’re also reviewing your budget. While some contracts may have made sense at the time they were signed, it’s time to evaluate whether or not your current vendor’s service and prices are still logical given what your business will need this year. Especially as rising inflation impacts companies worldwide, rates and services provided may have changed since you chose your particular vendor. You could be paying more than you need to by sticking with your veteran partners than if you were to shop around for new providers to work with.
You can test the waters by purchasing a small order from a different vendor, which could wind up being good leverage with your existing vendors. Keep in mind that many companies are willing to cut deals in the first few months of the year, so you may be able to get better discounts than if you were to try to make service provider changes in Q3 or Q4.
If you think your business could potentially switch suppliers at some point during the year, don’t wait — start getting quotes in early Q1. The beginning of the year is likely to yield the best prices.
6. Consider your digital footprint.
In Q1, it’s critical to evaluate your company’s digital footprint and decide how you’d like to proceed in the year ahead. Businesses should aim to maintain a strong digital presence on the platforms that make the most sense for their products and services. Even if you’re only planning out your social media content on a quarterly basis, you should determine your overarching digital strategies for the year at the outset and execute them over the subsequent months. [Find out how to get your business on TikTok before it’s too late.]
Now is also the ideal time to refresh your company website. The site should link to and match the tone of your social media posts and vice versa. Not only does a cohesive digital presence provide consumers with helpful information about your business and its offerings, but it also makes your company more recognizable and transparent, builds customer loyalty, and establishes your organization as a leading voice in your sector.
As you consider your digital footprint, take a look at how your company is being perceived by the public by reading online reviews. Online sentiment about your business should influence the actions you take over the year to strengthen your company’s reputation.
According to Top Design Firms, 27 percent of small businesses don’t have a website. Those without one may be missing out on an additional revenue stream and brand-building opportunity. Our five-step web design process can get you started.
7. Quote-shop for different types of insurance.
Insurance prices change every year, which means business owners could find they are paying more than they need to for their insurance policies. In Q1, see whether you’re getting the most for your money by going quote-shopping for better deals. Early in the year is the best time to find new and better rates from insurance companies of all kinds — including health, business and more. Our roundup of the best business insurance providers is a good place to start.
If you intend to keep your current insurance policies, review them for any changes that went into effect in the new year. Some insurers change their coverage and benefit offerings at the start of the year, and the last thing you want is a surprise come August. Review your policies to ensure your business is still covered in every way it needs to be. As companies grow and change — for example, if they take on new assets that need to be protected by a policy — their insurance needs to change as well.