5 Year-End Tasks to Start Your New Year on the Right Foot

Tying up these important loose ends can set you up for success in the next 12 months.
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The end of the year is also a serious time for business owners to close their books and plan ahead. (Photo: Rawpixel/Shutterstock)

The last month of the year is often the busiest for just about everyone. It’s all too easy to lose track of your responsibilities when you’re busy shopping for gifts, decking the halls and celebrating with your loved ones.

But despite all the festivities, the end of the year is also a serious time for business owners to close their books and plan ahead. Here are the top five things you should do by the end of the year to start 2019 on the right foot.

Review your own performance

You’re probably already working on your employees’ annual reviews. But when’s the last time you assessed your own performance? Giving yourself an objective evaluation can help clarify the areas you need to focus on next year, said Nina Pfister, founder and president of Mooring Advisory Group.

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“Now is the time to cast a full reflection on the last 12 months.” – Nina Pfister, Mooring Advisory Group

“Now is the time to cast a full reflection on the last 12 months. Make an honest list of what worked, what didn’t and where your metrics have shaken out accordingly,” said Pfister.

If you’ve received feedback from your staff and customers, take that into consideration in your personal review, as well, she added. Getting a variety of perspectives about how your business is doing can help you discover key areas of improvement for 2019.

Related: How to Get Positive Online Reviews

Map out your goals

What are you hoping to achieve next year? Taking some time now to set a few achievable goals and figure out what it takes to hit them can increase your chances of success.

S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, time-bound) goals are great to have,” said Linda Murray Bullard, chief business strategist at LSMB Business Solutions. “However, without mapping out the technical tasks that lead to achieving those goals, business owners could end up with a list of wishes instead of results.”

Once you have the steps written down, plot each one on next year’s calendar. That way, you can prioritize the time and effort required for each goal. Treat your calendar as a motivational tool.

Related: How to Inspire Your Staff to be Flexible and Autonomous

“Commit to a daily action related to your goal. Draw a big circle on each date on your calendar when you keep this commitment to yourself. Once you draw circles several days in a row, the visual picture of a chain on your calendar will appear and you’ll have an almost overwhelming urge to not break it,” said David Levesque, president of The Alternative Board Rochester.

Get your budget in place

A budget is like the roadmap for your business, and without it, you might end up spending more money than you have. Forecasting your finances and planning for upcoming expenses can help you hit the ground running next year.

“Make sure you have a budget in place for the coming year that clearly defines where you should invest and revenue markers for profitability,” said Pfister. “Outline expenses that are must-haves, plus tools, training and services that will be key for your growth and evolution.”

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“A great onboarding system with written material and a clear process can improve employee engagement and retention.” – Ellie Thompson, Money Therapy

Take a look at this year’s budget to see where you hit your targets, and where your predictions were off. Then, update it accordingly for the next 12 months. If numbers overwhelm you, consider working with a financial advisor or an accountant to get your budget in place.

Clarify your onboarding system

Training materials go out-of-date faster than you might realize, leaving new hires in the lurch when it comes to your business processes and procedures. Spend a few hours reviewing and updating your onboarding system before Dec. 31.

“For small business owners, it’s important that all of your employees are on the same page — and that boils down to training,” said Ellie Thompson, chief executive officer at Money Therapy. “A great onboarding system with written material and a clear process can improve employee engagement and retention.”

After you’ve made updates, distribute the new materials to staff and archive the old training manuals to avoid confusion.

Related: 7 Tips for Developing an Effective Employee Handbook

Audit your online presence

Building a stellar online reputation doesn’t happen overnight. An annual audit of your digital presence is critical to ensuring your business makes a great first impression in the search results.

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“When you have all of your information up to date and dead links out of the way, your business will have a fresh feel going into 2019.” – Cat Smith, Get Social With Cat

“Start by typing your business name in search engines. Take note of every legitimate link to your business in the first three pages of search results,” said Cat Smith, owner of Get Social With Cat, which offers social media marketing strategies to real estate agents.

If social media profiles for your business are high in the search results, make sure that you keep them active and up-to-date. Delete ones you no longer use, said Smith.

Promote any media mentions and link to them on your own website to strengthen your trustworthiness online. Then, take a look at how your competitors appear in search results. If they’re using specific keywords and social media platforms in a successful way, take their strategies as inspiration for your business.

“When you have all of your information up to date and dead links out of the way, your business will have a fresh feel going into 2019,” said Smith.

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it can be a struggle to complete everything on your to-do list by the end of the year. However, spending a couple of days on these five important tasks will pay off dividends in making next year your best one yet.

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