Every business year brings a mix of similar and unique challenges from the previous year. And, just like the natural world, these changes often mark its year’s different seasons. The final quarter of the year usually brings with it the best annual sales, and it also presents a time to reflect and prepare. Just as winter provides time for quiet contemplation, so too can the end of Q4 be a time for reflection. Here are six New Year preparations you can make in anticipation of the year to come.
1. Close Pending Sales and Contracts
Preparing for the new year is about finishing the current one well, as much as it means looking forward. That means tying up loose ends you don’t want to leave hanging around. Q4 is often great for those industries that focus on consumer goods and services. These kinds of sales are especially easy to close during the holiday season. If your industry conducts longer sales, like real estate, consulting, or B2B industries, it can be a good idea to close sooner than later.
Deals that might be in motion and energized before the holidays can lose steam thereafter. People get distracted from business by life or may return with new terms or perspectives. So it can be a good idea to ensure you strike while the iron’s hot. Wherever possible, request clients to commit to closing a deal before their company or yours adjourns for the holiday recess. Going into the new year with a contract signed can help galvanize your business during the traditionally slow Q1.
2. Assess Your Financial Reports
Now that you’ve brought your sales cycle to completion for the year, it’s time to get your paperwork in order. It’s best to do this before the holidays, as you’re already in a seasonal workflow. Another reason why it’s best to keep as few outstanding balances during the yearly rotation. It may take some extra work and willpower to complete your financial reports before the end of the year. But assembling your sales data also gives you the opportunity to reflect on it during your break.
Look at your sales data and assess whether you’re satisfied with your day’s outstanding (DSO) metric. This metric represents the time it takes to receive payment from the time you provide an estimate to a customer. Say, for example, your average DSO is thirty days: your customer signs a deal after two days, and you send an invoice after ten. You notice that it takes your customers an average of 18 days to fulfill your invoices! You can go into the new year focused on negotiating to reduce the time between sending an invoice and receiving payment.
3. Tackle The End of Your To-Do List
Whether in life or in business, there’s always something at the bottom of your to-do list. It’s that thing that you can’t bring yourself to get done, even though it’s important. That one client, meeting, or task that always gets pushed back until it’s next year again. Well, buckle up, chug some eggnog, and merge your sleigh into the fast lane. Now is the time to prioritize that big task that always seems to be a thorn in your side.
Big projects can often be intimidating to take on all at once, so they can get pushed back indefinitely. Assuming the bottom of your to-do list is some big goal, break it up into smaller, more manageable chunks. These chunks should be clearly actionable tasks instead of general goals or ambitions. So instead of “improve employee healthcare,” change your objective to “research ten healthcare companies by next week.” Transforming large-scale goals into smaller, bite-sized tasks will help you finally cross off that lingering goal.
4. Set New Goals, Reassess Values
Having a clearly defined mission, purpose, and identity for your business is incredibly important for its longevity. These ideas serve as anchor points that unify the people working for and with you as one organization. However, it’s also important to acknowledge that, over time, people, their values, and the organizations they comprise change. Some change is natural and necessary, whereas some can un-tether your business from its anchors. The end of the year is an excellent time to reflect on your business’s changes and how you’d like to move forward.
With your values and mission clearly in mind, consider what goals you’d like to achieve in the coming year. Perhaps you’d like to break your own personal all-time high sales record from a previous year. Or maybe you’d like to find an excellent new hire to head your HR department. Whatever it is, take the time to sit down and really churn out some ideas to see what inspires you. You can also always ask your employees to input their aspirations for the company.
5. Improve Employee Engagement (and Retention)
If capital is the lifeblood of a business, then employees comprise the heart that pumps it. Simply put, if your employees aren’t satisfied, then your business will decompose over time. Q4 is often the busiest time of year, so your employees will likely feel fatigued by the end of it. It’s a great time for any holiday bonuses, gifts, or gestures that show you appreciate their hard work. And as you spend time reflecting on your goals and values, you can also assess your employee engagement.
Employee satisfaction is a product of healthy engagement with your company. All employees engage in work because it’s their job. But take a look and see what, if anything, your employees are doing beyond their regular responsibilities. If it seems like your office culture is stagnating, consider injecting some life into it over the next year. Company retreats, office parties, and clear reward incentives are a few ways to do so.
6. Plan Time For You
Employee satisfaction is a great indicator of company success, regardless of the size of your business. And your employees will notice if you’re going the extra mile to ensure they’re taken care of. This is especially true since the Great Resignation, with many potential employees looking for culture-centered workplaces. However, between all the work you need to do to take care of your business and your employees, you might forget about yourself. This is especially true of freelancers and small business owners who work around the clock to keep the ship afloat.
Take some time during the holiday season to schedule your year ahead. Maybe plan that vacation abroad you’ve been meaning to take for a number of years. Burnout can affect even the most passionate of entrepreneurs if you don’t get a significant break from time to time. Just like the body needs rest at the end of a long day, you need a break for work now and then. So find a lull in the sleepiest quarter of your business’s year and give yourself that break.
Look Back to Look Forward
The end of the year is often the busiest time for many people, and business owners are no exception. But it’s also one of the best times to reflect on the year behind you and start planning for the future. Thoughtless action is an easy way to lose direction for any person or company. So make sure to budget time this holiday season planning for the year to come. With thoughtful planning, deft execution, and a bit of luck, it might be one of the best yet.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by cottonbro studio; Pexels; Thank you!