Your business has survived yet another year of pandemic uncertainty, changes, and curveballs. Do you know how you did it or did you ‘wing it’ as you went along? While agility and adaptability are key to making your business work, preparedness is even more critical.
As the adage goes: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. So, start the year right by planning how you will navigate your business through 2022, come what may. Allow your plans to be structured in such a way that they provide guidance for the year, but also allow enough flexibility should you need to change direction at any time.
Where do you come from? Where do you go?
The only way to plan for the future is to have a clear picture of the past. Start your planning process with a review of the year that was and then, looking at your business goals, ask:
- What worked that we should continue doing this year?
- What didn’t work, and how do we avoid doing that again?
- Where does the most business potential lie for the coming year?
Businesses typically perform a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis and then develop their strategic planning based on the resultant data.
Why plan when you have a plan?
Planning for your business and having a business plan are two different things, but they go hand in hand. When you have the framework of where you’re going (business plan), you can find the best ways to get there (business planning). Here are some important considerations when doing your planning:
Make hay while the sun shines
Every business has busy times and slower times, but this is especially true of seasonal businesses. Peak season means you’re run off your feet, and off-season sees hardly any feet through your door.
Therefore, it is critical that you use the momentum of the busy months to carry you through the quiet ones. Be sure to put aside enough money to cover your known expenses, and if possible, make provision for some unknown ones too – nobody ever regretted having a financial safety net.
Surviving the slow months
There will be times when business is slow or disrupted, and cash flow is tight. While making provisions in the busy months will help, it’s essential to have a fallback plan should you need it. To avoid the cash flow trap, you could:
- Do a forecast of your income and expenses based on past data to estimate how much money you will need to make ends meet.
- Get a business line of credit so that you have access to a pool of funds that you can use in an emergency.
- Get paid faster by using cloud accounting software that sends invoices upon completion of work, issues reminders for overdue payments, and offers customers simple payment options.
- Negotiate with vendors; they might agree to more favourable payment terms.
- Get an accountant or advanced accounting software that will assist you with forecasting, invoicing, payments, and more.
Meeting tax deadlines
Many small businesses shudder when they hear the words ‘tax year-end’. It’s typically not top of mind throughout the year and becomes a mad scramble when deadlines get closer.
Filing taxes accurately and on time is critical to the survival of any business. With the inevitable tax changes after the annual Budget Speech, business owners must ensure that they know what, and how much, is due – and when.
To avoid having tax surprises at year-end, you should:
- Make a note of your tax deadlines, which is determined by your business’s fiscal year-end and the type of tax your business is registered for.
- Keep your books in order from the start. Make sure they are balanced and that your bank accounts are reconciled.
- Keep business and personal expenses separate to avoid having to reallocate them come tax time.
- Claim all your deductions: vehicle expenses, salaries and wages, contract workers, rent on your business property, utilities, taxes, repairs, and depreciation so that you don’t pay more than you need to.
Reporting and compliance
Keeping up with regulations and compliance without the proper tools is incredibly difficult. Organisations that use compliant software are more likely to follow the law and reduce the risk of human error.
What’s more, advanced accounting software commonly includes built-in tools for organising documents, as well as the ability to automatically generate audit trails to easily prove compliance.
Match your people and your purpose
Having a plan for a successful business means nothing if you don’t have the right people to implement it. The pandemic resulted in many companies needing to change course to survive, leaving a skills gap they might not have had before.
Even if your business didn’t need to diversify over the past two years, upskilling your staff remains vital to the success of your business – it promotes loyalty, supports both personal and business growth, and helps you keep up with (or leave behind) your competition.
Here’s how you can bridge that skills gap:
- Do a training needs analysis to see which skills are missing and which employees need to develop them.
- Align business and employee goals to ensure that you promote your business and your employees’ career goals.
- Train today’s leaders for tomorrow to secure your succession plans.
- Tailor your training by using different methods for different goals.
- Monitor the results of your training and use that data to measure the success of your skills development plan.
Check your tech
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of updating and repairing current technological systems. Businesses that were unprepared for the abrupt transition to a distributed workforce are now planning some much-needed technology changes and upgrades, such as embracing cloud, artificial intelligence, and machine learning capabilities.
Depending on the size and needs of your business, consider the following when determining if you need a technology upgrade:
- Cloud and SaaS tools are the future for simplifying the hosting and connecting of a remote workforce in larger businesses.
- Upgrade your hardware and software to keep your data as secure as possible. Each new version comes with improved cloud security.
- Back up to the cloud to securely store your data and reduce the storage burden on your machines.
- Implement new security measures for your remote workforce. With many employees accessing company IT resources from their personal devices, attackers can circumvent security controls by exploiting vulnerabilities in remote endpoints.
The number of businesses migrating to the cloud grows annually — and the number of cyberattacks grows along with it.
While cloud vendors know they must do their cyber-security part, the business is ultimately responsible for securing its data. Small and medium-sized businesses are especially vulnerable to cyberattacks such as ransomware because they lack the resources necessary to improve their cybersecurity.
Sage research found that 12% of HR professionals are concerned about cyberattacks.
What’s more, 65% of surveyed finance leaders who have implemented a cloud-based system found that it provides better access to data and insights, 59% benefit from access to real-time data, and 58% note that it encourages tasks to be done immediately, which significantly improves data accuracy.
A staggering 88% of respondents who already use the cloud say their systems are more secure than before, and 65% say they benefit from safer data processes and storage.
Keeping up on the socials
At the beginning of each year, it is important to revise your social media marketing strategy. Are you on the right platforms, namely the ones your customers use? Has your content strategy served you well over the past year, or do you need to revise your plan to generate more leads?
Experiment with some marketing tactics that could spark renewed interest in your business but be sure to keep the tried-and-tested methods going, too, like having a website. If your digital footprint is non-existent, i.e., your website cannot be found, you might be losing revenue opportunities.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the best way to get your website in front of customers because it ensures that Google sees and ranks your site for the terms that your customers search for.
This year, plan to keep your business top of mind – and search – by doing the following:
- Optimise your website for mobile because most people access the web via their mobile devices.
- Update your title tags and meta descriptions throughout your website, and be sure to use the right keywords for SEO.
- Use fresh content on your blogs, LinkedIn articles, and social media posts.
- Ensure your business information is correct on your website, Google My Business, and social media pages.
Unlike having a business plan, which serves as a compass for achieving your goals for the year, business planning provides a roadmap for getting there. Both are important and, when done together, they keep everyone aligned and focused, and improve your chances of success.