BY BRIAN DEVEREUX
For most small business owners—including those with a solid direction—a secure financial future doesn’t simply happen. Instead, it must be carefully managed to meet your most important goals and leave little to chance. Of course, the future is unpredictable, and your own personal situation changes over time. But the spring—and Small Business Week, in particular—is a good time to revisit a key financial question: Are you on track to achieve your objectives?
Here are ten items to cross off your business spring-cleaning list so you can more confidently answer, “Yes.”
- Remember your plan. It may have been several years since you looked at your business plan. Now is the time to dust it off and see how your business is doing—actual versus projected. It will also give you a chance to update your vision board with new goals and images to inspire you for the rest of the year.
- Update your website. Is the content still current and relevant? Are the links still working? Go through all of your pages and identify what messages you are providing. Then remove any old pages or irrelevant content. Many small businesses make the mistake of leaving up old and outdated information.
- Network with your top 10 clients. Solicit feedback and ask for referrals to use as testimonials on your website and social media pages. Make sure you have testimonials from new clients, too. These can help maximize and freshen up your online presence.
- Manage your vendors and suppliers. As an essential component of your business, it’s important to consider the products, pricing, quality and customer service of your current partners. Have your goals changed in a way that still aligns with your vendors and the relationships you are maintaining? If not, it’s time to make some new contacts. Visiting a tradeshow this year and networking with industry peers can be a productive use of your time.
- De-clutter your inventory. Do a thorough review of your inventory and look for stale or slow moving items. Perhaps it is time to have a “spring clearance sale.”
- Review year-over-year Profit & Loss statements. Be sure to look for trends, both positive and negative to give you an idea of where to focus your attention this year. Are certain expenses out of whack? Take a closer look and make the necessary adjustments.
- Plan your cash-flow. At a basic level, cash-flow planning is the process of analyzing your revenue sources against your expenses—“money in” versus “money out.” Now is the time to review your projections and your expenses to consider how cash-flow planning can enhance your overall plan. This will provide you a roadmap to make informed, confident decisions regarding the rest of the year.
- Polish your debt management. As the asset side of your balance sheet grows, so too may the liabilities side. Reviewing your obligations can help clarify the long-term impact of your debt and expenditures. Consider your debt financing, equity financing, leasing, peer-to-peer lending, etc. This can help you determine more cost-effective strategies for managing your liabilities and freeing up cash for more effective and profitable uses.
- Involve a professional. Contact your business lender and ask him or her to review your current products and services to see if you can save money or improve your cash flow management process. A professional can help you better assess the probability of meeting your goals—and help you adjust your strategies as your goals change over time.
- Stay in the social media conversation. First, create a strategy for engagement and make sure you’re active on the social media platforms right for your business. Don’t be on social media just because other businesses are. Have a plan and a purpose. You’ll also want to be sure the “bios” and “about” sections on all of your social networks are updated, and your pins on Pinterest are still valid (if applicable). Second, review what customers are saying about you online. How are you responding to your audience? If you aren’t, an opportunity is being missed to take your business to the next level and address positive—and negative—comments.
Analyzing your current position on everything from website content, vendor relationships and long-range planning, will help determine what’s working and what needs to be changed. By knowing exactly where you stand, you’ll be well-positioned to make sound decisions as the year continues and new needs arise.
Brian Devereux is the Vice President of Lending at Unitus Community Credit Union.