The start of a new year is an exciting time in the business world, with many people taking the leap towards self-employment. Existing businesses can also take this opportunity to plan out the year ahead, and try to improve on the year before.
Now’s the perfect time to draw up some goals for the year ahead. For those who have been in business for a while, the start of the year is a great time to revisit your original goals, and make plans for the future.
While you might already have a few resolutions up your sleeve, we’ve put together some top tips to help you make 2021 your best year yet.
Set quarterly goals (and stick to them… but adapt when necessary)
OK, so this advice might sound indecisive, but it really isn’t. One of the simplest ways to start planning for the new year is to set out your quarterly goals. Just remember that even very cunning plans need to adapt as things unfold, and that’s ok.
Everyone wants to aim high and get lots done, but sometimes a simpler focus is better. Try to outline the three main goals you want to achieve by the end of each quarter.
Goals for brand new businesses could include launching your website, creating a logo, or even getting your first customer. Other goals could be to reach a certain amount of revenue, to expand your marketing reach, or to hire a new member of staff.
To keep on top of these goals, it’s best to break them down into smaller steps to keep them more manageable.
Just be sure to create quarterly goals which align with your overall business aims, and that are realistic and achievable. This is where your cash flow forecast takes centre stage!
Put together a marketing plan
Marketing is often overlooked in the early days of a business, but the sooner you can get the ball rolling, the sooner you will reap the rewards.
Promoting your business should be one of your priorities, no matter where in your business journey you are.
While new businesses may not have the biggest budget in the world on day one, that doesn’t mean they can’t start marketing.
Social media is one of the cheapest ways you can start if you don’t have the budget for expensive online ads. Some simple methods include networking with others on LinkedIn or contributing to Facebook groups.
You could also boost your website’s reach by writing guest posts for more established websites in your field.
More established businesses could use this new year to invest in new marketing methods or even revisit their current plans. It might even be time to finally hire an external marketing team to put together a strategy for you to boost growth.
Take care of your digital presence
Whether you are about to start a business or have already, spend some time carving out your digital presence on the web. This could mean getting a domain name for your website, or securing your social media handles and creating social media content.
Most businesses these days do benefit from a social media presence to get their name out there. It can be an invaluable way to network within your industry as well.
So, if you haven’t started this already, it’s a great resolution to make for 2021.
Outsource to find some breathing room
It’s tempting to try and do everything yourself, especially if you are running the business solo. However, there will come a time when it becomes a bit too much and running every little part of your business yourself is just not a good use of your time.
For example, spending hours drafting contracts, chasing up invoices or managing your bookkeeping doesn’t leave a lot of time for making money. That’s why it’s a good idea to try and outsource jobs where possible.
If you have the budget to outsource your accounting, marketing, or admin, this can save you a lot of time and energy. That time and energy can then be spent on other activities which drive growth.
Draw up your KPIs
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are a crucial part of planning the future of your business. KPIs are a measurable way to assess whether you are working towards your business goals.
Your business goal may be to start making more money, but they typically work best when they are more specific. So, it could be “we aim to make our first £5,000 by the end of the first quarter”. It will help you stay on track and keep your objectives at the forefront of your mind.
Every new business decision can be weighed up against your KPIs to see if they will move your business forward. Sharing your KPIs with staff or partners also ensures that everyone is on the same page about the future of the business.
Spend some time at the beginning of the year drawing up your KPIs. A common way to do this is to split the year into quarters and have primary objectives for each, with little tasks and goals leading up to the main goal.
They’re essentially a more specific form of setting quarterly goals, in a way that helps you see where you’re on track, in real-time.
Make sure you’re clued up on tax for the coming year
While you could just hire an accountant to take care of it all for you, it’s still important to learn as much as possible about business tax. That means working out which taxes apply to your business type, how much you will owe, when to file, and when to pay.
For example, if you are a sole trader business, you will need to focus on Self Assessment in January and possibly Payment on Account in July. Limited companies owners need to think about Corporation Tax, director’s payroll, and dividends.
The more familiar you are with all the terminology, deadlines and rules, the less stress for you, and fewer potential mistakes. Watch our video about when and how to pay tax.
Pick the right bookkeeping software
One of the best decisions you can make early-on in your business career is to choose the right bookkeeping software.
Different software will offer different features, so be sure to do your research. For example, if you want bookkeeping software which links to your bank account, make sure it supports bank feeds for your bank.
Bookkeeping software which allows you to create invoices, chase up late ones, link your bank account and categorise transactions will also save you a great deal of hassle.
It’s worth looking for cloud-based software specifically, so you’re not limited to using the software on one device. Plus, your data is safe and backed-up in the cloud.
Put your policies and processes down in writing
The more organised your business in the beginning, the better prepared you’ll be to deal with problems if they arise.
Many entrepreneurs have big plans and plenty of knowledge but there’s a risk of all that knowledge remaining in your head. This means that when the business grows and decisions need to be made, you could become a bottleneck to your own success.
That’s why it’s important to get company policies and processes down in writing, so that staff have somewhere to turn when you’re busy.
This also ensures you’re not following a make-it-up-as-you-go approach to deal with issues that arise.
Prepare for hiring staff in advance
Businesses planning to hire staff always benefit from a plan of action. Recruitment is a balancing act, and is far more costly and time-consuming than many expect.
Even if you are not planning to take on staff right away, it’s always good to plan ahead. In fact, a plan of action before you get too busy and need the help ASAP is usually best.
You could spend this time creating company policies or writing training documents, so they are ready when you need them.
Also, have a think about your company values and the type of workers you’re looking for. That way, you have a clear picture in your mind of what you’re looking for before you start interviewing. This also ensures you don’t feel rushed when you need to hire.
Revisit last year
If you have already started your business, one of the best things you can do at the end of the year is to revisit the past year’s accounts and analyse them. What went well? What could have been better? Were there any common problems that kept creeping up?
Ask yourself these questions and really dig deep into everything your business went through last year. Revisiting the previous year is a great way to start building some solid goals and plans for the year ahead.
Starting a business in the new year is an incredibly exciting time. With a bit of planning ahead and some achievable goal-setting, you’ll be off to a great start for the brand new year ahead!
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