How to organize your small business for the end of the year

small business organizationAnother year is drawing to a close, and whether this means a busy or slow time for your small business, it’s important to get properly organized for the end of the year. It won’t be long until we’re ringing in the new year – what kind of shape will your business be in?

The holiday season is actually a great time to get organized. We’re all in a New Year’s Resolution mindset, so it’s an ideal time to close out this year and to plan, strategically and financially, for what’s coming next.

Check out our list of simple things you can do to wind down your year properly, and get set for 2017.

Get your financial records in order for 2016

Your accountant or bookkeeper will love you forever if you present well-organized and documented files and records soon after your fiscal year end. Sounds like a headache, but the “shoebox” method of filing receipts just doesn’t cut it.

Here are five things you can take care of between holiday festivities:

1. Update your payroll records, report all 2016 paycheques on T4 slips, and make sure all your other deductions are in order.

2. Organize your accounting files, records and receipts to get ready for income tax season. This includes completing inventory records and putting expense receipts into categories sorted by month.

3. Streamline your contacts list – remove old contacts and duplicate records, and update current contacts in your professional networks.

4. Update your personal productivity and technology tools – download updates and templates and make sure your current apps are still working for you.

5. Create a to-do list for the first week of January and make appointments now with key advisors, especially your bookkeeper and accountant – before they get booked up.

Hit the ground running in 2017

Winter can be a slow time for many businesses. However, using this downtime to prepare your business for what lies ahead will help you start start 2017 refreshed, prepared and ready for anything.

Here are five more things you can do:

1. Review your 2016 business goals. What worked well and what didn’t? In 2017, do more of what worked in 2016, and refine the things that didn’t.

2. Develop a strategic plan – a roadmap for getting from point A to point B. If you don’t have a strategic plan, create one – and follow it. We’ve got a free one-page business plan template you can download at our website.

3. Take a close look at your marketing, human resources management, financing and operations. Is there anything you could do better?Get working on some ideas to become more effective.

4. Read up on new ways social media can help promote your business. Read some business blogs or tweets as a first step, and find which tools will work best for your business.

5. Clean up your files! Delete old files. Get rid of spam emails. Back up your business records onto a disc, memory stick, cloud server or hire a company to do it for you on a regular basis. Set up a good online file folder system so you don’t have to scroll through three months of emails to find something your accountant wants.

Have questions about year-end preparation? Ask a GoForth Expert online any time. Not only will your question be answered by one of our experts, but we’ll post it on our website too. You’ll be helping other entrepreneurs who may be wondering the same thing. How charitable of you – perfect for the holiday season!

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Understanding your prime time for small business productivity

What’s your prime time?

No, I don’t mean your favourite TV show – I mean the time of day when you’re most productive and effective in your small business.

We all have a prime time. For some of us, it’s early morning. We can’t wait to get up and get started. By the time late afternoon rolls around, our brains have had enough and we don’t function nearly as well. Other people seem to kick in after lunch and make great strides by suppertime. And we all know at least one night owl – someone who thrives after dark and is alert and hard at it when the rest of us have turned out the lights.

It’s important to recognize when you’re the most productive and use that knowledge to your advantage as an entrepreneur. Are you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 5 am? Then get up and tackle the most pressing item on your to-do list then (one that doesn’t involve a phone call, of course). If you’re a slow riser, work at secondary tasks in the morning and save the big jobs for mid-afternoon. The same goes for scheduling appointments and making important decisions. Unless it’s life or death, whenever possible, postpone signing important deals or talking to decision-makers until your prime time. You’ll feel fully alert and more in charge.

This isn’t always possible, especially when other people are involved. If a client can’t meet you any later than 7 am – when you’re usually brewing your first coffee – so be it. Meet, do more listening than talking and say you need to consider the important points they’ve raised. Promise to be get in touch later that day.

When you do call your client back, use this simple trick to maximize your effectiveness: stand up when you talk to people by phone. Let’s say you’re responding to a request for a quote and have just dialed the customer (during your prime time, of course). Stand up – don’t sit at your desk. Your blood flows better, your breathing isn’t obstructed, your voice will project and you’ll feel much more in control. Try it and see.

When is your prime time? Do you notice when you’re more productive and efficient in your small business? What about your team members? Let us know!


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Tip of the Month: Small Business Record Keeping

This month’s topic might be more of an obvious reminder, but following this tip can save you plenty of time, stress and money in the long run. Keeping up with your paperwork, specifically your financial records and statements, on a monthly basis (or more often if you have a high volume of transactions) will provide plenty of perks including:

  • A clear picture of your business’ financial health;
  • Greater awareness of spending, which can help you control and lower operating expenses;
  • Less time and worry when you have to file income tax and GST remittance;
  • Being prepared for an audit, if ever the situation arises;
  • Improving your odds of securing capital, such as a loan for growing your business, by being able to clearly outline your company’s past performance; and
  • The ability to identify sales trends based time of year, marketing expenditures and so on.

Have we convinced you yet? We hope so. Understanding your business’ financial health can make you far more competitive and profitable.

What if I haven’t been keeping these records up to now?

Catching up can be a daunting task, so unless there’s a pressing need, it’s easier to break the job down into bite-sized pieces. Update your current month, along with the earliest month for which records have not been kept up. For example, if you started your business last January, then right around now you should do January’s records along with July’s. Next month, do February’s records along with August. This strategy will allow you to keep up with your current record keeping and catch up at the same time.

A note about business receipts

Keep your receipts and file them in an envelope labelled with the month in which they occurred. If the receipt isn’t obvious, or you’re worried about it fading (say perhaps when you leave it on the dash of your truck for two weeks, you crazy entrepreneur, you!), make a little note on the back about what it was for and what job you billed it to if that applies to your business.

If record-keeping becomes too much

Recognize when it’s time to bring on someone else. If record keeping is consistently put on the back burner so you can handle the immediate needs of your business, or if you struggle to understand how it works, find a bookkeeper. They need not be an employee. Independent contractors are a great way to manage jobs like this. Don’t feel bad about it – the key is that the job is done well and on time. No one is a specialist at everything, so play to your strengths and find someone who can help you counter your weaknesses. If you aren’t in a position to hire someone else, there are plenty of software programs that can help you out providing a layout, streamlining data and saving time for you.

Financial record keeping for your small business can be intimidating, but breaking it down into small pieces and staying up to date will save you time, money and stress. That’s something we all can benefit from!

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