January 2020 Check List for Small Business Owners

2020 is here! No matter how your 2019 ended up, it’s a fresh year for new beginnings. One way to get your business year started on a positive note is to review the following. You’ll learn where you can make changes and what you’re doing right.

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Whip your finances into shape

Tax time isn’t the only time to review and organize your business finances, processes, and systems. The new year is a great opportunity to look at your financial profile.

Business owners are creative and driven…but finances don’t come easy to everyone. Finance is a SmartBiz specialty. For guidance, review our article All About Small Business Financial Management.

If you don’t have a financial professional on your team, it might be time to hire an accountant. Tasks an accountant can help with include:

  • Maintaining financial records
  • Tax planning, preparation and filing
  • Business book auditing/preparation for an outside audit
  • Handling payroll to ensure that employees tax codes and payments are correct

If you need financial support, check out our article: How to Hire an Accountant for Your Small Business.

Evaluate insurance needs

Business owners don’t always know what types of insurance and how much coverage is needed to protect their business. You’re probably familiar with General Liability and Property Insurance but there are more policies you might need to put in place as you grow and hire. SmartBiz University has information you need to know: Evaluating Insurance Needs.

Insurance doesn’t just protect you and your business. Lenders who provide low-cost funding like SBA loans will often require at least some forms of insurance before approving an application.

Review your business budget

A realistic business budget is imperative if you want to run a profitable small business. A budget takes a bit of time to set up and calculate but is important for financial management and business growth. With the right template, this process can easier and faster than you might imagine. We’ve researched the financial information needed to create a budget along with free templates available for download. Access them here: Small Business Budget Templates for Download.

Are you running your business lean and mean? Here are tips to help you craft a thrifty budget: 7 Ideas to Grow Your Business on a Shoestring Budget. If you need help getting a handle on where your money is coming from and going to, pay attention to your cash flow. This SmartBiz University educational article can help: Analyzing Cash Flow.

Analyze marketing efforts

If your marketing ROI isn’t where you want it to be, this may be the year to strategically spend more money on marketing, not less. Here are 4 steps to help you measure your marketing efforts.

  • Track sales numbers from each of your marketing campaign efforts from beginning to end. Use a simple spreadsheet so your tracking doesn’t get too complex. Record if sales are up or down after each campaign. Note that there may be a lag time between the launch of a marketing promotions and the results.
  • Poll customers to determine brand awareness. You can do this through online surveys, phone interviews, or simply in person if you have a bricks and mortar location. Ask how they heard about your products or services. Did they visit your website to research? Track the channels that were most effective and concentrate on those areas.
  • Examine website analytics and measure traffic changes after you run marketing campaign. Are your ads and social media efforts moving the needle? If you see that a channel is underperforming, pivot your attention and dollars to focus on those channels that are working.
  • Calculate each campaign’s ROI. Are profits increasing more than what you’re spending on a particular campaign? Add up the hours, effort, overhead costs and materials that it takes to launch and run a particular marketing strategy.

Refresh social media channels

Review your established social media channels. Are your photos clear and relevant? Do you have the correct product and pricing info? Consumers do check out social media profiles. Make sure your content is fresh and relevant and posted regularly.

If your social media accounts have been neglected, take a look at our article to help you get them into shape: How to Quickly Master Social Media Marketing for Small Businesses.

Targeted social media strategy can lead to a big payoff. In fact, SmartBiz Loans has spoken with many of our customers who are successfully driving sales without spending a fortune. RoShamBo Baby, makers of kid-friendly sunglasses, has a Facebook page targeting parents with over 40,000 loyal followers. The creators of the Infinity Strap yoga prop report that Instagram drives 80% of the sales completely organically, without any paid advertising.

Consider outside financing

Pull out your business plan – are you on track? You might need to increase inventory, purchase equipment, beef up marketing, or hire employees. Low-cost outside funding can help finance these growth initiatives.

The first step is to determine how much you need. Work with a financial professional if you’re not sure. Next, look at your credit rating. A good score is key to get low cost funds when you need them. If financing could be beneficial, the “gold standard” is an SBA loan. If you meet the criteria, an SBA loan has low rates, a 10-year term, and very low monthly payments. Visit the SmartBiz Loans website to learn more about SBA loans, term loans, and other financing options available through our marketplace banks.

Want to see where you stand before you apply? Check out SmartBiz Advisor. This online tool helps you learn how banks typically evaluate your business and recommends ways to help you increase your credit and financial health so you have a better chance of successfully applying for funding when you need it. Sign up for free here.

Final thoughts

Stay on top of your business performance throughout the year by visiting the SmartBiz Small Business Blog. We have articles, infographics, videos, and more written exclusively for entrepreneurs. From small business financing to marketing to management, our blog was designed to be a year-round resource for hard working entrepreneurs.