Have a new year’s resolutions for business? Well, I’ve put off writing this piece. Like many of my colleagues, December was a mix-up of planning for 2020, starting to close our financials for the year, and trying to balance a multitude of holiday get-togethers with family. I started the month wondering how I’d survive another holiday season. I closed the month feeling grateful, peaceful, and ready to take on 2020 with gusto. Today, I am in a place to write this. A month ago, I don’t think I would have been.
Today launches a new year and a new decade. A better chance for starting those New Year’s Resolutions won’t exist for another ten years. The 2010s saw a resurgence of some old tools, the emergence of new ones, and today, on January 1st, 2020, we have the best of both worlds. We can ethically pick and choose things that incorporate sustainability, mobility, convenience, and other virtues and principles easier than ever. When in our short history have you been able to run a robotic vacuum, while working at your home computer and looking out over your pesticide-free organic garden? (I’m doing that as I type this). PS – if you don’t have a robotvac, get one. They are life-changing.
Life, in some ways, is easier than ever, and in some ways has never been more difficult.
Our Sales Director, Leah, wrote a wonderful post on ways to connect with our fellow humans through generosity, kindness, and grace. My post won’t cover that topic since I believe she covered it well, so I will be focusing on things you can be doing for your business to start 2020 off the right way.
Review Your Tools
The way your business, well, conducts business is important. Many times, you may have started using a program in 2005, and if it is functioning at a basic level, you plan to use it into 2021. It seems like a solid plan, but like insurance, you should review the software, hardware, and other structures you have in place regularly. A review may emphasize the prudent decision to keep using them, or it may help open your eyes to new functions that they have today that you are not taking advantage of, and that can help you work more efficiently into the new year. In a worst-case scenario, you may discover that the old standbys have had their day in the sun, and its time to move on to something with more modern technology.
If you determine your current tools work, make it a goal to review the functionality you can gain from a deep-dive review, or from researching available partner apps that work well with your core suite.
Make Your Budget
I will stay away from exclaiming the necessity of both a business and a personal budget and will focus on the business side of things. A budget is critical, even in today’s age when many business decisions may happen in close succession to each other (ie in the startup and rapid growth phases). A budget can be rolling, which basically means it is a living document and can be updated monthly or quarterly, as business requirements change.
You can even combine your budget and forecasts into one document if it makes it easier on your business and you don’t have time for both. Whatever you do, don’t work on the fly. A budget is a tool of introspection and reflection. It causes you to pause, if but for one minute, to see the effects your current decision will have on your bottom line. Looking at a new trip? Plunk it in the budget. QuickBooks Online makes the process extremely easy, and you can run a Budget vs. Actual Report as needed. Give yourself the gift of thoughtful decision-making.
Don’t Confuse Deductions with Making Money. Be Conservative.
Too often business owners look at cash in the bank as the money they need to spend, and I hear of the dreaded, “I’m looking for deductions” conversation in December way too often. A deduction is not a way to keep more money in your business’ pocket (although, by all means, valid deductions need to be booked). I disagree with many over-eager deduction hunters, however. Paying 1/3 (or whatever your effective tax rate is) to the government is going to leave more cash in your pocket than spending 100% on a deduction that you believe you need, but don’t. Always stay conservative.
The peace of mind from having cash in the bank, or in intelligent investment vehicles, trumps an extra deduction every time. Make 2020 the year of being financially conservative and prudent. (If you are looking for the personal equivalent of this, I’m a huge fan of Dave Ramsey.) Tax pros, don’t equate a lower tax bill with more success for the business owner. The net cash in hand is more important than the bill (I may get a few emails over this one!). In many cases, renting equipment is going to be more helpful for your bottom line than purchasing. Make sure you have a procedure to vet and review large expenses, and you are watching the smaller ones as well.
Make the first of the month your chance to reflect on the previous month
When thinking about new year’s resolutions for business, Everything’s relative. On the first of each month, I have a checklist of things I need to know or KPIs that help me measure business performance. You don’t know what you don’t know, and making and reviewing this checklist is a great opportunity to update your budget and reflect on the month behind. Check out my post on vertical analysis for a great place to start. (I promise I’m working on improving my video skills as my own NYR this year!). I also prefer to pay most of my bills manually. Yes, I have a spreadsheet for that on both the business and personal sides, and yes, it’s old-fashioned, but it’s my version of the envelope system, and it works for me.
Use a Planner
Whether you have a digital or paper planner, the end goal is the same. When thinking about your new year’s resolutions for business, you need a way to reflect on your day, and on your upcoming timeline, to make important decisions on your own time-management and project abilities. My favorite online-app is currently a mix of Outlook and Microsoft To-Do and Planner (we switched from Google Apps to Microsoft in 2019), but if you aren’t a Microsoft person, then Asana is an amazing app. I also use a BlueSky Weekly/Monthly Planner, which is on my desk and is covered in scribbles. It’s my second brain. As a visual person, it helps me. You need to find a system that helps you. Is a digital or paper planner better? You decide. I love this article by Kristin Wong for the NYT.
Have a Strategic Plan
The rule of thumb is that to start a business you make a business plan. To create a plan for your new year’s resolutions for the business you create a Strategic Plan. Both documents follow similar structures, but a strategic plan should go hand-in-hand with your budget, and be another guide for your business decisions in the year to come. A strategic plan takes away impulse and helps you reflect on what you would like to accomplish in the new year. In my opinion, the process is just as important as the end document and is a critical part of the business owner or entrepreneur’s responsibilities each year.
Take Care of Yourself
Last but not least, you have to take care of yourself. No one wants to see the fearless leader come in flustered and distracted. Having a good morning routine is critical, and so is taking time for self-care. I start off every day by making my bed and following up with a short burst of yoga & meditation (I use another Asana app for this one – Asana Rebel), and I recently added a Roborock S4 to our house to help keep cleaning manageable through the week. My husband likes to go for lunchtime walks and finishes his day with Jiu-Jitsu. Whatever you do, make sure it breaks you away from work. (And yes, I’m totally planning to get a robot mop eventually, as well).
As you read this, keep in mind the importance of having tools that work within your systems. If you travel a lot, and need to stay lean, maybe autopay and a digital planner works best. Routine is one of the most underrated and most important parts to success, in my opinion. If you can walk away with the decision to make your work and personal life work for you, I will call this post a win. It’s the perfect time to start moving towards new routines, but don’t go cold turkey. Check out this article by HBR for some great advice, and best of luck on your new year’s resolutions for business.
As always, I write about small business, but you should always consult your business advisor or tax pro about any major decisions you are considering. This post is not meant to be business, legal, or tax advice.