The holiday season is always a time of personal reflection for me, especially now that I’m a parent. I get excited about taking part in the activities that I have always loved, and introducing my little ones to them for the first time. Nostalgia seems to come in one non-ending wave, starting as soon as I pack away the Halloween costumes and extends well into January. I count my blessings, hug my kids a little tighter and set goals for the new year.
The holiday season is also a good time for business owners to take some time to reflect. Looking back on the successes, and misses, of the year is a necessary practice, even in the chaos that is often the most wonderful time of the year. Revisiting non-glamorous things like growth goals, revenue projections, organizing your finances, and budget-cutting measures may not be the stuff that visions of sugarplums are made of, but they get your business better prepared for the challenges of the upcoming year.
A recent study by the mortgage analytics company Trepp, LLC gave one of every eight U.S. banks a failing grade in areas like capital, asset performance and earnings. The worst category in terms of below-par performance was midsized banks – the group that has traditionally been the best ally of small business financing. With a lack of lending capital, many small business owners are approaching financial needs from a different angle. Finding better ways to spend money that already exists in revenue streams is a much more attractive option than jumping through the hoops of traditional financing or seeking out alternative lending options.
So as the year comes to a close, brew up some hot chocolate, put a log on the fire and spend some time with your financial statements. Look for smarter ways to save, and make, money in areas like:
- Marketing. How much money are you spending on traditional, outbound marketing techniques like mailers or print advertisements? Are you having measurable success in this area? If your company depends mainly on local customers, outbound marketing may still be a legitimately helpful tool. If you are not actually sure if your current outbound materials are impacting your business in a positive way, consider reallocating that money towards inbound marketing instead. Inbound techniques are based on the premise that 97 percent of consumers do an online search before deciding which company to use. Enrich your online presence with search engine optimization, blog entries, cross promotion with complementary companies, and adding your business to Google’s Places for Business and ChamberofCommerce.com’s business directory. Not only is this money better spent, you will likely save some money by seeking out innovative online options.
- Utilities. You probably knew exactly what rate you were paying for things like electricity, Internet service and cell phone plans when you signed up – but what are they at now? Look through the last few months of statements and highlight any “extras” that you could feasibly go without. Compare your electricity and water costs from the prior year and decide if you need to be more conservative. Adjusting a thermostat by a degree or two or slowly replacing office items with energy-efficient upgrades can really add up over the course of a year.
- Office supplies. Start by doing an inventory of what you already have in the office, whether you rent a space or work from home. Create a list of what you anticipate needing for the entire upcoming year and then start shopping around for the best deal on office supplies. Consider purchasing recycled printer cartridges, printing out your own receipts or other business documents, and buying used office equipment instead of new. The cost of one package of pens may be small, but over a 12-month span small, individual purchases can drain operating expenses. Buy in advance and stock up for the coming year.
Giving the finances of your business an end-of-the-year checkup is a smart way to figure out where and how you can save money moving forward. Get a jump-start on the new year now and trim the excess fat from your operating costs so you can better enjoy the holiday season with employees, customers and family.
Katie Parsons is a part-time writer for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes in business news affecting major markets in the U.S. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.