Here we are, nearly at the end of another year, and it’s time to look at our year-end review. What a year 2020 has been! The year of a world-wide pandemic, which is still seeing businesses unable to open and more people than ever working from home. Words we’d never linked to our everyday lives before are now the norm; lockdown, covid, furlough and I’m sure loads more. We wear masks wherever we go and we are restricted on when we can go out of our homes and who we can visit.
And all through this we still have to try and run our businesses from home. This has meant a huge upsurge in the number of people online, selling their products and services like never before. So this year end is even more important than any we’ve seen before; it’s even more crucial to do an end of year review and to start planning for the year ahead. With a possible vaccine in our sights, hopefully 2021 will see a more positive outlook for small businesses. That is, at least, something we can do for ourselves and our businesses. We can use what we’ve learned this year to plan for next year, taking into account the new skills and tips we’ve picked up to push business forward and still be successful.
So, where to start…
Review of 2020
Your business and your products/services
First of all, go back to basics. This helps you look at your business in a whole new light. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Who are you and what does your business do?
- What are your products or services?
- What went well and what didn’t go so well?
- What products or services were popular? Is there room for improvement?
- Do you have any new products or services planned for next year?
- Due to the changes you’ve had to make this year, are there any expenses you need to take into consideration for next year, e.g. for training, new technology, new equipment?
Your competition and your area of business
How, look at your competitors.
- Do you know who your competitors are? If not, do some research and find out about them and what they offer.
- What is your USP (your Unique Selling Proposition) that sets you apart from your competition?
- Looking at what you do and comparing yourself to your competitors, are there any trends, any opportunities you haven’t picked up on or any threats you hadn’t thought about?
- Are there any changes in your industry that you need to be aware of or address?
- Do you adhere to all the new GDPR rules that came about in 2018? For example, does your website comply with those rules? Are you doing everything you can to protect your customers’ data?
- I hate to use the ‘B’ word, but have you considered Brexit, due to hit the UK in January 2021? Have you thought about how this will impact your business?
– Can you still get access to materials for things you make? If you can, will there be any export charges?
– If your business involves travel, either to or from the UK, depending on where you live, what impact will Brexit have on travel? Parliament have already passed the bill to take away freedom of movement, so how will this affect you?
Our customers are the most important aspect of our businesses. Do you know your customers well? If not, do some in-depth research.
- Who are you selling to? Build up a picture of at least six customer personas, so you can tailor your products and services to them.
- What are your customers’ needs and wants?
- What are they buying and why?
- Has their buying behaviour changed? For example, where are they buying? Is it more online?
- What are your customers’ challenges? What are their problems and can your products/services solve those challenges or problems?
- Are there any new markets or new groups of people that could benefit from your products/services that you haven’t yet considered?
Customer behaviour will constantly change, so it’s important to keep ahead and know what they want. If you have customer personas or profiles that you’ve created in the past, how have they changed and evolved?
Marketing your business
Marketing is a hugely important part of your business. This is an area that you really need to review. Take a step back and look at what you’ve done this year to market your business.
- How are you talking or interacting with your current customers? Can that be improved?
- How do you approach and talk to new or potential customers?
- How are you positioning yourself in the marketplace? How are you promoting yourself and your business?
- Look at your brand; what does it say about you?
- Take a look at your pricing. Is it relevant to what you offer? Do you need to put your prices up to compete in your market?
- Look at all your social media channels. How are your using them and how engaged are your audience?
- Are there any new platforms or ways to market on social media that you’re not currently doing, but should…such as video?
- What are your competitors doing with their marketing? Is there something you could take or use from their example?
- Think about new campaigns or activities for 2021 that will help you stay connected to your current customer base, and also attract and engage new customers.
Look at your current resources.
- Do you have anyone working for you? Do you have a business coach or Virtual Assistant? If you do, do they meet all your requirements? Is there anything more you can outsource to them, or anything they shouldn’t be doing anymore?
- Do you have any skill gaps that you need to fill? If you do, look at what courses you can take to get you up to speed.
- Is your workspace or office space big enough? Does it suit your needs? Do you need to update any equipment?
- Do you need to update any technology or invest in something new?
- If you buy in materials, are you getting a good deal? Sometimes we stick with one company to supply materials because we know them well, or just because we always have. That doesn’t mean they’re the best supplier, so take a look at some alternatives.
- Are there anything you’re currently paying for that you no longer need?
- If you post your products to customers, do you have a good deal? There are so many new companies that have sprung up, you may be able to find a much better deal than you currently have.
OK, now we’re at the biggie. The one we don’t like to think about, but a very important part of your year-end review.
- What was your turnover in 2020 and what was your profit?
- What is your projected turnover and profit in 2021?
- Do you have a healthy cash flow or is your business having cash flow problems? If you’re having problems, what can you do about it? It’s not a good idea to ignore it!
- Do you have any capital or any excess cash?
- Are your books all up to date and ready for the tax man? I know I said the ‘T’ word, but it’s important to keep your business afloat. If you need an accountant, shop around and ask friends who are in business. If you have an accountant, ask him/her to give you all the relevant figures for 2020.
- Do you have any operational costs or employee costs for 2021 that you haven’t planned for? How are you going to pay for that?
- Do you need to look for external funding or any kind of investment to reach your goals for next year?
- Do some projections – they don’t have to be exact. Maybe start with monthly projections, or where you’d like to be this time next year. And then, what you’d like to see for your business in 3 years’ time or 5 years’ time.
Once you have completed your review of 2020, you’ll have all the relevant information you need to start planning for 2021. Now you can start planning your goals for next year and thinking about where you are going to take your marketing.
Good luck and happy reviewing and planning!