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The UPS Store Small Business blog
  • 27 December 2021
  • Liam Edwardson

Year-in-Review Checklist for Small Businesses

As we look forward to the new year, now is the perfect time to take stock of 2021. Here is a checklist of end-of-year steps you could take to review your current status and strategize how you might want 2022 and ensuing years to unfold.

desk with laptop, phone, coffee, and documents

Perform a competitive analysis

By looking at the big picture, you can stay one step ahead of the competition. Who are the main movers and shakers in your industry? What types of resources do different players have, and how do they use them? Which of your competitors’ capabilities are you lacking? What has changed with your markets, customers and business in general during the last 12 months? What can you learn and apply to your own small business? Going through the steps of a competitive analytical review helps you discover the strategies used by similar businesses.

Ensure you are properly staffed

A strong work ethic is admirable, but be careful that your employees are not overextended or, worse, burning out. Insufficient resources could be preventing crucial customer support and undermining new business opportunities. Consider conducting employee and management evaluations to identify performance areas that require improvement.

If you do decide to add to or subtract from your staff, make sure you abide by federal and state employment laws regarding interviews, drug testing, equal opportunity and other important issues.

Improve at least one process area

Every small business can improve on something, from marketing to inventory control to process efficiencies and more. You might want to hire a professional consultant to review, strategize and plan. Rather than see this as an additional expense, consider it a wise investment: Even a consultation of a few hours with an expert can result in tremendous improvements to your business operations and bottom line.

Consider updating your business structure

As your customer base and required inventory expands, it’s a good idea to study your legal business structure. If you started out as a sole proprietorship, you may want to add liability protection by forming an LLC (limited liability company). If you are already an LLC, you may want to restructure as a corporation to attract investors and/or to sell stock.

Make your website worth the read

Many small businesses are so caught up in the day-to-day that other concerns are put on a permanent backburner. One of these concerns could be your website. Have you updated the blog or news section lately? Have you added new products and/or services to your portfolio without proper publicity? Are you still speaking to the right audience? You may very well be missing out on prospective new business if your company URL is not up to par with competitors.

Examine insurance options

There are a multitude of insurance policies out there, so make sure yours is ideal. You may have started with general liability and property insurance, but as your firm grows in size and success, you may want to consider alternatives, such as business owner’s and cyber policies. It is also worth noting that lenders who offer Small Business Administration (SBA) loans will most likely require certain types and levels of insurance before they approve your application.

Spark your small business with a loan

Taking on debt never sounds like the right thing to do for individuals, much less companies. However, for accelerated growth, a loan could be just the boost your small business needs. SBA loans offer low rates, long terms and low payments and can prove to be a fantastic way to bolster your business. If you do not meet the qualifications for an SBA loan, then research a small-business term loan. Many business term loans offer fixed interest rates and affordable monthly payments with no prepayment penalties.

Get your bank’s perspective

Meet with your local bank representative to review your accounts and to discuss your business plans, your outlook and if you qualify for a new or higher line of credit or a loan. The bank can also help you discover ways to save money and/or receive more benefits. It is always advantageous to be aware of and line up options like these in case you need them in the future.

Consult your CPA

Yes, it is the end of the year. But think beyond the taxes, and plan ahead — quarters, years, even decades ahead. Topics you should study include devising and implementing strategies as well as financial planning.

Get out there and network

If you would like to introduce your small business to prospective new clients and potential new vendors, we suggest you plan to attend any number of conferences, conventions, exhibitions and other events in the coming year. Many of these are still being conducted virtually, which offers additional flexibility and even more options to consider. At the very least, it can help you keep pace with industry trends and opportunities. As an added bonus, by joining discussions and panels, you could establish yourself as an expert and solidify your brand. If you are a create-your-own-opportunity type, perhaps you could even arrange one of your own networking events.

Keep learning, keep growing

A comprehensive review will surely reveal something that needs improvement or updating, whether it’s cost management, social media, management training, customer engagement, etc. Why not take a class? There are a multitude of informative online courses, webinars and Zoom meetings offered by colleges, chambers of commerce, business development organizations, private companies and more. Not only could you build up your knowledge base, but you could also amass new colleagues, vendors and clients in the process.

Invest in yourself

Sometimes the best way forward is to take a step back. Building a business can be draining mentally, physically and even spiritually. Perhaps it is time to conduct an end-of-year review for yourself as well. Here are some starter questions: Do you have a relatively healthy diet? A regular exercise regimen? Occasional social get-togethers with friends and family to recharge your batteries?

Your business is like a car — it needs regular maintenance. An end-of-year review such as this can help keep your small business in ideal running condition and ready for whatever you and your small business encounters on the road ahead.


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