We’re counting down to 2014. While there’s likely to be a few resolutions around the corner (some may or may not be based on the tremendous amount of pastry puff appetizers and other hor d’oeuvres consumed over the last few months), we’ve got the ultimate final checklist for business owners.
Here are five things to wrap up before the ball drops.
1. Review what you’ve got
Take a gander at a few key areas and make sure things are updated and running smoothly. Be sure to address areas of concern honestly, speak with the experts, and make a game call: will you handle these things now, or will you wait until next year?
Check on your finances. Get brushed up on the books and talk to your accountant if you have any questions. Run necessary reports and ensure accuracy with a careful look.
Check on your technology. Meet up with a computer whiz and see if you’re getting the most bang for your buck. Review security and software –upgrade, if necessary.
Check on your marketing plan. Discern which campaigns are really working and weed out the flops. Double check your SEO and web presence tactics and make sure you’re not overspending on things that just don’t really bring results.
2. Get ready for tax time
The end of the year can be a smart move tax-wise for a number of things. Be sure you’re taking advantage of any breaks you might get in the 2014 tax season.
Buy stuff. Now’s the time to make some big purchases. Review all of your equipment and even property, as it’s likely you can deduct the full amount. Be sure to double check with your accountant, as some items (like passenger cars) might have different stipulations.
Give stuff. Donations to charity can lower your income taxes if you itemize. You can give money or items, so don’t feel fenced in with only cash. You can even donate stock, says Nolo. Be sure to verify the organization is qualified by the IRS (check the IRS website or Guidestar) and get the proper documentation and receipts. Profit sharing at the end of the year may help you qualify for special tax credits and breaks, so be sure to check into that if you’ve had a particularly good year.
Start stuff. If you set up a retirement plan (or make payments on one) before the end of December, you’re in luck. Maxing out contributions can reduce your total yearly income. You can also set up an HSA or Health Savings Account before 2014 and make a lump, year’s worth contribution tax-free. Business association fees and business education costs are tax deductible, so be sure to get those items finalized before the end of the year.
It’s a good time to sort through things and organize the office. Rally employees and make a mini-party out of it: order pizza, play some tunes, whatever works to motivate. Ditch stuff that doesn’t work and spruce up the décor. A clean and renewed office can bring a surge of energy and good spirit to the start of a new year.
4. Check in with your people
Offer employees an easy way to give year-end feedback. Whether you choose to have a city hall meeting or simply open the stage up electronically via email, checking in with employees can bring insightful feedback and inspiring tips. The open communication can help build your community and show appreciation, too.
Touch base with important clients, customers, and prospects. Make yourself known and give thanks where it’s due. Being open to feedback can build trust and initiate some big changes, ones that might help you keep steering your ship in the right direction.
5. Aim high and finish strong
After reviewing 2013, take the time to set up a list of goals for the new year. Set high standards to push yourself, and don’t be afraid to venture into places unknown. Try out a new campaign, a novel process, or cutting edge software. Write actionable goals with checklists, so that you can see your progress and know you’re getting somewhere.
This also isn’t a time to go softly into the shadows of yesteryear. Take on challenges and go out with a bang. We promise you won’t regret it.
Photo credit: mt 23