More Profits: Month by Month

Here’s a one-step-at-a-time approach to improving the management of your money, your business, and your life in the year ahead.

More Profits: Month by Month

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A new year is upon us. What better time than now to map out the next steps your business can take to better manage its revenues, expenses, profits and cash flow?

Of course that can involve many tasks and take you in so many directions that you can be easily overwhelmed. So make it easy for yourself. As the Old Testament scribe said, “To everything there is a season.” Here’s a month-by-month game plan to help keep your business on a smooth course. It should help you earn more money, keep more of what you earn, and manage what you keep more effectively.



Get your taxes together. Make sure your receipts and expenses are properly organized and sorted. Here’s hoping you don’t just stuff everything into shoeboxes during the year, but if you do, at least separate them into meaningful categories that can save your accountant hours or days, and save you hundreds of dollars on your tax-preparation bill. If your accounting professional provides a year-end worksheet to fill out, get to that right away.



Just in time for Valentine’s Day, love your customers. Take some time to drum up strategies that can woo the people without whom you wouldn’t have any business at all. Can you set up a preferred customer discount system? Or offer low-cost services that you can deliver cheaply, impressing your customers with your service quality while keeping you top-of-mind when they need a solution later?



Spring cleaning. Take a good look around your business — physical store and equipment — and the financial books that tell the story of your business on paper. What can you clean out in the form of unnecessary expenses, underperforming assets, or unprofitable lines of work that have no role in your long-term success?



File your taxes. As you review your final returns, strategize for ways to bring your tax bill down next year. Schedule some time with the professional who prepared your final documents and solicit his or her advice. (You’ll probably want to wait until after April 15, so your accountant can catch up on sleep!)



Plant your garden. People who grow their own tomatoes get the seeds in by Memorial Day. This month, borrow a habit from them and think about ways you can grow new, nourishing lines of business. Can you open up an under-served territory or product category? Add on an innovative new service for existing customers? What seeds can you sow that will let you reap profits in the future?



In the traditional month for weddings, think about possible partnerships. Can you team up with someone — an allied business, a supplier, even a competitor — who can help enhance your operations?



It’s time for summer reading — not just spy thrillers or scandalous best-sellers, but books about business and financial strategy. Find at least one good one and take the time to read and learn from it. Be selective — there’s a lot of nonsense between some hard covers. Rely on your local library as a way to skim potential selections, so you can decide which books might be worth buying.



You need a vacation. When was the last time you took one? Too many business owners never leave time to relax and recharge, and that can cost them in their business or personal lives. Of course, to vacation successfully means planning for while you’re gone, so make sure you have a backup team you can trust to run things smoothly. Then, go pitch a tent, or head to the beach, or pick up a fishing rod, or just let yourself loaf.



It’s back-to-school time. Look around your community for inexpensive resources — like the community college or state university-based small business development center — where you can build your own and your employees’ skills in the financial side of your business. Constant learning is a must in these uncertain economic times, and any time.



The tradition of Halloween, some say, is one way we learn to face our fears. You can bring that same spirit to your business. What is it about your business that scares you the most? Just as your youngster learns to master the heebie-jeebies by trick-or-treating amid the ghouls and goblins, you can face up to fears holding you or your business back from greater success.



Thank your customers, and your employees, too. Without either of them, your business wouldn’t exist. Make sure they know that you appreciate them. And, of course, a Black Friday sale doesn’t hurt, either.



In the season for giving, give back. First, how can your business give back to your community? Perhaps you can offer your employees volunteer time off to spend helping out at the local homeless shelter, or establishing a training program in your trade for underprivileged youth. But give back to yourself, as well. Look back on the year just passed, and think about what you can give to your business to enrich the year ahead.

So there it is: a 12-month calendar to help you run your business better. There’s no magic to the order outlined here. And you might come up with other equally worthwhile tasks more suitable to your needs. The important thing is to give yourself some structure. Managing your money, business or personal, is a big job. Taking it a season at a time can help make it less overwhelming, and more rewarding, too.


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