Yes, you read that correctly… 2013.

Now that September is in full swing, most business owners know that this year is virtually over.  If you don’t already have a strategy for the holiday season and a roadmap of what you will be doing for the fourth quarter then you are really behind the eight ball.

For those of you who understand the importance of business planning, which is not the same as writing a business plan, you know that now is the time to start making some assessments about what your business is going to need in 2013.  This is the time of the year to start reflecting on what you have achieved in 2012, what you wish you could have or should have done differently and to start creating some goals for next year.

“Why so soon?” some of you may be asking…

Business planning takes time.  It should not be something that you jump up today and say, “I want to add a new product to my mix” or “I want to start offering xyz service”.  If you are going to make changes to your business then you need to think about how those changes will be integrated with your current offering.  You need to have an idea of how it will generate revenue, if it will be  profitable and how you will market to your customers.

What are some things to consider when planning for 2013?

  1. Human Resource needs – Do you need to add or remove any team members?  Are there roles that need to be redefined in order to make your business more efficient?  Are there resources such as a policy manual or code of conduct that need to be drafted?  The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to put such changes in effect because it allows you to start the new year fresh and with a clean slate.  Rather than hastily try to implement these changes during the holidays which for most of us will either be extremely busy or our downtime; spend the next few months crafting your plan and be prepared to execute on January 1, 2013
  2. Marketing Strategy – I know you did some things really well this year in terms of getting the word out about your business but I am sure there are some things that you wish you had done better.  Take an honest look at your marketing plan from 2012, the strategies that you were able to execute and contrast them with the results.  Where did most of your business come from in 2012?  Is this consistent with where your marketing efforts were focused?  The answer to those two questions should give you some idea of what you can do to improve next year as well as what you should continue and/or ramp up.  It’s great to create a laundry list of things we would like to do to promote our business but we have to be realistic and focus on the things that are generating revenue and building our brand.
  3. Cash Flow Projections – You should be tracking your monthly cash flow so that you know exactly how much money is coming in to your business and going out each month.  Based on that information, you should be able to identify some trends.  Which months were more robust?  Which months were slower? Which months did you spend more money? Which months did you spend less?  Take those numbers and create some projections for 2013.  Consider some things that you can do to increase revenue during the months that sales were low (take into consideration that the strategy should be implemented at least one to two months prior to the month that you want to see results).  Cash flow projections differ from budgets because they are usually drafted on a month by month basis.  Your revenue and expenses are probably not consistent each month and you should be aware of those trends.
  4. Networking – There were a lot of events that I wanted to attend this year.  I was able to attend some and missed quite a few.  Each year, I create a wish list of conferences and events to attend along with a budget of how much it will cost including registration, hotel, travel and entertainment/food.  As the event draws near, I assess my budget to see if it is feasible for me to attend.  In some cases, it is not but in many cases it is.  Having this type of plan for 2013 will help you to  assess the opportunities in advance rather than waiting until the last-minute and wasting money on an advance registration to an event that you may not be able to attend or attempting to spend money that you don’t have.  Make sure you have identified at least three organizations that you want to be involved with – whether locally or nationally – and focus your efforts on building relationships within those groups rather than trying to be all over the place and not cultivating any relationships.  Networking offline is vital to the success of your business.  Many people want to put a face with a brand.
  5. Processes and Systems – Take a step back and look at how your business is operating.  What are some things that you can do to become efficient?  Do you need a scheduling assistant to better manage your  time?  Do you need to spend more or less time on social media?  Do you need a better system to manage your leads?  Whatever those things are, you should spend the next few months making some assessments and then creating a strategy for implementation.  This includes adding or subtracting products/services.  Create a timeline of the product/service roll out and make sure that it is consistent with your marketing and cash flow projections while ensuring that you have the team members available to make it a success.

The end of September marks the end of the third quarter of 2012.  At this point, you should be preparing to implement your fourth quarter strategy and creating a plan for 2013.  If you feel overwhelmed or as if you need some help, contact me for a complimentary consultation to help get your business on track in 2013.