While you’re trying to keep the usual New Year resolutions to eat and drink less and exercise more, what about making a resolution to get your business in better shape?
It’s not just waistlines that tend to blow out as the year ends with a month of celebration, parties and indulgence. Many SMEs also start losing form as paperwork gets sloppy and invoices and bills are delayed or unpaid due to the Christmas rush.
Invoice2go recently conducted an independent study of over 500 Australian SMEs. It indicated the December holiday period was one of the busiest times of the year for half of Australian SMEs, so it’s no wonder that things become disorganised. A quarter of SMEs said they felt guilty about taking time off over the holidays and even more were worried about the impact it would have on their business.
Now that January has arrived, many of us are still in holiday mode. While you might not want to be hunched over your desk with a calculator and spreadsheets, doing your admin, January is the perfect time to turn over a new page and set the foundations for a successful year.
It makes sense to take advantage of the summer downtime to get your business back in shape. Here are seven New Year business resolutions to start 2016 with a clean slate.
1. Start early
January is often a quiet time for Australian businesses. Many people are on holiday and it’s a very relaxed month. That’s why it’s such a great time to get things in order and deal with your 2015 backlog.
You don’t even have to go into the office if staff are off: grab a laptop and work from the comfort of your own home. Even working part-time may be enough to get your business in shape by Australia Day, when everything starts moving again.
2. Set new goals
It’s a new year, bringing new opportunities, new ideas, and hopefully new customers. Now is a great time to reassess your successes and failures of the previous year so you can set new, challenging but achievable goals for your business in 2016.
3. Chase your debts and get savvy about invoicing
According to a recent study, businesses are owed on average $13,200 at any given time. This is often spread across many customers and suppliers, with most SMEs sending several invoices per week. Even a great business can be brought to its knees by bad debt and cash flow issues, so you need to be on top of your invoicing.
The volume of invoices you send may be a lot to chase up, even if you remember to set reminders. But apps and software that streamline invoicing can help. Research demonstrates that SMBs using solutions like Invoice2go have less than half the above amount outstanding ($6296).
4. Balance your books
Over the holiday period, a lot of invoices become overdue and you may have postponed (or simply forgotten) paying bills of your own. Some of the most common problems are paper-based bookkeeping or cumbersome and disorganised Excel spreadsheets that business owners struggle to evolve as their business grows.
Switching to apps or a digital platform can relieve a world of pain, especially for smaller businesses that don’t have the resources to hire an accounts department. Simple tech solutions can simplify admin processes, allowing you to see in an instant where you stand: what payments are due and when, and what’s overdue. Interestingly, data indicates that more than two thirds of small businesses owners using productivity technology were up to date with admin before the end of 2015.
5. Review your processes
As your business grows, systems that worked in the first weeks and months may cause problems later. This is particularly true of manual tasks and it can really start slowing you down.
Work out what percentage of your time you spent on each business activity last year and how your time might best be employed this year. Perhaps you need to focus more on marketing or partnerships and should enlist the help of freelancers from websites like Upwork to do some of the tasks you don’t need to do yourself.
6. Sort your tax out
January means that half the financial year is already gone: it’s only six months to the end of the financial year. The more organised you are throughout the year, the easier that process will be. Along with all your other required reporting such as BAS (business activity statements) and Pay-As-You-Go.
Receipts, tax records generally need to be kept for five years in Australia, meaning an old shoebox won’t suffice as a storage solution. Capture each receipt as you go with an app so you never have to deal with lost, faded or missing receipts at the end of the year. Storing everything digitally takes less space and makes it easier for find specific receipts in future.
7. Take time out
Work/life balance is one thing but we all need balance within the office as well. Very few people can stay productive while keeping their nose to the grindstone for hours on end.
To fix this, avoid working through lunch even if you feel like you’ll never get through the day’s tasks. A short break – whether a workout, lunchtime walk, 15-minute meditation or power nap – can revolutionise your performance and mental acuity for the rest of the day. Just “taking a breather” – to read a business magazine, or listen to a webcast – can give you new insight into a problem you were struggling with in the morning, helping you solve it by the afternoon.
These seven steps can really put your business on a new course for 2016.
Chris Strode is the founder of invoicing app, Invoice2go.