Many business owners try to make business predictions based on a hunch, what I like to call the “throwing spaghetti against the wall” approach. Instead of this type of vague planning, try instead this year to incorporate key data and analytics into your strategy and business planning. Why? Because your competitors are, and the fact is that within well-organized data lies the truth about your business. Take the time to learn the basics, or hire a consultant - or even a full-time data analytics professional that can take your business planning to the next level. 

Also, consider hiring a consultant who specializes in futurist topics. Many of these people are at the leading edge of thought in the fields of medicine, finance, technology, etc. Who’s to say that they couldn’t provide insight that could help lead your company down a wildly profitable path that you may never have thought of? Whether it’s an outside consultant or one of the country’s best futurist speakers, finding an expert with insights relevant to your business can go a long way. Whether it’s blockchain, the Internet of Things, dynamic ads, or something else entirely, expertise in a sector you want to capitalize on can give your brand a powerful edge moving forward.

Digital Possibilities 

It’s understood that more and more business is done digitally. You might think that advertising online or website work is the primary avenue for digital work, but there is quite a bit more than an employer can do to benefit from digital opportunities.  For example, you might have people who work full-time but the work they do might just as easily be accomplished online. More than two-thirds of managers report an increase in productivity from remote workers, making telecommuting an increasingly popular option for business owners, which can help them save money on office overhead as well. One of the most helpful technologies for seamless remote work is videoconferencing. Live video conferencing can help out-of-office workers see and speak to one another in real-time, anywhere they are, and significantly cut travel costs for employers. If your company is small (up to 5 employees) instead of renting an office, you could consider getting yourself a coworking office space. It’s much cheaper than leasing out retail office space. Anything from accounting to marketing could almost certainly be streamlined using a digital platform, so how is your company preparing?

Go Green 

Replace whatever is possible in your office to a sustainable, recycling, energy-saving, and eco-friendly. Environmentalism is a trend right now, and more than 70% of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products and services. And it’s not only about clients. A more energy-efficient office can also slash power bills. Recycle everything is possible in your office because almost every product we buy has an environmental footprint and could end up in a landfill. And if you buy something that’s not environment-friendly, think twice about if you really need it. Use your purchasing power and make sure your money is going towards positive change. By supporting eco-friendly products which are less damaging to the environment, you’re encouraging companies to source and produce their products in a sustainable way.

Reports, reports, reports

Most financial reporting and dividend payments are done quarterly. Follow the standard quarters’ calendar to do all accounting reporting on time:

Q1: January, February, and March

Q2: April, May, and June

Q3: July, August, and September

Q4: October, November, and December

You have to understand the importance of fiscal quarters for your business planning and compare the current quarter to the same quarter the previous year. Many companies are seasonal which would make a comparison over sequential quarters misleading: a retail company could earn half their annual profits in the fourth quarter while a construction company does most of its business in the first three quarters. In this situation, comparing the first quarter results for a department store to their performance during the fourth quarter would indicate an alarming drop in sales.

A publicly-traded company must also file an annual report, which summarizes the first three quarters and reports on the fourth quarter. The annual report will often include more detailed information than the quarterly reports including an audit statement, presentations, and additional disclosures. Besides quarterly, use your monthly reports to keep track of progress for your business, and steer your team’s focus to ensure you accomplish what you set out to do. 

Review the Past Year & Set Your Goals for Next Year

And lastly, ask everyone on your team for the top two or three things that went well in their department over the course of the last year and what 2 to 3 things they would change or do differently. Review the successes of your team across the whole year. This gives you the momentum to take into your discussion for next year. Decide on one to three overarching goals for next year. Remember, completion of these goals should be a clear indication that you're getting closer to achieving your vision. Maybe there's a financial goal, perhaps market share, potentially customer satisfaction. In general, goals with quantitative measures are easier to track and therefore more achievable. For example, a "50% repeat customer ratio" as a goal is easier to measure and track than "deliver good customer service.'