As the year draws to a close it’s important to take stock of what we have achieved during the year, and where we want to be this time next year, and beyond.

As small business owners it’s all too easy to let our businesses control us, rather than being in control of our businesses. Daily tasks and ‘emergencies’ sabotage our best-laid plans, ensuring we’re constantly busy, but not always with the most productive activities.

The New Year offers the opportunity for a fresh start – the chance to step back from the grindstone, and take time out to think strategically, rather than simply responding to whatever comes our way.

If you’re looking to take your business to the next level in 2016, here are 5 important steps to set you on the right path…

1. Understand your current situation
The first crucial step is to objectively assess where you are now. Be honest with yourself. Don’t just look at your gross monthly revenue, be sure to calculate your monthly profit, net of all costs (including tax). Which areas of your business are contributing most to your bottom line? Which areas are chipping away at your profits? Can you spot any opportunities to grow your revenue, and cut your costs? By taking time to analyse what’s working (and not working) now, you will be better placed to decide what direction you want to take the business in going forward.

2. Visualise where you want your business to be this time next year
If you don’t know where you are going then you certainly won’t be able to get there. In order to achieve business success you first have to define your vision of what ‘success’ means for your business. Is your primary goal to achieve a certain level of turnover/profit? A certain number of regular customers? To raise awareness of your company in your sector/local area? To open new outlets? Take on more staff? Sketch out your vision for your business in 12 months’ time, and then write some specific goals to reflect your priorities. Define in numbers what you are aiming for, and then use them to motivate yourself/your team, and to track your progress through the year.

3. Choose the strategic route that will take you there
Once you know the numbers you are aiming for, then you can work out the best way to achieve them. Think about who your most valuable customers are. How can you make sure you keep them? Where can you find more of them? Are there opportunities to cross-sell/up-sell different products or services to them? What do customers love about you? Can you give them more of this? What are your competition doing? Can you learn anything from them? What do you need to do to differentiate yourself and keep ahead? The answers will form the basis of your business strategy, and set you on the path to business growth.

4. Define the consistent actions that will deliver your goals
Starting the year with a burst of strategic planning is all well and good, but the truth is that the health of your business at the end of the year will accurately reflect how you have spent your average days and weeks during the year. Make sure your repeated actions are taking you in the direction you want to be heading. The cumulative effect of your daily and weekly activities play a bigger role in your success than occasional grand schemes. Work out which daily habits and disciplines will add up to your business success by the end of the year.

5. Commit to regular reviews
Arguably the most important step is to regularly review your progress against the goals you have set. This allows you to assess whether you are on track, and to pinpoint what is working well and what isn’t. It also gives you time to make any necessary adjustments to what you are doing as you go through the year, rather than leaving you a potential big hurdle to climb at the end of the year if things haven’t worked out as planned.

By investing just a couple of hours in ‘big picture’ thinking away from your business, you’ll be rewarded with greater clarity and a renewed sense of purpose on your return – setting you up for a highly successful 2016.

Don’t forget to submit your Self-Assessment Tax Return in plenty of time. If you get it done before Christmas you will free up the New Year to focus on your strategic business planning for 2016.

Contact us for more information about our accountancy and business planning services.

Bibbys are a friendly firm of Chartered Accountants based in Devon, helping individuals, entrepreneurs and business owners with all their accountancy, tax and business planning requirements. Contact us today for a free no obligation chat about how we can help you.