The end of the year can be a trying time for small business owners, as there are challenges unique to Q4. From financial to-dos to holiday schedules, it’s natural for business owners to feel overwhelmed. So, while the holiday season is a time to be thankful and generous, it’s also time to face challenges head-on.
Read on for a few road bumps you can expect as a business owner. We hope this compiled list helps so that you aren’t caught off guard during the most wonderful time of the year!
While this is especially important for industries that employ hourly workers (think retail, restaurants, and hospitality), it also applies to managing an office. Depending on your business, you generally can’t have an entire department taking off at once! Waiting until you’re already overwhelmed with time-off requests is certainly a misstep.
The first decision you need to make is what days you’ll be open and which days are considered PTO. There are a few standard ones, but this can change depending on what industry you’re in. Then you will need to reconcile those days with your employee's schedules to ensure you have enough coverage at the business. This (along with other factors) can help you decide if you need to hire seasonal workers or make other accommodations for extra responsibilities that may arise in Q4.
Finally, don’t forget to schedule time off for yourself! It can be a stressful time of year as a business owner. The further in advance you can plan, the more likely the chances you’ll be able to actually relax when you’re not at work.
It’s easy to push certain things off until the holiday madness has subsided. Unfortunately, that can make for an extra stressful Q1 the next year. Preparing for tax season can be one of those pesky tasks that you should tackle in Q4. Since you have to provide your employees with their W-2 forms by January 31st. 2020, it’s a good idea to start the process in December. Additionally, you’ll need to determine if you used a contractor for anything in 2019 and get the correct forms ready for them as well.
Another thing to start thinking about is tax deductions. Have you traveled for work or updated your website? These could be legitimate write-offs on your taxes next year. Start looking into these and gather information now so when it’s time to do taxes next year, you’re ready.
Make sure you have an appropriate amount of inventory on hand before the holiday rush starts! Nothing is worse than running out of something essential (receipt paper, a popular clothing item, coffee at the office) that you need to operate successfully. Look at data from last year if it’s available to help guide your ordering.
If this is your first year, make sure you track it for next year. It can be helpful to use a point of sale (POS) system to help track inventory if you are moving a lot of product. Additionally, make sure you have a quick delivery service on hand in case the office runs out of cold brew.
This is the perfect time to review the goals you set last year to see if you met them. You can use this evaluation to help guide your goals for next year. Do you need to tweak your growth plan? Maybe you want to become more active on social media. Take a deep breath and really map out your goals and how to achieve them so when the new year hits, you have a clear path to take.
While you evaluate your goals, why not take a look at any technology you’re using to assess how effective it is? Chat with employees to see if your project management system is helpful or just time-consuming. Determine if you are you getting the proper customer support from your technology vendors. If not, it might be time to find a new solution. This is also an excellent time to touch base with your vendors to see if they have released new features and set up a product demonstration.
Let’s be real — the business world can be hectic and full of twists and turns. You could do all the planning in the world and still be caught off guard by a curveball. This is especially true in Q4, when a lot of your decisions in the previous quarters come home to roost. You might find yourself facing down changes you never expected.
Change is scary, we know, but you shouldn’t let that fear overtake you. Remember that it took bravery to take your first step as a business owner, and leverage that bravery again. Change doesn’t have to mean the end, after all.
Are you a sole proprietor working under a DBA, but have had a surprisingly successful year? Maybe it’s time to think about “upgrading” to an LLC and taking advantage of the latter’s unique perks. You can set yourself up for an even more successful year when the next Q1 begins.
Of course, sometimes change can lead you down paths you didn’t want to take. According to the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA), 30% of new businesses fail before year two. Sometimes that’s just the hand fate deals. But remember that you don’t have to be afraid of change.
If your business is not doing well and you’re considering dissolution, remember that even this process can have its benefits. It can be a way to start anew, go back to the drawing board, and come out of the experience with a stronger business idea or plan. You’ll be able to look at things with fresh eyes.
You’ll also end up saving money. The government only recognizes that a business is shut down if it goes through the formal dissolution process. Otherwise, they’ll think it’s still operational, and owners will be on the hook for any taxes, fees, and required paperwork. Better to start the process in Q4 and avoid wracking up any more debt.
No doubt, Q4 can be one of the busiest times of the year. But with proper planning, you can avoid these missteps, prepare for next year, and get through the holidays without extra stress.
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