For many small businesses, the calendar year is also their fiscal year. As we approach the new fiscal year, it’s not too late to complete any essential tasks, assess what’s working and what’s not, and implement the necessary changes.

Of course, assessment does not have to lead to change. If you’re doing something that’s working, great! If there are gaps that need to be filled, holes that need to be plugged, and weaknesses that need to be shored up, it’s important to develop a plan for improvement rather than doing what you’ve always done.

Yes, we’re already knee-deep in December but you still have time to take these steps and build a stronger foundation for 2024!

1) Close out the books for 2023.

This may seem a little obvious, but you need to wrap up the period that is ending before you can move to the next one. From a practical perspective, this step must be completed so you can have your taxes done.

From a strategic perspective, this is a great time to sit down with your business advisor and discuss the story that these numbers are telling. What went well? How did your company perform compared to what you had planned? Did your budget align with the actual numbers?

2) Finalize your budget for next year.

Apply what you’ve learned from this year’s budget and performance to inform next year’s budget.

What are your planned sales? Do you need to review your pricing? Do you need to review your product or service offerings?

What are your planned expenses? Do you need to account for new expenses based on what you’re planning to continue doing or any changes you plan to implement? For example, new software or equipment, a new marketing strategy, and labor-related changes (hiring, outsourcing, switching vendors, etc.) will likely affect your expenses.

3) Implement your new payroll software on January 1.

If you’re planning to use new payroll software, an effective date of January 1 is strongly advised. Migrate all data from your existing payroll platform into the new system in advance. This will enable a seamless transition and a clean start for data reporting and any changes in employee headcount for next year.

4) Check in with your clients.

Perhaps the most valuable but underutilized source of business intelligence and insights is your client base. Pick up the phone, meet with your clients in person, or schedule a video conference. Find out if you’re meeting their needs. Ask if they expect their needs to change in the coming year. Assess how you service your clients and identify areas of improvement.

If your company uses engagement letters, review the scope of products and services you provide each client, review all costs involved, and send those engagement letters to your clients before the end of the year if possible.

As you gear up for 2023, I recommend a deliberate, logical approach to assessing where you are, where you want to go, and what must be done to support your goals. Remember, it’s not too late to take a closer look at insights from 2023 and apply what you learn in a strategic way to make 2024 successful!