The Back Burner List: Start purging before the year winds down

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If you’re like most business owners, you’ve got a huge list of “to-dos” that stay perpetually on the back burner. Purge that list before the year winds down and you will be surprised how much more smoothly your company will run next year. Here’s a list of items that every business owner should tackle by year’s end.

Review all your systems. Care-fully examine what is working, what isn’t, where the problems are and what can be fixed. Don’t assume that because you have had a certain system in place from day one that it is adding value to your business or your customers. Consider upgrades and be sure that everyone gets the appropriate training on any new technology.

Review all vendor contracts. How much business you are doing with each vendor? Are you getting optimum pricing based on how much you are working together? Is the relationship mutually beneficial? If not, don’t be afraid to make a change. If you’re happy with your vendors, take the time to tell them so.

Know your best customers are. Examine all your customers through a profitability lens. Just because you always seem to be doing something for certain customers doesn’t mean they’re the most profitable. Your needy customers and your most profitable customers are two different groups. Treat all customers well, but when you find out who your best ones are, give them the VIP treatment; be sure to tell them you appreciate their business and ask if there is anything you can improve on or do differently to help them grow their businesses.

Conduct performance reviews. Discuss with your employees what they can do to help the company run more smoothly. Take the opportunity to find out what they feel most passionate about in their work and whether there is another part of the business in which they’d like to play a larger role.

Engage employees as partners. The best people to help you solve problems, particularly those involving customers, are the ones who experience them on a daily basis. Your employees are a (possibly untapped) wellspring of ideas on how you can make your customers happier. Hold an end-of-the-year forum to get them to share those ideas.

Spring clean! Get rid of what you don’t need and what no longer works. Chances are you and your employees will be happier and more productive. Determine what you can do to make the outside of your building look nicer. I firmly believe that our external environments influence our mental processes.

Review marketing campaign. Determine which marketing efforts are driving business and which are not. Don’t hesitate to make changes if you think your current efforts aren’t paying off. Since a lot of ads automatically renew, make changes before you’re committed to another year.

Overhaul your Web site. Make changes to your Web site to keep people coming back. Make sure all information is updated and post any articles that recently mentioned your work. Set your company’s Web site as the home page on your browser. It serves as a great constant reminder that you need to keep making updates and improvements.

Check your business cards. Make sure all of the information is current and that the layout, colors and design match those of your Web site and other stationery.

Review magazine subscriptions. Cancel subscriptions that aren’t valuable to you. It will help you save money and keep your office tidy.

Review insurance policies. Tak-ing the time to make sure you have adequate coverage could save you a lot of money down the line. This is especially important if changes that affect your  liability have taken place in your company during the past year.

Update your minutes books. If you ever face a legal problem, the first thing your attorney will want to do is take a look at your minutes books. If your books are already updated, it will help you get your legal case off to a good start and will allow your attorney to focus on the important details of the case.

Meet with your accountant. Meet with your accountant to plan your taxes. Discuss with your accountant what you should do with excess cash and take a look at anything you can write off.   

Ty Freyvogel is the founder of MakingSenseOfYOurBusiness.com.