NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The leaves are falling, and the air has turned crisp: now is the time to make sure your small business also sees some crisp profits at the end of the year.
Fall is an essential time for small business owners to take a look at their entire business to ensure you are on the right track and don't have a hefty tax bill come 2014.
Here are some tips from small business owners and experts at what you should be paying attention to as the season changes:
- 1. Reduce your tax bill: "The last three months are critical for a small business," says Melinda West, president and CEO of Swags Galore. "Along with your sales goals, you need to balance out your expenses to avoid a major tax bill." To do that, West suggests reducing your profits by contributing more to your SEP or 401(K), reducing your inventory and making any capital improvements your business may need.
- 2. Mind the books: "If you haven't been paying close attention to your books, now is the time to get caught up," says Toffer Grant, president and CEO of PEX Card. "Analyze your spending habits from the past three quarters, and look for opportunities to cut wasteful spending as you finish out the year."
- 3. Eliminate time wasters: Grant also advises to take a look at yourself and your work habits. "Take a moment to write down the top five things that are sucking time out of your day and do some research on available technology solutions that can make these tasks more efficient," says Grant.
- 4. Review business goals: "First and foremost, business owners and management should evaluate their progress on reaching their goals," advises Brian Miller, COO of AdviCoach. "Once you have a feel for where the business stands, you need to make a few lists to help you narrow your focus for the remainder of the year." Miller says to start by making a list of the reasons you didn't achieve your goals. Next, make a list of things you can do that will have the greatest impact in the shortest period of time.
- 5. Review all of your employees' roles: Taking a look at your employees, where they are and where they might need to be (or whether they're still needed) is key at this time of the year, says Rick Crossland with ActionCOACH.
- 6. Review vendors and services: "Audit all recurring monthly expenses to determine if these services are still needed," says Carol Tice, author of The Pocket Small Business Owners Guide to Starting Your Business on a Shoestring. "If not, discontinue. If so, ask yourself if they could be cut."
- 7. Look at your sales strategy: It may seem like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how many business owners fail to look at the most basic pieces of your business, how you make sales. "Every business should be looking at their sales strategies and evaluating effectiveness," says Joel Freimuth, president of Blue Pearl Consulting. "Next, every business should be looking at their production and/or distribution costs."
- 8. Pay me: "Be diligent about collecting your own money," says Mike Hardesty, Hardesty Hackett & Partners. "Don't get soft on your A/R, especially this time of year. If it's tough collecting in October, just imagine what it will be like in December."
- 9. Know when you need help: Miller says when you've evaluated all of the components to your business, don't be afraid to admit if you need some help to get you where you need to be. "Consider hiring a freelancer to take on tasks that kept you from reaching your goals," Miller says.
- 10. Look ahead: Whether you're in good shape for the remainder of the year or have mapped out a plan to get you back on course, now is also the time to start planning for the new year. "Will you be adding to your staff or expanding your operations in the new year?" Grant said. "Begin mapping out the added costs so you can be prepared for them in the first quarter."
--Written by Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell for MainStreet