By Mark Stephen*
Is your business 'match-fit' for 2013?
With the summer holidays probably a distant memory for many, you may want to set aside some 'thinking time' and create a business plan for the year ahead.
Not only is this a great opportunity to reflect on 2012, it is also a chance to do some goal setting and establish a strategic plan.
Here are some questions that you may like to ask yourself during this reflection time.
These will help you pinpoint your strengths and enable you to identify areas for improvement in 2013.
What are your learnings from 2012?
Every year is full of ups and downs. As business owners know far too well, running a company is rarely smooth sailing.
However what is important is that you acknowledge strengths and identify weaknesses, and learn from both.
How should these strengths, trends and learnings be influencing your future decisions?
As your business grows and matures, you may have to change direction.
Successful business owners adapt to evolving markets.
Use your experience from 2012 to set realistic business objectives for the year ahead.
Have you shared these strengths, trends and learnings with others?
Make sure you share your reflections with the people that are critical to the success of your business, be they employees or other key contributors.
The support of these people is important.
They may also be able to bring some fresh ideas to the table.
What's happening in the wider marketplace?
Look to other businesses and see what is happening in the wider marketplace.
Learn from the mistakes and successes of competitors.
Identify trends and any possible implications these will bring to your business.
What are some potential threats, and what are some potential opportunities?
What are your customers saying?
If you really want to measure the success of your business, look to your customers.
Do you have a line of sight to their feedback? What are the insights from your customers (and those who you would like to be customers) and how is this informing the decisions you make?
Is it clear who your most valuable customers are and why (and do your staff know this)?
Most people are more than happy to share their opinion. An external perspective is incredibly valuable and can help you see things in a different light.
Establishing a financial plan for 2013
How is the financial health of your business?
The financial side of a business is often what keeps people awake at night.
Therefore it is important that you put some time into reviewing the financial health of your company and seeing if there is room for improvement.
Do you have your finger on the pulse?
Keeping track of your financial performance is essential to success. Do you have your finger on the pulse of the key financial ratios that are relevant to the health of your business?
Do you have a simple and effective process in place to regularly monitor the key financial aspects of your business; profitability and cashflow?
Do you use these ratios to monitor the performance of your business?
Do you have the cash available to meet your business objectives?
Managing the cash-in-cash-out part of running a business is arguably the most stressful. Do you know that you have the cash available to meet your objectives?
Do you manage your working capital effectively?
Do you have effective strategies to manage the working capital cycle of your business so that you have the cash available to meet your business objectives? Are your supplier payment terms appropriate or is there an opportunity to renegotiate? Is your Invoicing and Debtor Collection process timely and effective?
Have you made it as easy as possible for your customers to pay you on time?
Is it time to give your website a makeover?
It's no secret that in this day and age, websites are integral to the success of a business. Perhaps it is a good time to look at your business' website through a fresh pair of eyes.
You may want to enlist the input of others to provide feedback. What is the first thing potential new customers see?
Is it clear what your business offers, and why it should be considered?
Is the website easy to navigate around? How prominent are your best selling products/services? Is relevant contact information easy to find and is it up to date?
Looking ahead - what is your business plan for 2013?
After you have reflected on 2012, it is important that you turn these reflections into a robust plan for the year ahead.
What do you want to achieve in 2013? Have you written down your goals? Do you have the support (both monetary and emotionally) to see these goals through?
Do you have a financial plan in place?
Do you actually have a robust financial plan for your business for the next 12-24 months? Have you shared this with the people who have a role to play in making this happen?
What does success look like?
This is a big question. What does success look like for you? Are your goals in line with this image? How close are you from reaching success? If you are there, how can you maintain it?
How will you measure success?
When making goals it is important that you set measurable targets. Be clear on how you will track your progress. Break goals down into small tasks and review developments on a regular basis.
Are you match-fit?
Being match-fit for 2013 is about putting plans and processes in place that will help you have a prosperous year.
Have you got the balance right so that you can be the best that you can be and contribute to your business in the right way?
Taking time to reflect on your past experiences and plan for the future now may help you have a successful 2013.
Mark Stephen is the group manager of business banking at Kiwibank.