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Five tips for setting your small business up for success
• Feb. 16, 2024

If you’re a small business owner, chances are you want this year to be even more successful than the last. After all, continually evaluating your business plan, growth needs, and product or service offerings are key to helping your business remain viable – especially in a rapidly evolving economic environment.

So, what should a small business owner consider when it comes to taking stock of the past year that could help set their business up for success?

To learn more, we spoke to Peter Owusu, Regional Manager of Black Community Business Development at TD, about five things that small business owners should consider as they look to the year ahead.

Get your finances in order

No matter what type of small business you run, whether it’s a photography studio or retail store, an organized system for tracking finances is key. You want to know how much money you spent in 2023 on things such as overhead costs, salaries, and small business insurance, how much you earned in profits, and the payments you made for any outstanding loans or lines of credit.

One of the best places to start is by evaluating the financial health of your business, Owusu said.

“Getting your finances in order, making sure your record keeping and accounting is ready to go, is the very first piece of advice I'd give to a small business owner,” Owusu said.

Celebrate your recent wins and set goals for the future

"Small business owners are busy, and often don’t take time to celebrate their wins or milestones," Owusu said.

But reflecting on the past year and what accomplishments you’re most proud of not only helps you as a business owner, but can help staff members feel recognized, too. This is important for retaining talent, as helping employees feel valued is crucial to curbing attrition, Owusu said.

Once you’ve acknowledged your wins, and hopefully celebrated them with your team, it’s time to set some goals. Think about what you want to accomplish, what your metrics of success are, and how you can help improve or build upon a successful initiative, such as an event or campaign, for example. You can also use the information gleaned from the previous year to help plan ahead accordingly.

“Now that the year is done, you are able to look back and see what months were busier, what months were less busy, and how products or services sold in each month,” Owusu said. “Take all of that information and create a plan for how you're going to improve on the previous year."

This goal setting and planning process can help business owners build a roadmap for the upcoming year and engage the necessary stakeholders. Which brings us to…

Evaluate growth needs

Understanding what you thought your needs were going to be last year, and where you may need to still make improvements for the new year, can help you make strategic decisions as a business owner.

Maybe you need to hire more employees, or apply for a small business loan, or attract new customers, or delegate some tasks you were doing last year but no longer have the bandwidth to do as your business grows. Hiring tends to pick up after a holiday lull in mid-January through to spring, so be ready to attract job-seekers, Owusu said.

By having a sense of what needs you’ll have for the new year, you can also approach knowledgeable people you trust for advice. This could include your lender (e.g. bank), your accountant or bookkeeper, or your lawyer. Owusu said it’s important to have a conversation with all of them so they can best support your business needs throughout the fiscal year.

“When speaking with your bank, share what your plans are for this year; you don't have to talk about a specific project, but instead discuss your larger vision and goals,” he said.

“Then you can both come up with ways to help you get there. Your bank may have a product you didn't know about, or there could be a change to a product you already use that might be beneficial to you.”

And, importantly, understanding the general health of the economy and how something like a recession could impact your business is key. Seek advice from your small business account manager, if you have one, to help you prepare for possible hardships.

“No one has a crystal ball to see what's going to happen in the future, but do your best to be prepared to adjust and adapt to changing financial and economic situations.” Owusu said.

Consider what needs updating

Like most Canadians, small business owners are feeling the impact of inflation and the rising cost of living. That’s why it’s important to revisit pricing and see if your rates or fees need to be increased to better align with your business' overhead costs. You might also want to revisit your products or services and make decisions about what offerings are most relevant to your customers, and which might need to be adjusted or discontinued.

Setting yourself up for the future should also include reviewing your business website, mission statement, social media platforms and even your own personal social media accounts such as LinkedIn. Are your messages consistent throughout? Do you need to update any key information, such as operating hours or team bios? Take time to comb through all public-facing content so that your customers can get the best impression of your business that you can provide.

Book off vacation time

Business owners might feel like they can’t take time off work because they’re incredibly busy and are juggling many responsibilities at once. They might worry that their business could suffer if they take a vacation. But working non-stop is a recipe for burnout — which can affect mood, mental health and decision making. That’s why it’s important for businesses owners to actually plan to take some vacation time, Owusu said.

“Burnout can really affect business owners and their ability to run their businesses,” he said.

“Even planning your vacation can help reduce stress levels, because it gives you something to look forward to. So, if you can plan to take some time off, it can help your mental health.”


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