Congratulations: you’ve made it through another Black Friday, and you’re hurtling into another holiday season with gusto. Through all the excitement of holiday sales, don’t forget that the first quarter of the new year is coming up. Q1 is a great opportunity for businesses to take a careful look at where they’ve been over the last year, and decide where they want to be at this time next year.
But planning ahead can be stressful if you don’t know where you’re going or how you’re going to get there. Take some time this December to figure out what your game plan is going to be come January. Not sure where to start? Here are some tips:
Look at Q4 Finances (and the Year)
It’s hard to decide what you want to accomplish next year if you don’t know what you’ve accomplished last year. Pull financial reports for Q4 to make short-term comparisons, or for the entire year for long-term comparisons. This will give you a quick idea of any areas where you need to make financial improvement, or areas where you’re already excelling. See what your growth rate was over that period, and decide how much more you want to grow next year.
Perform SWOT Analysis
What’s a SWOT analysis? The acronym stands for “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.” It’s a non-quantifiable way to look at your business performance and figure out what needs to change.
Draw a matrix of 4 squares, and title each of them appropriately. Then, start filling in each quadrant accordingly. Examples might include:
- Strengths: Great customer service
- Weaknesses: Sales were down this quarter
- Opportunities: Access to a new supplier with better-quality product
- Threats: Poor cash flow
Connect the dots and see what you can come up with. In this example, you might see that your threat (poor cash flow) is a result of your weakness (low sales). You need to address the weakness to eliminate the threat, so you take advantage of an opportunity (new supplier) and leverage your strength (good customer service) to push sales of the new product. This increases your sales and maximizes your cash flow. See how easy that was?
Of course, don’t limit yourself to one item per quadrant. Write down whatever comes to mind, even if it means you end up with a long list. Sometimes having many strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in front of you can jog the thought process you need to start Q1 the right way. You’ve already done a financial comparison, so take your time identifying other areas of improvement.
Set SMART Goals
Based on your financial analysis and your SWOT analysis, identify goals that you can meet over the next year. Make sure that they are realistic goals that you can feasibly accomplish, so you’re not setting yourself up for failure.
It’s a good idea to “nest” goals, so that you have small milestone goals that build up to larger end-game goals. For instance, it’s reasonable to expect to accomplish “sell 100 more products per day” or even “increase sales by $80,000 per month.” It’s not easy to even know where to begin when your only goal is “increase cash flow by $500,000 this quarter.”
Stretch goals lead to success, so start small and set yourself up for success. Tweak your sub-goals as needed to make sure that you can achieve each one successively, and that each goal you accomplish builds toward achieving a larger goal.
Generate an Action Plan
Here’s the hard part: actually putting those goals to work. But even generating an action plan doesn’t have to be stressful. It’s as simple as looking at tasks that you need to do in order to accomplish each goal.
For instance, if one of your goals is “sell 100 of our new product daily”, your action plan for that goal might look like:
- Train customer service personnel on the new product
- Produce high-quality branding for the new product
- Launch a paid social media marketing campaign for the product
- Target online shoppers who fall into your target buyer profile
If you have a lot of goals that don’t nest, you might find yourself with a different action plan for each one… leaving you with a dozen action plans and feeling overwhelmed this Q1. Avoid that by choosing goals that support each other, so you can create one, cohesive action plan that builds success and is manageable to accomplish.
While creating your action plan, don’t forget to delegate tasks. It’s overwhelming to tackle every item on the list yourself, and as a small business owner, you’re likely used to handling it all yourself. However, if you can outsource some of that work, either to employees or to contractors, you can free yourself up to monitor the big picture and make sure that you’re progressing the way you want through Q1 and the new year.
Fund Your Goals
As you look at your new action plan, you’re likely to notice one commonality between all of the different tasks: most of them require a financial investment to accomplish.
Don’t despair, even if your goal is to increase cash flow and you see 10 action items that all require funding. A business loan is exactly what you need to increase your operating capital in the short term and ensure that you can afford to meet your goals this year.
Talk to Mulligan Funding about your options:
- Business lines of credit are an excellent choice for long-term action plans where you know that you’ll need to access capital many times in a short period. You only pay fees on what you access, and you get the benefit of a flexible credit line that you can rely on even when unexpected roadblocks delay your Q1 plans.
- Working capital loans give you short-term funding that you can use for expansions, growth, renovations, and other purposes. You repay these loans with small, manageable daily repayments, ensuring that they don’t cause a financial burden when you’re trying to set up your quarter for success.
When you work with Mulligan Funding to achieve your goals, you’re paired with a financial expert who knows the ins and outs of business finance. We want to see you blow every goal out of the water, so we’ll never loan you more than you can repay: your business financing should be a solution, not a burden.
Moving into a new financial quarter is a time of excitement, not a time for stress. No matter what your business goals are for Q1, you can accomplish them stress-free with a methodical approach and the right funding solution.
Call Mulligan Funding at 855-326-3564 to discuss your financing options today!