Revise Your Business Plan Before Year’s End

At Writing It Right For You, we work primarily with small businesses or the marketing departments of larger businesses. We realize that the recommendations of this post may not be relevant to large enterprise operations.

It’s almost the end of the year. It’s the holiday season. You’re busier than usual. We get it, we really do. But before the clock strikes 12 on December 31, you should add one more important task to your end-of-the-year list: revising your business plan: what happened in the previous and what needs to change in the next year.

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Your business plan was never meant to be a static, one-time document. Instead your business plan is a road map that you should use continuously to ensure that your business stays on track with your goals and objectives. Ideally, you should review your business plan at least quarterly—especially the marketing plan and financial forecasts. But at the end of the year, it is important to review and revise your entire business plan because things have definitely happened in the current year that will impact what you do in the upcoming year.

Set aside several hours before you close down for the year to do a comprehensive review of your business plan so that by the time the new year rolls around, you will be refocused, have new and/or revised priorities, and success plans and metrics in place.

  • Begin with your “wins.” What went well this year? What goals did you meet? What new initiatives actually worked? What a physical and psychological list of all of the positives first, and then you’ll be better able to deal with the inevitable elements that didn’t go so well.
  • Revisit your SWOT analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Be honest. It’s better to know that not know what challenges you may face in the new year and the tools and processes you already have or need to have in place.
  • Revise your cash flow projections month-by-month. Look back at the current year, check with your accountant, gather your figures, and complete an in-depth analysis.
  • What were your key marketing initiatives? Do you have an ROI estimate. Which can be changed or replaced?
  • Review your pricing structure? Is it time to adjust or even raise your prices? What products or service offerings were the “best sellers” in the past year?
  • Is it time to upgrade and update your hardware and software? Technology changes so quickly; during your business plan review, make sure to look at your office setup to make sure that it will meet your needs for the upcoming year.
  • Lastly, look at your human resources. Do you have employees or contractors? Are all contracts and payments up to date? Are any changes or adjustments necessary?

By reviewing the current year and preparing for the upcoming year before the end of December, you can really celebrate the holidays knowing that you and your company will be ready for business on the first day of the new year.

Apps I Use: Dropbox

sharebox_transparentAdoption of “the cloud” for data storage and retrieval has come a long way since the 1960s, when J.C.R. Licklider, one of the scientists and developers of ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) introduced the idea of an “intergalactic computer network” in 1969. By the 1990s, enterprise companies such as Salesforce popularized the delivery of applications via the internet, and in the early 21st century, companies such as Amazon and Google began offering online storage capabilities to large business organizations.

Online computing continued to mature and evolve into what is known as “Web 2.0.” Although there are still concerns about data security, more and more individuals and businesses have become comfortable with storing their data in the cloud instead of or in addition to local hard drives and other external storage options.

Dropbox has emerged as one of the most-used cloud storage and file sharing companies since its inception in 2008, although today there are several other well-known companies offering the same or similar services, with iCloud, Google Drive, and Box all replacing the ubiquitous portable flash drive for managing your files.

As a freelance business owner, I long ago made the switch from PCs and Windows to Macs and the Apple OS and iOS platforms. Because the majority of my work with my clients and with my assistants is shared electronically, I have found Dropbox to be my preferred storage and file sharing application. I do not have to worry about whether my clients use PCs or Macs, nor is it a requirement that my clients have iWorks (for Apple) or a Google account (to use Google Drive), as Dropbox works seamlessly on all computer platforms and on all devices, tablets, and smartphones.

cloud-db-platformsAll of my files (including pictures on my computers and devices) can be backed up into my Dropbox, real-time syncing happens in the background, and the encryption and security of my files is as high-level as can be expected for a commercial application. One of the Dropbox features I use most is the sharing of Dropbox folders with my assistants and my clients. By giving various levels of sharing capabilities to selected people, the files in specific folders can be shared immediately. Possibly as a response to the collaborative features of Google Docs (and now also MS Word), Dropbox recently starting offering collaboration capabilities to files stored in Dropbox.

Dropbox has several plans with different levels of features, including a free version that is a good starting point for many people. You can get additional GB of storage for free if you get others to sign up for Dropbox; that is how I now have 1 TB of Dropbox storage although I only pay for a 100GB Dropbox Pro account.

When relevant, I also use iCloud and Google Drive frequently, but Dropbox is my primary cloud file sharing and cloud storage application.

Working with Independent Contractors

In today’s globalized world, freelance work has become an important part of small businesses. Freelancers don’t join the company’s workforce and in most cases don’t even work at the same location as the other employees. Usually the relationship they constitute with businesses is that of an independent contractor.

An independent contractor can provide diverse services such as web design, programming, copywriting, consulting services, basically any kind of work. However, managing this type of business relationship has its own particularities since you won’t have direct supervision over the person providing the service nor will you be able to tell him how he should perform it. When hiring an independent contractor you will be able to determine what you want to get done but the contractor will be the one to determine how he will get it done. There’s always a negotiation part, but in the end, the final agreement and conditions will mostly depend on the flexibility of the contractor to adapt to your requirements.

One of the first things that happen after selecting an independent contractor to do the tasks or projects you need is entering into a written agreement. This document should contain the obligations that both parties will have throughout the length of the relationship. This agreement should state and be labeled as an “Independent Contractor Agreement”, making clear that it doesn’t intend to create an employee-employer relationship. Some of the basic fields it should contain are the services the contractor will provide, due dates for specific projects or tasks, how and when the payment should happen, if you will be billed hourly or will pay a flat rate, among other things.

Lets briefly discuss what some of the main differences between working with an independent contractor and an employee are:

  • How you pay and report taxes to the IRS: According to the IRS, a person is an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done. These individuals are subject to Self-Employment Tax. Self-employed individuals are subject of income tax as well as self-employment tax (Social Security and Medicare tax). Taxes are paid quarterly and an annual return has to be filed as well, however, no payroll taxes will be deducted from the money you get paid. On the other hand, employers have to deposit and report employment taxes and report at the end of the year wages and other compensations paid to the employee. Also, employers have the obligation to withhold from employee’s wages federal income tax and a part of social security and Medicare taxes (the employer pays a matching amount) and deposit it.
  • Working hours: While employees usually go to work at set hours, contractors set their own hours and make their own schedule.
  • Payment: Employees receive their wages on specific dates and in regular amounts. They are entitled to be reimbursed for business expenses or get paid for extra hours. Contractors need to determine how they’ll get paid, when and if expenses are part of the contract, or if the company will pay them separately. However, once the payment terms (as part of the final contract) are mutually agreed upon, contractors expect that the company will also pay them on time, so that they can pay their bills and expenses–including insurance, etc.–on time.
  • Employee benefits: Independent contractors usually don’t receive benefits that employees do, such as pension plans, paid vacations, insurance and sick days. They pay for their own benefits and their own payroll taxes, so those costs are usually figured into their published and agreed upon rates.

Do you need an independent contractor to help you with copywriting, editing, publishing, social media, web design? Let the experts at the Writing It Right For You Companies help you manage those areas of your business more effectively and efficiently. Check out our services page and contact us here. We would love to discuss the possibilities with you.