There is a lot to do before year-end for the small business owner.


Too many small business owners tend to kick back and relax as the year wraps up,

but taking that approach leaves you behind in your business and that is no way to start a new business year.


Now that your books are ready for tax time, you’re in a great position to review your business performance, and make strategic decisions to help your business be more profitable and grow. This can be a daunting task, but it is manageable if you keep and follow a checklist. 

To start off, make a comprehensive list and rank tasks according to their level of importance and urgency. Dedicate a schedule for each vital task to prevent procrastination and stress from the end-of-year rush. Some of the most important tasks may include:

Run a Few Standard Reports

Take this the time of year to assess where you stand financially and how that compares to previous years. Using your accounting software or looking through spreadsheets or other records you keep, you want to generate a complete financial report, which typically consists of a profit and loss statement, a balance sheet and your cash flow statement.

Review Your Profit and Loss Statements

How was your financial performance this year? Your profit and loss report is key. This is the best way to tell where your business stands financially and to look back on your revenue for the year.


Is taxable income larger than expected? If so, it might be a good time to make some larger purchases for which you can record future depreciation. Talk with your accountant first to make sure you have the cash on hand to make the purchase, and make sure you fully understand depreciation rules.


Be sure to review what did and didn’t work compared to previous years in business and use these statements as a guide for what your outlook might be like for the upcoming year.


Also, review your numbers so you’ll know what next steps to take to further enhance the growth of your business. A good way to do this is by calculating your profit margins from the past few months and documenting everything for future reference. By knowing exactly how much your small venture is making, you’ll be better equipped to make informed business decisions based on your results.

Review Your Cash Flow Statement

Along with a P&L statement is a cash flow statement which a report that shows how your money was spent throughout the year and how much cash you have on hand.


Cash flow is the best way to tell how your money was spent throughout the year. You’ll want to take a look at three specific aspects of your business’ cash flow:


  • Cash flow from operating activities (i.e. revenue and expenses)

  • Cash flow from investing activities (i.e. assets purchased and assets sold)

  • Cash flow from financial activities (i.e. loans and repayments)


Review Your Organization

After you have attended to your financial year-end tasks you should take a good look at your organization as a whole. Take a step back from the details and look at your organizational chart from a far.


  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

  • What will be your needs in the coming year from an organizational perspective?

  • What gaps or opportunities do you see in your organization chart?


​Taking a step back and looking at your organizational chart is a great way to define needs, as well as refine your long-term vision.

Review Your Business's Achievements and Share It With Your Employees

Look back at your major milestones from the past year. Spend time figuring out areas you can improve in as a small business - what worked for you, and what didn’t.


Reflect back on all the standout moments from the year and take pride in all that your small business has accomplished.


Your employees will appreciate hearing all of the things that your company has accomplished over the past 12 months. This is also a great time of year to recognize any outstanding performers.


Reward your employees with small tokens of gratitude like bonuses or even handwritten notes that highlight their hard work. 


Set Realistic Goals for the Upcoming Year

Almost all established businesses make use of the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Based) objectives to achieve business goals, and for obvious reasons. Ideally, with help from team members or mentors, you can come up with a solid action plan for an entire year, which focuses on what you want your business to achieve in the upcoming year, what steps you are planning to take, and when they should come into effect.


It’s imperative to be concise about your plans so you can lay them out efficiently with the rest of the team. Be collaborative and open about feedback, as this may benefit your small venture in the long run. In addition, it’s also important to collaborate with a trusted lawyer regarding legal matters to avoid future mishaps.

Develop a Budget & Forecast

Develop or review and modify your long-term budget and forecast before year-end. It's a mistake to never modify it. If you don't revisit your long-term budget and forecast each year then that five year forecast becomes a four, three or two year forecast.

Always look at the long-term financial plan for your business.


Don't make the mistake of developing a budget and then tucking it in a file cabinet and never reviewing it again. You should be doing budget vs actual comparisons throughout the year to make sure you are staying on track.

Assess Your Staffing Needs for the Coming Year

In looking ahead to the New Year and planning your budget, consider your business goals and whether you’ll need to recruit new hires to achieve those goals.


Take an inventory of your current staff, and determine if you’ll need to hire more employees for the next year. You’ll want to be sure you’ve budgeted for any additional personnel.

Show Appreciation for Your Employees

Many companies do performance reviews in December or January, which is a great time to reflect back on the successes of the employees as well as the opportunities for development, based, in part, on the financial success determined by reviewing the reports described above. It’s also important to give employee recognition, a gesture that recognizes your employees as people, not just worker bees.

If your budget doesn’t allow for a holiday party, then consider hosting a potluck or allowing employees a non-monetary perk that wouldn't normally be offered.

Shop Major Policies

Year-end is a great time to shop and review your major policies.


  • Review your insurance policies with your agent to look for any gaps in coverage or possible ways to reduce rates

  • Look at comparisons with other merchant processing companies

  • Shop and see if you can reduce your costs

  • Review your health plan and shop with other carriers


Declutter Your Office or Workspace

No matter the time of year or size of your business, having a clean work environment is always ideal. With only a few months left before the new year, small businesses with limited resources should figure out how to declutter their workspaces in preparation for the upcoming season. 


You want to get started without going overboard with your budget, or affecting daily office productivity. You can do so by starting with a simple checklist. Include specific cleaning schedules and a distribution of cleaning assignments.


The assignments could involve filing and labeling physical documents, rearranging shelves and other office furniture, sanitizing the area, and making sure individual workspaces are clean and organized. Having these tasks evenly distributed among team members will help save time and resources.


Back Up Your Data

Whether you do most of your business over the phone or via email, make sure to back up all of your contacts, even if that means writing them down in an old-fashioned Rolodex.

Back Up Your Contacts

Whether you do most of your business over the phone or via email, make sure to back up all of your contacts, even if that means writing them down in an old-fashioned Rolodex.

Download Any Files or Reports

If you’ve kept some documents or reports only on a cloud-based system like Dropbox, or if you’ve only saved generated reports within the system that created them (i.e. QuickBooks), take a moment to download copies of all of these and back them up with everything else. The golden rule for data backup is 2:1. That is, create two separate digital copies, stored in two separate locations, plus one offline copy (preferably stored somewhere else).

Check Your Website

Whether it’s Cyber Monday or Casual Friday, go through your website and click on every link. Try sending yourself an email or message from the “contact us” form. Call the 800-number and make sure it works. These may seem like mundane tasks, but things break all the time, including websites. As your digital calling card and often the first place people get an impression of your business, it’s an important commodity to keep in fine working order.

Gain Actionable Customer Insights

If you don’t see a remarkable upswing in sales, gathering customer feedback should give you a head start on what strategies need some tweaking to ensure better results for the following year.


  • Collecting and analyze customer data.

    • Tap into your potential customers’ thoughts and gain quality insights that may benefit your small business.

  • Update your target market profile using available tools and platforms.

    • Use a single- or multi-channel marketing platform.

  • Measure the results of your marketing campaign.

    • Whether you’re performing a social media audit or measuring the effectiveness of an influencer campaign, keeping track of your results will allow you to make any necessary adjustments.


List an end-of-year, step-by-step plan to improve customer service for the next season.

Review Customer Feedback

Do you have online reviews or a low-tech suggestion box? Your day probably moves at lightening speed but reviewing feedback now can help guide your customer service, inventory offerings and more. If you don’t have a review collection system in place, consider incentives for customers to post on sites like TrustPilot, Google Reviews or Yelp.  A dentist’s office in Southern California is located next to a Starbucks. They offer a $5 Starbucks gift card if patients check in and leave a positive review. Consider a similar strategy.

Modify Your Exit Plan

Having an exit plan in place for your business is incredibly important. Without a plan for exiting your business how do you think it will ever happen? Additionally how will you know when the time is right?


Having an exit plan in place is important and you should review and modify it annually as needed.

Explore Giving Back

Giving back to your community or a national organization is a great way to elevate your profile and help a cause you believe in. Whether supporting our Veterans, a local school or sports team, donating to a non-profit organization or collecting items for the needy, you can make a difference.

Check Your Work/Life Balance

How do you feel physically and mentally? If you’re burned out, exhausted and feel overworked, you won’t be the best business owner you can be. Review your day to see if there are any tasks you can cut down, eliminate or delegate. Bringing on an additional employee can help you manage your workload.

Don’t wait until the very end of the year to finish all your tasks.


Although it’s easier said than done, you shouldn’t fall into the trap of procrastination. The overwhelming amount of work that piles up at the end of the year shouldn’t stop you from completing all of the tasks on your to-do list one by one before the holiday season ends.


This should be a top priority if you don’t want to start another business year tying up the previous one’s loose ends, instead of focusing on the bigger picture.

And as always, the more you can plan for these responsibilities throughout the year, the easier your year-end will be.​