December 10, 2009

I know, I know, I know. I've neglected you loyal reader, and there is no excuse for that. So I'm making a concerted effort to return the regular stream of blog postings (each Thursday morning). As with all things that involve me, it's a work in progress.

So what to talk about now? Not much really going on is there? I kid because I care - this is one of the busiest times of the year. With the holidays, tax planning, schizophrenic reports about the economy, weather that can't make up its mind; there is just so much to do. That said, for us small business owners, there are some mandatory items that have to get done before January 1, 2010. Here is a sampling of my list:

1. Talk to accountant - outside of new sales & delivery your services, nothing is more important this time of year than planning your corporate taxes. We learned early on the pain of surprises when you don't properly prepare for your current year filing. You should really start these discussions in early to mid October (actually, you should ideally meet your accountant quarterly), but if you're late to the game jump on this now. The better you prepare now, the less pain come March 15th.

2. Prepping for January & February - holiday parties don't have to be all fun & games (though that should be 75% of it), a good bit of networking can be done during these events. Most people turn off their business radar (let's be honest, or drink them off), but given the festive nature of things and the relaxed atmosphere, parties are prime time to lay the groundwork for business in the early part of 2010. If nothing else, get on the radar of people who can help you business; you'll always have a solid opening line - "It was good to meet you at [company]'s holiday party. Hope you had a good time..."

3. Holiday gifts - this we plan right after Halloween. Determining the card vs. gift recipients is not a science but a feel for the relationship you have with clients and business contacts. We don't overindulge on gifts (though they're always delicious), we want our clients to know that we appreciate their business and don't take them for granted. Cards are a reminder of the same sentiment but without the calories. For '09 we actually did electronic holiday cards; while less personal, we used the savings to up our contributions to the charities we support. Everyone wins.

4. Bonuses - this is the toughest part of the list because I'm locked in a conundrum. I want to reward employees for their efforts during the year, but I also know that the unexpected will happen the moment the bonus money leaves our account. Typically, the employee wins; this is a way of saying thanks for helping us grow the business, your efforts have not gone unnoticed. Now, we don't blow out the bank with bonuses, but we work to be fair to both the employee and the requirements of the company (it's a balancing act).

5. Clean up - raise your hand if your diligent in cleaning up your business. There should be very few hands raised because we're all terrible at being tidy with the biz. We're too busy running and managing things to focus on the niggling items that don't always pop up; but when they do, we curse ourselves for not taking care of them sooner. Now's the time. Whether it's dead accounts on your books, the file structure in your client folder, centralizing your vendors' info, or just cleaning off your desk - make an effort to get these things done before the clock strikes midnight on 1.1.10. It's thankless now, but you'll be thanking yourself later.

OK, enough with the merry words of wisdom. Go forth and be productive.

"In an industrial society which confuses work and productivity, the necessity of producing has always been an enemy of the desire to create." Raoul Vaneigem