Check the Rear-View Mirror Before Proceeding into 2010

Alyssa Gregory

rear view mirrorWhen we’re busy with work, we are so focused on the projects we are working on and the relationships we’re building that sometimes the back-end administration side of business gets forgotten. Taking time for an annual end-of-the-year review is one of best ways to make sure your business is functioning well behind the scenes and to improve processes so you can be even more successful next year.

Things to Consider During a Year-End Review

Here are some of the most important areas to consider when you start your year-end review.

Client Contracts
– No matter how long you’ve been in business and how solid your work agreement is, you should always give it a review, at least once a year. Look for outdated terms, new company policies, and the overall content. If it has been a long time since you’ve had an attorney review your agreement, now may be the time.

Open Projects – As you’re reviewing your standard contracts, you’ll also want to be aware of all of your open projects, including what work needs to be completed, timelines and other obligations. And then follow up with your clients as necessary to keep the work on target.

Client Intake Process – There is certain information we need from clients in order to make our working relationships productive. If you don’t have a standard process for collecting this information, you may want to add that to your review. You’ll want to make sure you have an easy way to collect contact information, project notes and client feedback.

Rates – All businesses should include a pricing review in their annual process. While this doesn’t mean you will necessarily be raising your rates every year, you should be taking time to review your services, skills and experience as well as the market.

Bookkeeping Functions – How smoothly does your invoicing process go, and have you successfully stayed on top of your accounts payable? Are you ready to file your taxes in a few months? If you find that you’re bogged down by the bookkeeping process, it may be time to consider outsourcing to a bookkeeper.

Data Backup – Take a look at your current data backup process to analyze if its working effectively. Make sure you have enough storage capacity for the coming year. And it’s also a good idea to do an integrity check on your backed up data to make sure it’s still usable and not corrupted.

Marketing Plan – In order to increase business and find new opportunities, your marketing plan is vital. Review your marketing activities for the past year and start to think about what you will focus on during the coming year. This is also the time to review your marketing materials – especially your web site and business cards — to make sure they’re effective.

Task Management – The day-to-day functions of your business can be the glue that holds it together. Review your current process for managing projects and tracking to-dos. Improving this area on an annual basis can make you more productive and profitable.

Now What?

Once you’ve analyzed each of these areas and pinpointed areas for improvement, prioritize the list and plan the improvements for the beginning of the year. To avoid overwhelm, try focusing on one area each month and then do a check-in halfway through the year to see where you are. Making the process of a year-end review an ongoing focus will keep it fresh in your mind and make the annual review more productive.

Do you review your business every year? What areas do you look at for improvement?

Image credit: tangerinie