Looking ahead to 2024 and considering strategic planning, business owners likely have many questions: What will the economy and market do in the year ahead? Will customers spend more—or less? How can I better position my business in case of a volatile economic climate or major downturn?
Year-end is a natural time to review your business metrics, evaluate your operations and business model, and find opportunities to strengthen your organization, says Scott Leese, a business consultant based in Austin, Texas.
Leese recommends spending time evaluating what worked—and what didn’t—in 2023, and why. “Focus on how you can do more of what worked and avoid entirely scenarios that didn’t,” he advises. Business owners concerned about how economic or market changes could affect their business in the year ahead might also consider diversifying their revenue streams—reducing reliance on too few clients, services, or products—and reconsider their pricing or sales model.
Here are five other key ways to strengthen your business and prepare for the new year:
Take a close look at your business metrics
Review your key performance indicators (KPIs) for the past year, such as revenue, profit margins, sales trends, customer retention, and conversion rates. Your online marketing and website analytics can also be a useful gauge.
Each business is different in terms of what KPIs are most important to track, but business applications now often make it easy to pull together financial and business performance data, so it can be evaluated and compared to historical data.
Your data can help you spot opportunities. For example, if you see customer retention rates have slipped over the past year, you can focus on efforts to get past customers to come back by implementing effective customer retention strategies. Or you can determine which products or services are gaining popularity so you can adjust your attention.
“A backward glance can offer a gold mine of insights,” says Ron Stefanski, an online business consultant in Las Vegas. “It not only offers clarity on the present state of affairs but also shines a light on potential areas craving attention or refinement.”
Focus on your vendor relationships and supply chain
Strengthening your vendor relationships and basing them around fair terms and clear expectations is something worth working on as you look to a new year. Look at how your vendor relationships have fared over the past year and look for ways to strengthen them in mutually beneficial ways. “Establishing a mutual understanding with vendors isn’t just a smart cost maneuver,” Stefanski says. “It’s setting the stage for sustainability.”
Glean insights from your customers
Your customers can be a valuable source of information. Consider sending them an online survey or having year-end conversations with your best customers to find out what they like most about the business and suggest opportunities for improvement. “The real magic happens when you listen, analyze and adapt your strategy based on genuine customer needs,” Stefanski says.
Staying on top of industry trends, new transformative technologies, regulatory changes, and what the competition is up to is a good way to ensure your business remains competitive and responsive. If you don’t already, you can set up news alerts on Google and other sites to get industry news and information delivered to your inbox.
“In the ever-evolving landscape of business, a keen understanding of the broader economy is non-negotiable, particularly for small business owners,” Stefanski adds. “In doing so, businesses equip themselves to pivot decisively, planning for both prosperous times and unforeseen challenges.”
Year-end is also a natural time to think about how to run your business more efficiently and strategically, balancing the growing demands of your business with the rest of your life. For example, you might find yourself doing tasks that are worth delegating to a part-time contractor or adopting technology that automates tasks or helps you work faster and more effectively, says Tracy Beckes, a business coach in La Conner, Washington.
“The most important investment you can make is an investment in yourself,” Beckes says.Print this article