As we approach the end of the year, it’s a good time to take stock of your business and make plans for the coming year. Throughout 2019, we offered small business tips and advice that can help you gain a competitive edge and achieve your small business goals.
In case you missed some of the stories, we gathered the best advice to help you embrace technology, build a strong business plan, understand your finance options, take advantage of tax benefits and continue to learn and grow in 2020.
Upgrade Your Technology
Technology can level the playing field and help small businesses compete; the trick is in knowing what’s available. Large corporations often have sophisticated IT departments that stay on top of technological advancements, while small businesses must act largely on their own to accomplish the same task. Several of our posts help you learn about today’s technology.
We explored customer relationship management (CRM) features that help to streamline your marketing efforts and customer communication. For example, you want a CRM system that can collect data from all customer interaction points. It should provide insightful data analytics to help you improve your marketing and sales results. Ideally, your CRM will also offer a free trial period so you can test if the system is intuitive and easily scalable.
Another important piece of technology for many small business transactions is a point-of-sale (POS) system. Several options exist, and our post on the five best POS systems for small business owners will help you choose the right system by understanding the features that are important to you. Many POS systems integrate analytics, loyalty programs, payroll and inventory tracking. By knowing what you need, you can make the best choice.
Update Your Business Plan
To leverage the power of technology, small business owners need to create a strong business plan and keep it updated. Our article on how to plan for the next five years provides small business tips and advice for selecting a growth strategy and putting it into play.
To start, identify how you will grow your business next year. You may be thinking about expanding into current markets by selling products to existing customers, or developing adjacent markets by selling your products to new customers.
You may also want to consider if you have the right amount of people on your staff. Recruiting shouldn’t be an afterthought in your business planning, since low unemployment rates have created a talent shortage.
Finally, set goals for the next five years for your business. Maybe you want to increase sales or open a few new locations. Defining your small business goals will help you figure out how to achieve them. The SBA offers a general template for building your own business plan, but remember to cater it to your industry.
Review Your Financing Options
Staying cash flow positive helps small business owners keep their companies running when client payments are late, unexpected expenses pop up or the slow season arrives. Several of this year’s posts delved into funding solutions.
One of the biggest financing concerns is funding new equipment — it’s often a significant financial investment. Your two main options are equipment financing, where owners take out business equipment loans to purchase the equipment outright, or equipment leasing, which is similar to renting the equipment. We break down financing vs. leasing, helping you determine which option is more appropriate for your business.
For example, equipment leasing might be the best choice for business owners who want to protect their cash flow because they don’t have money on hand to purchase new equipment. Financing may be a good option if you plan to use the equipment for a long period of time as it’s often more affordable.
Loans are another important topic to small business owners. With so many types and terms, finding the right one can feel overwhelming. Our article about choosing a business loan outlines all the details related to long-term and short-term financing options. Choosing the best financing solution for your business not only helps you save money; it can help you achieve your specific goals.
Finally, grants can help you operate and expand your company without having to pay the money back. They typically come from the government, nonprofits or educational institutions, and some are focused on underrepresented groups in the business community, like women, minorities and veteran business owners. Our article on small business grants offered tips on finding and applying for grants.
Reduce Your Taxes
Not all small business owners look forward to paying their taxes, but the potential tax deductions on small business expenses are a great silver lining. We’ve got you covered with a few 2019 posts on deductions.
Our post on small business tax write-offs highlights the most common trouble spots for business owners, and will prep you for filing your 2019 taxes. The post explains the rules for deducting client meals and gifts, vehicle use, business trips and other common expenses.
The Section 179 tax deduction, a new IRS rule, offers small business owners a chance to reduce their tax bill substantially when purchasing new or preowned equipment. Our post helps you understand which types of equipment qualify under Section 179 and the best methods for making the purchase.
Explore Ways to Learn and Grow
Finally, we covered a lot of ways for business owners to expand their knowledge. Our post on continuing education opportunities suggests checking your local community college or university for classes that don’t require you to seek a degree. Other options include leadership workshops at your Chamber of Commerce, or online classes on sites like LinkedIn Learning and Udemy.
We also compiled resources for minority business owners that can help them address unique funding challenges and find equal opportunities through mentorship, business advice, grants and more.
To move your business forward in 2020, it helps to look back at some of the best small business tips and advice you heard this year. Start by choosing one area for improvement, and build out plans to accomplish that goal. A new year can mean a fresh outlook. Here’s to making 2020 your best year yet.