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Year in review: Planning for a fresh start, the power of reflection

Year-end is ready-made for both reflection and for a fresh start. If one is already dealing with the “books,” getting tax matters in order, why not analyze that data? Position your business as well as possible for the coming year, even though this year is vastly different than most other years – it is still a new year, new opportunities and challenges to overcome or to see “reframe” new opportunities. Plus, the unthinkable, not having a budget in place, puts you at a profound competitive disadvantage.

Your competitors, after all, will know their costs. They’ll be aware of their results in terms of stated goals and projections. And, importantly, they’ll be able to nimbly adjust as things inevitably don’t go as planned – for bad and for good. Generally, particularly in a year unlike any other, this approach requires having defined processes in place, considerable discipline, and exceptional financial partners when you don’t have the acumen (or time) inherently, or on staff.

As your partners in financial strategy, O’Donnell, Ficenec, Wills & Ferdig encourages you to check some of the following boxes of your list, which collectively add up to “planning.” These are “timeless” considerations that generally apply, whether we’re talking about the “boring” days of 2019 or the new era of 2020 and beyond.

  • Now is a great time to assess just how well you’ve been organizing your important documents. If you find yourself piecing together disparate information or having to request important documents again, you are underestimating their importance! And you can save yourself a significant amount of time at year’s end by getting a process in place that works better than files full of receipts. We partner with our clients and will let you know well in advance about any data we may need from you. So, with this leadtime, comes ample time to revamp how the “books” are managed and retrieved.

  • Analysis starts off by generally determining where you are “at” as a business. Identifying your position involves preparing the balance sheet, income/profit and loss statement, and cash flow statement. These three pieces of information serve as a basis for decision-making. They provide at-a-glance insight into “where” the money went, the profitability of your business, and comprehensive assets, liabilities and equity. Current ratio, debt ratio and profit margins can also further inform the total health of your business at present.

  • Healthy goal-setting further involves assessing how your objectives unfolded over the past year. Did you achieve what you set out to perform at the start of the year? If you didn’t, what got in your way? If you did, what do you think most empowered your team to accomplish that goal?

  • There are ways to make taxes a little less taxing. OFWF’s tax professionals are experienced at strategies that might be relevant to your situation, and that also account for reforms and changes in legislation. It’s also important to consider how well (or how poorly) previous strategies may have worked for you. Historical precedent is on your side, and can inform your current decision-making to better position you for future successful years.

These are some “timeless” considerations in a nutshell. Now, let’s layer that into this uniquely “dynamic” year. No matter where you land politically, it’s generally understood that the economic recovery is taking a “K” shape; there are organizations in the home improvement space, for instance, that are posting their best years in 25 years. Alternately, there are gyms and restaurants that depended on in-person traffic and events that long-ago exhausted PPP and other relief funds. They may be staring down bankruptcy, perhaps they opened recently – not at all full capacity – and are continuing to face intermittent shutdowns due to COVID-19 exposures. Like the shape of the “K,” some sectors are skyrocketing. Others are bottoming-out. This suggests all kinds of uncertainty and volatility. So, the certainty is that we’re planning for another rollercoaster 2021. How does one plan amid all the uncertainty?

  • Harness the dynamic environment and plan dynamically! A “rolling,” 12-month budget allows you to consistently review and update the numbers and associated strategies each month experientially – based on what you’re actually experiencing and going through. Software is available. So, you can “edit” and adjust quickly. You can, for instance, recalibrate sales projections based off of your changing outlook. A “rolling” budget also presents a great opportunity to stay on top of the evolving realities and market conditions.

  • Let’s talk more about “sales forecasting.” If you’re, say, in the DIY business, you may feel confident enough to budget up by at least 10%. A safer option might be to base the budget off of 2019 (the last “normal” year?). In this K-shaped environment, it really depends on where you “sit” in the economy. How are consumers buying your product or service? Do you need to set aside money to invest in new ways to reach or service your customers, in light of changes to how they patronize your business? If ever there was a time to have a great handle on the “metrics,” it would be now. Do you also need to account for technologies or talent to track how people are finding your business and buying patterns? And, if you haven’t taken advantage of ecommerce as much as you suspect that you should, what are you waiting for? Few concepts would not benefit from sophisticated channels to facilitate robust online sales.

  • No 2021 budget would be complete without flexibility – in terms of both sales objectives and down-to-earth expensing. Employ this realistic, flexible planning when considering the likes of staff changes, and the potential effect of aid and loan forgiveness (i.e. PPP). Additionally, many owners are embarking on new marketing plans. So, it’s important to align those investments and plans with a revamped, fluid sales plan. If one is already working off of a skeleton crew, investments may still be needed in new products, product innovations, and processes and marketing pivots. Likewise, what are some other areas to “bootstrap” that will help and not hinder? Heighten efficiencies, without completely shattering what’s left of the bank and without dismantling the facets of your business that position you well for sustained, long-term growth.

  • If you’re doing well this year, great! Be sure to build up cash reserves and keep driving those profits. If things aren’t going as well as you’ve been accustomed to a bull market, resist the temptation to “finance” with credit cards (as much as you may be hurting). Don’t get on that revolving door of debt. So, you can be well-positioned for when things turn or when you begin to reap the rewards of new strategies and investments. Likewise, the pandemic-recession environment presents opportunities to build resiliency into your business (and personal) finances by getting ahold of any debts, refinancing as needed with lower-interest loans and credit, and integrating those improvements that allow you to get paid faster.

As OFWF is “more than accounting,” we strive to be consultants with our partners. Our professionals also include QuickBooks Certified ProAdvisors who can help you integrate and unlock the powerful features that aid in getting your financial affairs in order, and pinpoint weaknesses (i.e. inefficiencies) and strengths to drive strategic decision-making.

O’Donnell, Ficenec, Wills & Ferdig is here to help. Contact one of our experienced accounting and tax professionals, and business advisors.

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