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Try This Checklist to Get Your Business Back on Track

Aug. 29, 2016
Running Your Business, Small Business
Try This Checklist to Get Your Business Back on Track
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By Heather Castle

Learn more about Heather on NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor

It’s already late August — are you on track to reach the 2016 goals you set for your business at the beginning of the year?

If you are among the uncertain, don’t despair. It’s not too late to take corrective action, but first you must honestly assess your standing. This business checkup can help you identify where you are on track and where you may be falling behind.

Are your projections proving accurate?

Business owners project their sales, expenses and other key financial data for each coming year. If you are not where you expected to be at this point in the year, do some real soul-searching and figure out why. It could be as simple as procrastination — not getting around to steps you had planned to provide a better product or service, which can be fixed. Or it could be something out of your control, like a shift in buyer preferences or the economy, which could be harder to address. You may also have an employee issue you need to fix.

Whatever the cause, a clear-eyed examination will give you clarity and increase your chances of making needed decisions before losses pile up.

Are you as motivated as you need to be?

Running a business is hard work that takes an intense amount of mental and physical energy. Burnout can and does happen. Maybe you just need to get excited about your business again.

If this is the issue, consider taking a few mental health days away from work. It may seem impossible — the business needs me! — but time away could re-energize you, help you to reconnect with your family and allow for the creativity to spark again. You just might come up with a new idea that can ignite your passion for your business again and lead to more revenue.

Are there any large tasks that are undone?

At the beginning of the year, did you vow to buy new equipment that would help your business, but you haven’t quite been able to pull the trigger? Have you avoided that important meeting with your attorney, tax professional or financial advisor that was aimed at implementing better planning for your business?

Take an hour to sit down and write out the main tasks and projects you intended to tackle this year but haven’t. Examine the steps needed to complete each. Once you know what steps you need to take to finish each project, evaluate which one will have the biggest positive impact on your business and prioritize it.

You may have already put the wheels in motion for one of these projects but were waiting on someone to get back to you. Don’t let them drag you down — get proactive and reach out again.

And if there is something that will require a large capital outlay, consider whether you have the ability to take that on or whether you need to add it to the planning for next year.

Is your marketing effective?

Business owners know they must market themselves, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend big dollars on media advertising. You can do a lot with a little. Think grass roots — do your website or business cards need updating? Have you gone to networking events where you could meet new customers? Have you given referrals? These are easy but impactful ways to market yourself on a small budget, typically the cost of a meal.

Have you reviewed your insurance coverage?

Risk management is an important part of a healthy business yet is overlooked by many business owners. Not maintaining the proper amount of insurance or continuing to pay too much for your insurance coverage can be costly to you and your family.

Umbrella policies (extra liability insurance that is designed to help protect you from major claims and lawsuits), property and casualty insurance, disability insurance, or long-term care insurance are designed to help you in the event something happens. You should review these policies and evaluate them on a regular basis to ensure you are properly covered and that you are not paying more than you have to for coverage. If you have not reviewed these documents within the past 12 months, schedule a visit to your trusted professional.

If you’re not on track

If you feel like you have a few areas to focus on, create a plan to execute on those areas and get to work.

Numerous studies have shown that the people who are most likely to achieve their goals are those who write them down, set up a regular time to check in on their progress and share them with someone who will help hold them accountable.

Heather Castle, CFP, is the founder of Castle Wealth Advisors LLC in Los Angeles.