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The following is a post written by William Lieberman, Founder and CEO of The CEO’s Right Hand, Inc., an outsourced finance and accounting firm for early growth companies.

The end of the year is a busy time. Business owners have a lot more to deal with as they think about planning for the following year. If a year-end checklist isn’t part of your planning cycle, now is as good a time as any to give this some thought. Here are a few key aspects of your business that you’ll want to pay attention to as you inch closer to wrapping up this year:

Accounting Review

  • Get your financial books in order so you maximize deductions and reduce your income. Take time to organize and assess where your business stands financially and how it compares with previous years. Whether you’re using an accounting software of preparing spreadsheets yourself, run some standard reports that will give you a comprehensive look at your finances. This can include running an income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement. Then scrutinize them. Analyze for what worked well and what didn’t.
  • Income Statement: Does income match point of sales? Are all costs allocated properly? Are all income and expenses booked in the correct period? Have all large purchases been capitalized and depreciated? Do payroll totals (salaries and employer tax) match?
  • Balance Sheet: Validate balances: checking and savings, credit cards, merchant services, loans and lines of credit, payroll liabilities, sales tax liabilities, prepaid expenses, year-end inventory, deferred and unearned revenue, AR/AP
  • Make end-of-year adjustments: does the prior year’s tax return match the books? Enter 2018 adjustments, close the books 12/31/18
  • Complete end of year forms (issue 1099s, W2s)
  • Review key information and ensure all records are up-to-date. This might include verifying vendor information, employees in your payroll system, and insurance policies, among others.
  • Get the required tax documents ready. Be mindful of the new tax law, changes from which were largely implemented in 2018 and will affect your tax return in 2019. Speak with your accountant or check the accounting software for any updates to matters that will be relevant for your business. Run an estimate on how much tax you will owe, and, if possible, set that amount aside.

IT  Back Up

  • Back up all relevant data for the business. Accounting records, client files, and emails should be backed up and secure. If there are documents that live only in the cloud, you might also want to download them for backup.
  • Evaluate file-naming conventions (keep them consistent)

HR Review

  • Compliance review-what has changed in the last year?
  • Benefits-do you know your FTE number, how to calculate it and what it means for small businesses? Open enrollment?
  • Determine how bonuses will be disbursed. Whether bonuses are distributed before the end of the year or into the next year can make a difference, particularly for taxes.
  • Take inventory of current staff and review staffing needs for next year. Will there be any changes to the company’s needs for talent next year? How does this need align with the company’s financial standing (i.e. budget)?
  • Take note of the company’s accomplishments over the year and take the time to recognize any outstanding performers.

General Business Planning for the New Year

  • Examine the performance of this past year – were the goals set last year or at the beginning of this year met? Did you accomplish what you set out to do? Were there any surprises? In line with this assessment, establish objectives for the coming year. Spend time with your team thinking beyond the financials but delve further into potential goals for the organization’s mission.
  • Set practical steps to move toward those goals. It could help to take the time to better understand all levels and departments of the organization so as to set goals that are consistent throughout the entire organization and are both inspirational and realistic.
  • Check your company website. Click through all pages and every link. Put yourself through the experience of how a client or a prospect might experience the website, which sometimes could be the very first interaction they have with your business. Are the website functions working properly? Are they intuitive and user friendly? This might seem like a tedious task, but it may well be worth the time to better understand what it’s like for someone to navigate your website. It also might reveal that the site is due for an update.

The hope is that these guidelines—while they are not a definitive and exhaustive list of to-do items—will get you started or help you in your year-end review and goal-setting process. If you have an accountant or business consultant you work with, make time to speak with them about planning. Amid all this busyness, however, don’t forget to take a break. God knows small-business owners need one.

Thank you for making The CEO’s Right Hand and this article part of your busy schedule. If we can assist you with any of your financial planning or accounting needs, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We are happy to assist you and your small business.

We wish you a happy, safe and meaningful holiday season.


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