Good business practice can make or break a small business. It involves performing and identifying tasks that must be done to keep your business healthy. These tasks should be carried out regularly and consistently.
Keeping a monthly checklist to remind you to perform important business tasks will put you in a good position to manage and grow your business no matter what hurdles you face.
It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day running of your business, pushing tasks aside that can “wait for later”. Often, “later” becomes tomorrow, then next week, and then next month. Before you know it, you are struggling to catch up.
Our 10-point monthly checklist for good business health will help ensure your limited company is well run in the long run.
The benefits of a monthly checklist to stay on top of your business are obvious. Businesses who comply with this good practice:
- reduce the pressure at the end of the financial year to get facts and figures ready all at once
- are more likely to improve their cash flow and operate with smaller financial risk
- are attractive investments for prospective buyers
- may find it easier to secure external finance
- are in a good position to respond to future opportunities and/or challenges
Here is our 10-point monthly checklist to help you put in place and maintain good practices to stay in control of your business.
- Perform financial tasks
A tight grip on finances is crucial for any business to survive, but even more so for small businesses. Waiting until the end of the financial year to perform the financial tasks needed to prepare annual statements will not only put you under unnecessary pressure but may also reduce the quality of your financial data.
Financial tasks include the following:
- Up-to-date cash flow statements. They are critical to making everyday business decisions.
- Keeping track of expenses and paying bills on time. The latter promotes good business relationships.
- Chasing debtors through an efficient invoicing system.
- Updating payrolls as soon as staff changes occur.
- Filing tax and VAT returns and paying your dues on time.
- Review and compare sales figures
To know where you’re going, you must know where you come from. Have sales figures ready and available for comparison once a month.
Compare the latest sales figures with the previous month, the previous quarter, and the previous year. What do you see? Analyse the patterns to determine which products are performing well, which are underperforming, and why.
Don’t forget to check individual client performance at the same time. Are some clients not spending as much as they used to or have some even dropped you completely? The sooner you pick up on this through your monthly business checklist, the bigger your chance is to win the client back through discussions and negotiations.
By knowing what influences your sales figures you are in the position to adjust your business plans and projections.
- Keep track of your inventory
Inventory is the lifeblood of a manufacturing or retail business. You must know how much stock is available at any given time. Inventory tracking will tell you when to order more or prevent you from selling products that have run out of stock.
Even if you have an inventory manager, you must keep your own finger on the pulse of your stock at least once a month. Proper inventory management can lead to big savings and maximum profits.
And while numbers are important, don’t forget to keep an eye on other important factors such as safe and secure storage. Know the products you are manufacturing or selling. Are they perishable? Do they need special storage facilities? Losing a whole batch of stock because of a small oversight can hurt your business a lot.
- Review your marketing strategies
Remaining visible to your customers in a crowded marketplace is crucial. Without something to make you stand out, you will quickly drown in a sea of similar looking companies.
Your monthly sales figures and performance review should serve as a good indicator of the effectiveness of your marketing strategy. Even if it’s working for you, it’s never a waste of time to go over it once a month for full optimisation of the marketing opportunities out there.
How do you benefit from regular reviews of your marketing strategies?
- It increases your chance of success
- You’ll know what works and what doesn’t
- You’ll know which marketing efforts to spend more money on
- It will make you a better marketer in the long run
- Review website traffic and other online activity
It’s hard to run a successful business without an online presence. Even if you’re not selling anything online, you need a website to communicate with customers and to market your product or service.
To know how effective your website is, your monthly business checklist should include reviewing traffic and conversion levels. Use Google Analytics and read your product performance reports on third-party websites such as Amazon or eBay where applicable.
Test all the internal and external links on your website and make sure the contact details are up to date. If you are highly dependent on SEO, a monthly review of your performance in the SERPs is equally important.
- Post regular updates about your business on social media
Social media is a powerful business tool if you use it wisely and regularly. Decide which social media channels work best in your market and set up a monthly publishing plan for each.
Some of the most efficient social media channels for small businesses are:
Post regular updates to show your clients or potential clients you are on top of your game. Review the results at the end of each month to determine which social media channels are giving you the greatest reach.
- Stay informed about your industry
No man is an island. Neither is a business. If you don’t stay on top of industry news, you will lose out sooner or later. Here are some ways to stay informed about your industry:
- Subscribe to the monthly newsletter of an authoritative publication in your niche market.
- Set aside at least 30 minutes a week or 2 hours a month to review industry news.
- Read and contribute to forums and discussions, online or elsewhere, in your industry.
- Sign up to receive Google alerts about industry related topics. This means any news related to certain keywords selected by you will land straight in your inbox.
- Keep your IT systems running smoothly
Ensuring the safety of all business data is a key point of any monthly checklist for small businesses. If you don’t do it yourself, appoint someone to maintain your IT systems and manage automatic backups. It’s too risky to rely on your hard drive only. Burglaries, fires, and other natural disasters do happen.
Hold your IT person accountable by demanding monthly proof of the latest backups. Backups to both an external device and online are preferable.
Apart from backing up your systems and files, you should also invest in the latest anti-virus software. A breakdown in technology can instantly cripple your business and cost you thousands to recover.
- Meet with interested parties
Interested parties in your business may include your bookkeeper, investors, a board of directors, or even your bank manager. Getting in the habit of having a fixed monthly meeting with them is one of the best things you can do for your business.
Not all meetings with bookkeepers or investors need to be boring or dragged out. It can be a 20-minute Skype call or a coffee date away from the office. The important thing is that you touch base once a month to timeously pick up on possible problems.
Investors and directors are also excellent sounding boards. Regular conversations with them can highlight areas where your business can improve or expand.
- Prioritise your time
Time management is an integral part of any monthly checklist for good business health. Not only should you know how to allocate your time while running your business, but you should also know when it’s time to stop working.
That’s right, maintaining a healthy work-life balance should be something to constantly strive for. There are many ways to achieve this:
- Set fixed working hours
- Put away digital devices when taking meals
- Spend uninterrupted time with family and friends
- Get enough sleep
- Take breaks to exercise or go for a walk
Whether your business is weak or strong, a checklist can help you feel more in control of the everyday running of it. However, it should not be definitive. Each business owner must adapt it to suit his or her own needs.
This 10-point monthly checklist for good business health should get small business owners thinking about the specific actions they need to take at regular intervals to put their business on the right track and keep it there.