01/06/2015 02:51 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Beginning of the Year Checklist Every Small Business Owner Needs


As we dive on into 2015, entrepreneurs everywhere are taking the time to evaluate the business choices they've made throughout the last year. After all, it's beneficial to take a look at what worked and what didn't work so you can make educated choices as a business owner in the coming years. I'm a fan of lists myself, so I write out into two distinct columns: What Didn't Work in 2014, and What I'm Bringing Into 2015. For instance, this past year we really played around with our marketing. We tried different press release outlets, we gave the paid Facebook advertising a go, and we tried different guest blogging outlets. Through the year, we paid special attention to what we were trying and how many clicks back each effort earned us. Now, going into 2015, I know exactly what marketing techniques work best for us right now.

Though once you've taken the time to reflect on the year that's passed, turn your attention towards succeeding in 2015 right off the bat. Here are three actionable items to check off of your beginning-of-the-year to-do list right away.

Update your team.

Every small business owner shares a different amount of information with his or her employees. I myself am never shy about sharing the current status of the company. I think it helps my employees to achieve goals if they're aware of the actual numbers they're dealing with. So with the beginning of each year, I send out a report on how the business is doing -- numbers included. I let them know how we did this year in comparison to other years, what we learned, what that means for the company, and what that means for them. It's a good way to start the year with a fresh slate and have everybody on the same page.

Additionally, I take the opportunity to check in with how my employees are feeling. What's their take on the year? Do they have any suggestions? The more open the dialogue the better. If you start the year by letting your employees know what's going on with the business, and they, in turn, let you know what's going on with them, you really have no where to go but up for the rest of the year.

Evaluate how you've been handling your taxes.

With each year in business, every business owner starts to become more and more educated on the tricks of the trade. The first year in business, you're not going to hit every deduction. That being said, your first couple years in business (maybe even ever) it's unlikely that you're going to be aware of every rule and earn yourself every possible reward when doing your taxes yourself. It's just smarter, and in the long run, cheaper, to hire a professional because tax mistakes can cost your business a lot.

One of the big things you can switch around yourself, however, if you'd like to try a different tax strategy, is the type of entity your business is filed as. Different entities experience different forms of taxation, so there could be an option out there that's cheaper for your business come tax season. An LLC, for example, has pass-through taxation allowing a business to only be taxed on the individual tax returns, as opposed to a Corporation that gets taxed directly on all business profits.

Tend to your financial books.

This is always a better beginning-of-the-year decision to make than an end-of-the-year mess to clean up. This year, straight from the get go, create some form of organizational tool for all of your receipts. Do not shove them in a drawer and vow to straighten them out at the end of the year. Create a quick system of getting a receipt and inputting the information as soon as it's received. Even if you just do it at the end of each week, it's easier to take some time out of your day each week than it is to set aside a couple entire days at the end of the year.