What to do on a cold, snowy – and most likely slow – business day?
The winter storm and frigid temperatures that have caused havoc across the Midwest, Northeast, and even parts of the South, have caused people to hunker down. Many school systems are closed, and parents who might otherwise be at work are staying home to be with them. This means a slow day for the corner deli that relies on the business crowd at lunchtime.
Take advantage of the down time and plan for 2018. Except for heating or winter sports-related businesses like ski resorts, January is likely a slow period of the year. It is an opportunity to work on projects that have been put on the back burner because there may not be time to do them during periods of normal operation.
1 Examine your cash flow
Many businesses are cyclical. Retailers are coming off a robust holiday shopping season in 2017. Now the seasonal lows are likely to occur. Do a cash flow analysis of your 2017 operations to determine the high points and low points of the year. You might need to take a small business loan to get through the down cycles and take measures, such as temporarily reducing staff, to improve your overall cash flow.
2. Work to shorten the time it takes to collect accounts receivable
Examine your accounts receivable and touch base with customers that are sitting on payments for over 30 days. Speeding up payment is a good start towards healthier cash flow. Along those lines, make sure you have a system in place to send out invoices quickly after the delivering your products or services. Although people today prefer emailing or texting, the simple act of picking up a phone and calling a slow paying customer could be enough prodding to get them to write you a check. You might want to incentivize customers to pay early by offering a discount. Likewise, 2018 might be the year that you charge a penalty to those who take longer than 30 days. Use your down time now to contact late payers and start discussing a payment plan.
3. Learn about the new tax codes
I am surprised by how many small business owners have little to no idea how the new tax codes pushed by President Trump will impact their companies. Many small business owners are praising the plan, while others believe it will help large corporations more than small business owners. So what is the truth?
“It depends on your individual business,” says Jack Lieberman, a New Jersey-based CPA. “Contact your accountant and schedule an appointment to go over the implications of the new tax bill. Most people aren’t going to be able to figure it out on their own.”
4. Plan for the future
A slow day in January is an opportune time to plan your marketing initiatives for the year. How well are you using social media to promote your business? The tools are often free. It does not cost anything to set up a Facebook page or Twitter or Instagram account. What it does require is having someone overseeing it, and many small business owners do not have the time or skill set to do it themselves. In such cases, determine if there is anyone already currently on staff who can take over the job of making Facebook or Twitter posts and putting up pictures on Instagram.
If no one appropriate is currently on the payroll you can outsource it to a public relations professional. If cost is an issue, you might ask around and try to find a college or high school student who wants to earn some extra money. Young people likely already know the ins and outs of social media. The only issue, obviously, is that students are not available during the day when they are in class. A site like Craigslist or Indeed.com can be effective in finding young, part-time employees.
If you are contemplating making improvements to your existing location or perhaps even opening up a new one, take the time now to begin the process. In order to apply for small business financing, there are documents you will need to have in place. Contact your accountant and begin the process of filing your 2017 tax returns. If you want to secure funding in 2018, you will need to provide your 2017 financials.
With a strong economy and business optimism, the environment is ripe for small business expansion. If you have good credit, a traditional bank loan may be the best option. For those who have credit ratings around the 650 range, an SBA loan is an attractive option and usually comes with an attractive interest rate and favorable terms.