3 Quick Year-End Planning To-Dos for Your Small Business

Mike Kelly

The best way to ensure that your business is successful in 2019 is tying up loose ends and closing out 2018 in the best way possible. That includes both setting up your business to be more efficient and reviewing employee performance so you can reward them for their successes, while encouraging their increased productivity and innovation. With a few simple steps, you can help make 2019 one of the best years for your business and your employees.

3 Steps for Optimal Year-End Planning

Follow the steps below to prepare for success in 2019.

1. Automate Your Billing

Almost a quarter of adults living in the U.S. don’t pay their bills on time. Automatic bill payment is an easy way to remedy this, so it’s hard to imagine why so many people don’t opt for automatic billing options—especially when you consider that nearly all collectors offer this option. Yet people continue to waste time paying bills manually and risk wasting money on potential late fees.

By automating your personal and business bills, you’ll not only save time and avoid late fees but you’ll also improve your credit score. Best of all, you can set up most of your bills for automatic payment in about the same amount of time it would take for you to pay one cycle manually. Here are three options to help automate your bill pay:

  1. Use your bank’s online bill pay option to transfer money to creditors.
  2. Authorize your credit card company to issue payments to collectors.
  3. Grant creditors access to your bank accounts, so they can automatically take payments.

2. Review Your Employees

There’s no law stating that managers must conduct employee performance reviews. From a legal standpoint, however, it’s wise to regularly discuss and document employee performance—say, in case you need to let someone go. With that said, employee reviews shouldn’t be held only for legal reasons.

Conducting an end-of-year review for employees is one of the best ways to both provide constructive feedback and praise them for their accomplishments. An end-of-year review can close the chapter of one year, so employees feel a sense of accomplishment and are ready to start the next year with fresh motivation, goals and focus.

Here’s a brief guide for conducting employee reviews:

  1. Schedule a time two weeks in advance to meet with your employees one-on-one. Let them know this is a standard employee performance review.
  2. Jot down notes ahead of time. Consider the employee’s previous goals as well as any feedback from coworkers and customers.
  3. Sit down with the employee to discuss how they performed in relation to their stated goals. Acknowledge any difficulty that was out of their control and keep it conversational.
  4. Frame criticism in the shape of a development goal, so your employee can see it objectively and in a way that shows them how to further their career.
  5. Allow your employee to speak and provide their own feedback. Remember that this is a conversation, not a lecture.

3. Reward Your Employees

Although some may believe that holiday bonuses are relegated to large corporations, they can actually go a long way towards helping boost employee engagement and motivation in smaller operations. Cash can be tight around the holidays. A surprise financial boost may be just what employees need to lift their spirits and feel appreciated for their efforts.

Businesses often give out bonuses based on:

  • Achievement of stated goals
  • Overall company’s performance
  • The number of years an employee has worked with the company

One of the most popular methods for distributing bonuses is rewarding employees with a percentage of their salary if they achieve their goals. This means that an employee who makes $50,000 a year with a target bonus of 5 percent would receive a $2,500 bonus, provided he/she achieved all their goals. This performance-based method of rewarding employees encourages them to achieve their goals and allows them to share in your company’s success.

And if you can’t afford to give bonuses, there are a number of ways to thank employees that do not involve bonuses.

Wrapping Up 2018

Don’t start the new year by trying to tie up loose ends from the year before. Help your business hit the ground running in 2019 by automating busy work, getting your employees in sync with your company’s goals, and showing them that hard work pays off by closing out 2018 giving great rewards.

Next Step

Save time by automating the payment of your small business’s business insurance premiums online at The Hartford’s Online Business Service Center.

11 Responses to "3 Quick Year-End Planning To-Dos for Your Small Business"
    • Francisco Larin | December 27, 2016 at 3:31 pm

      Great ideas, I will plan on implementing them all.


    • Andrew Wolf | December 27, 2016 at 7:45 pm

      Automated payments may be less work, but tends to insulate you from the day to day expenses in your business. Nothing like having to sit down and go through the bills while paying with a check to reinforce frugal behavior. Automated payments like withholding taxes and bill payments isolates you from reality. When you quite being a wage slave and start having to mail in large checks on a quarterly basis you change your behavior.

    • Albert M Silva CPA | December 28, 2016 at 3:50 am

      Agree with these 3 steps. I suggest adding just one more – communicate next year’s goals and objectives to your employees so they can hit the ground running come 2017!

      • Elizabeth Larkin | January 3, 2017 at 4:05 pm

        Great idea. We will update the article. Thanks!

    • Jacqueline Church | November 29, 2017 at 4:24 am


    • Frank Strickland | November 29, 2017 at 3:13 pm

      The second and third points are good ones. On automatic payments I think there is a little bit of naiveté on the author’s part. The assumption is that small businesses don’t know how to do automatic payments. I think the reality for many small businesses in the real world is having to manage the cash daily and payments get stretched out if there is no cash. The other area that is always is a concern with automatic payments is loss of control of your company’s cash when others can pull funds automatically. That assumes that outside entities can be trusted or that if they make errors you can recoup your funds easily. Perhaps I am paranoid but anything that can be done to reduce the electronic exposure of company assets should be done. This is not often possible but too much trust in the current market may be foolhardy.

    • Kathryn Hoffar | November 29, 2017 at 3:10 pm

      If the company has a consistent and reliable cash flow, automated payments may be helpful. If cash flow fluctuates, as it does in most companies, automated payments may create disaster. I do not counsel my clients to chose automated payments for that reason. Bouncing checks because you forgot something was going to be auto drafted from your account can ruin a company’s credit and do far more damage than spending the time to pay the bills. Physically paying the bills also gives you the opportunity to review those bills and follow up on unexpected increases. Phone companies love to double your bill when your contract ends. If you are automating your payment, it may be months before you even realize that you are paying twice as much as you should be. Hands on, is far more prudent, in my opinion.

    • Kristi Cowham | December 21, 2017 at 3:30 pm

      I really enjoyed this article, and was wondering if this would be something we are able to share on our business website to help others.

      • Elizabeth Larkin | December 21, 2017 at 4:00 pm

        Hi Kristi,

        I’m so glad you like the article and found it useful. You can feel free to link to it from your website or on your social media accounts. Please do not copy and paste the entire article though.


    • Becky Vanicelli | December 6, 2018 at 2:00 pm

      The guidelines for the review are very efficient and helpful! Thank you

      • Hannah Sullivan | December 7, 2018 at 7:33 am

        Thank you for your feedback, Becky!

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