For a healthy operation, your business needs an annual checkup. Take the time once a year to step out of the trenches and look at where you’ve been and where you’re going; what’s gone right and what’s gone wrong; how close you are to your original plan and whether your need to change what you’re doing, or change the plan.
The multi-step process of conducting an annual checkup involves studying your history, forecasting for the future, communicating with vendors, customers, and other professional associates, then organizing all of the elements of the exercise into a productive and useful format.
An effective annual review needs to be as thorough as possible. Take a look at these specific areas:
· Mission statement. Is your mission statement still valid? If not, revise it.
· Business plan. Compare what you planned to do with your actual results, and analyze why things worked the way they did-or didn’t. Go through each section, updating as necessary to make the plan an accurate reflection of the company with a clear forecast for the coming years.
· Employee compensation and benefit packages. How do your pay scales and bonus plans compare with other employers in your area? Benefits play a major role in creating job satisfaction and employee loyalty; how satisfied are your workers with what you are offering? Could your benefit resources be realigned for improved employee relations?
· Insurance. Review all your policies with a line-by-line coverage and cost analysis. Let your agent know about any changes in your operation that could require changes in insurance, and ask about new insurance products that may be beneficial for you.
· Security issues. Consider safety: is exterior lighting adequate? Are locks sturdy? Are measures in place to protect late-night and solitary workers? Who has keys? Security experts recommend changing locks, alarm codes, and other security passwords at least once a year.
· Professional relationships. Be sure the people you rely on for advice-your attorney, accountant, financial planner, other consultants, etc.-have the knowledge and skills appropriate for your needs.
· Financial relationships. Review the details of your banking agreements, commercial loans, and leases. Renegotiate these contracts if you can get a better deal.
Other areas to examine include competitor information, customer satisfaction feedback, vendor terms and relationships, maintenance and service contracts, office furnishings and equipment, computer systems, freight, and telecommunications systems.
Jacquelyn Lynn (http://www.jacquelynlynn.com) is a business writer based in Orlando, Florida, and the author of more than 20 books, including Entrepreneur’s Almanac (Entrepreneur Press Nov. 2007); Online Shopper’s Survival Guide and co-author of Make Big Profits on eBay (with Charlene Davis). She is also the host and executive producer of Doing It Right Radio® (http://www.doingitrightradio.com).
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