6 tasks to lead your business into the new year

January’s already behind you. You’ve packed away the last of the tinsel. The school holidays are over and we hear that collective sigh from parents across the state.

Each new year brings me a feeling of giddy optimism where anything in business feels achievable.

It’s the perfect time to focus on the year ahead and harness those feel-good vibes as we ease ourselves back into business-as-usual mode.

But first, here are some tasks to consider before really kicking off the new year.

1. Take out the papers and the trash

After tackling that once-organic fuzzy thing growing in the back of your office fridge, take a good look around your work space and see what else needs cleaning, tidying or decluttering.

You don’t have to go all KonMari on your work space and toss everything that doesn’t spark joy, but it might be time to file that pile, dust if you must, or my fave, tip my keyboard upside down and marvel at what wonders fall out.

Maybe it’s time to ditch your chipped coffee mugs and restock your cutlery – my teaspoons always seem to mysteriously deplete over the year. Do yours suffer the same fate?

Perhaps the magazines in your client waiting area need a refresh. No one wants to read that well-thumbed copy of New Idea from 2014 because Keith and Nic are still happily married and there’s no point keeping it once the crossword has been done.

A clean and decluttered workspace helps me feel mentally prepared to dive into work but not everyone is the same. If you’re someone who thrives in your messy work space, forgo the tidy up, but don’t let your hygiene standards slip. Remember the fuzzy thing in the fridge?

Whatever you need to do to bring a sense of order to your work space, get onto it. And no matter what anyone says, it’s only procrasti-cleaning when you’re avoiding work.

A top down view of a mess desk with stationary items, coffee cups and tangled headphones.

2. Enrol in rehab for your course addiction

If you’re anything like me, there will be a bunch of online training courses you signed up for last year, some you’ve even paid for, that you haven’t completed or started.

Make a list of all the courses you’ve signed up for but haven’t yet completed.

Consider if each course will add value to your business. Don’t let the amount you paid be a factor in this decision. There’s no need to complete a course because you paid for it if it’s not going to bring value to your business.

If it will add value, work out how much time is needed to complete the course.

Do this for each course and prioritise the courses that will bring you the most value.

Finally, schedule time in your calendar to complete them. It might be one hour a week, but lock that time in, protect it and show up each week.

Business Victoria offers a range of low cost workshops that you might want to consider as well if you’re looking to upskill in marketing and sales, financial management, taking your business online, employing skilled staff, or improving your productivity and processes.

If you have staff, ask them to complete the same activity.

Are there other in-person courses or online training they or you should do this year to develop skills that will bring value to your business? This is a great time of year to map out a training plan.

Hmmm, is that KonMari course on Udemy tax deductible?

3. Review the costly creep of subscriptions

Do you have a habit of stockpiling subscriptions to digital services you don’t really need but are bulking up your monthly expenses?

Make a list of all digital subscriptions you pay for and how much they cost, such as:

  • stock image sites
  • accounting software like MYOB or Xero
  • word processing and spreadsheet software like Microsoft Office
  • customer relationship management (CRM) software
  • video conferencing tools like Zoom
  • spelling and grammar checking software
  • anti-virus software
  • social media management tools
  • SEO tools
  • video editing software
  • publishing and graphic design software like Adobe Creative Cloud
  • web and email hosting through a web host or service like Shopify or Wix
  • email marketing management tools like MailChimp or Campaign Monitor.

Cancel any subscriptions that you no longer use, or if time remains on your subscription, set it to not auto-renew.

There might be services that you can downgrade to a cheaper plan while you’re not using them so much.

After a recent subscription audit, I found that I could save significant fees by switching from monthly to yearly billing and another service I cancelled and re-signed up for while the company was running a big sale. Now I have more cash for courses I’ll never complete. And teaspoons. Yay!

Check out Business Victoria’s guide to buying the right software for more tips.

4. Have an unsubscribe party

The next time an email subscription hits your inbox that you don’t want to read or didn’t sign up for, instead of deleting it, open it and unsubscribe. Except for the Small Business Victoria Update, of course!

Inbox clutter costs us in productivity. Be ruthless. I used to have a ‘For later’ folder that I dumped interesting-sounding emails into thinking I’d look at them when I had time. Did you scoff, too? No one has time for ‘For later’ folders, so open those pesky newsletters as they roll in and unsubscribe from those you don’t make time for.

While it can be tempting to use a service to bulk unsubscribe you from email, be aware that some of these ‘free’ unsubscribe software programs sell your personal data, so it’s best to tackle them one at a time from within your inbox.

If you’ve already used one of these tools, you can remove its access to your inbox at any time.

This is also a timely reminder that if you’re sending emails, you might be annoying people and breaching the Spam Act, so brush up on your email marketing etiquette.

5. Spy on Research your competitors

If you haven’t been paying attention to your competitors for a while, now could be the time to start sleuthing and see what they are up to before they devour your market share and woo your customers away.

  • Are they offering new products or services to the same market you serve?
  • While no one loves a copycat, is their marketing giving you fresh ideas for how to approach your market?
  • Are they getting good traction on their social channels?
  • Is their website performing better than yours?
  • What are people saying online about their business? What are they saying about yours?
  • Are they attracting testimonials and positive reviews? Can you do the same?
  • What’s unique about what you offer that separates you from your competitors?

Set new benchmarks for your business performance and refresh your marketing plan.

The Business Victoria website offers some great ideas for setting benchmarks and their much-loved marketing plan template has done the heavy lifting for you – you just have to fill in the details and you’ll be on your way to devouring more than your market share. Om nom nom.

6. Set your annual financial targets

I’m a wordsmith by trade, so while numbers aren’t exactly my jam, my bank balance certainly is.

Since starting my business, I’ve set annual financial targets – a realistic goal and then one that will stretch me. I didn’t quite make last year’s stretch goal, but I’m determined to get there this year. Knowing that figure can help me focus on winning the work and getting the work done efficiently.

But I also know that there is so much more to understanding my business’ finances beyond its humble bank balance.

If numbers aren’t your strength either (and even if they are), Business Victoria provides an excellent range of financial advice, including their monthly financial tasks that cover things my number-evading brain would never think of.

From managing your cashflow to preparing for your next BAS or calculating your margins to find your best-selling product or service, these monthly tasks are like gold for small business owners like us. They are worth checking out and signing up for the monthly reminders.

Whatever tasks you choose to do to kick start your year, I hope they move your business towards success and reaching your 2019 goals. And a fresh cutlery set with extra teaspoons.

Sandra Muller

Content Strategiest | Sandra L Muller

Sandra Muller is a content strategist and SEO copywriter who has worked in online business for 20 years. She helps organisations plan and deliver complex online content projects.

You can find her at sandralmuller.com or blogging at thesmarterwriter.com