Are You “On Track” for 2006? It’s Time to Check Your Progress with a Mid-Year Small Business Evaluation

Many small businesses use the calendar year as their fiscal year. So it is significant to more than your personal “New Years Resolutions” that the middle of 2006 has now officially come and gone. If you are a small business owner, you may find solace or panic in the fact that 2006 is more behind us than in front of us. No matter how business seems to be going, now is the time to do a mid-year small business evaluation.

If you had a list of goals for 2006 in January, pull them out and dust them off. It’s time to see how close you are to reaching those goals. If you didn’t set goals at the beginning of the year, now is your opportunity to determine where you are and where you need to be by year-end. Consider the following three check-point areas sooner, rather than later, to keep your business on track and to avoid any nasty surprises at the end of the year:

Financial Goals

Run a mid-year financial report for January 1st through June 30th. Once you have that in hand, you need to look at overall income, expenses and taxes paid. If your income is lower than expected, or your expenses are higher than expected, now is the time to make the necessary adjustments required to get your business back on track. If your income is higher than expected and your expenses are lower than expected… you may need to make adjustments on the amount of money you are paying quarterly for taxes or the extra money for year-end taxes that you are setting aside.

If your income is larger than you expected… and you are wondering where all the money is… you need to take a good look at your expenses column. If you are paying for services you aren’t currently using, eliminate them… TODAY. If you need to purchase major equipment this year, and purchasing those items now would save you time, then buy them now. If you don’t have the cash on hand, but will by year-end, consider a 6-months-same-as-cash offering through an in-store line of credit or a business credit card. Just be careful and make sure you read the fine print, make the required monthly payments and pay it all off before the due date.

If your expenses are too high, determine where you can cut without hurting your business. If you have been a bit more “open handed” with the business spending than you had expected, now is the time to create a monthly plan to adjust the rest of the expenditures for the year and get back on track. If your income is lower than it should be, determine what you can do to pump up bottom line before the end of the year.

Marketing Goals

Is your business growing at the rate you anticipated? If it’s growing slower than you had hoped, you need to determine what you can do to remedy the situation. If you have been planning to add a new product and/or service, now may be the time to launch and take advantage of the marketing blitz you can create with a new offering. If your business is growing too quickly, you may want to consider specializing your services to attract only your ideal clients. In the service industry, in particular, you often discover that specializing your services and focusing your scope on particular end-users will improve your bottom line, while freeing up a bit of time during your business day.

Now is the time to take a look at your marketing materials — are they fresh and up-to-date, or are they looking “tired” and worn? Pay special attention to your website and your business stationery — business cards and letterhead. These are the materials that most of your potential clients will use to assess your ability to meet their needs. If you haven’t freshened up your look and added a bit of content to your website this year… it’s overdue. If your business card isn’t perfect, and you hesitate to hand it out, it’s not doing you any good. Take the time, spend the money, and be sure your first impression is doing your business justice.

Personal/Professional Goals

This is also the perfect time to review your own personal and professional goals. Are you putting enough money into your retirement plan? Don’t wait until the end of the year before you think about it. You should be paying yourself every time you make a quarterly (or monthly) payment toward taxes. If you have maximized your retirement, you may also want to consider protecting your intellectual property. If you don’t have a trademark, and you need one, begin that process now. (You may have it complete by the end of the year!)

If you determine that you aren’t taking the time away from the office that you need, if you feel that you live at work and that much of your time is spent doing chores that are not helping you to move forward professionally or personally — you may want to consider hiring an onsite or offsite assistant — even if you are an offsite provider yourself. Having someone come in to do some of the filing takes a load off your plate. Delegating some of the regular tasks that keep you from moving to the bigger issues, can be a sound investment in your business, your career and your sanity. (Confession: I have someone in my office as I’m typing this and he’s cleaning and filing and getting me ‘in shape’ to continue with my core focus for the remaining months this year. It’s a great relief!)

Yes, it’s the middle of the year. Yes, time is passing too quickly. Yes, we all wish we could slow it down a bit — especially those of us who are self-employed.

July isn’t just the middle of the year, it’s also the perfect month to assess your business and your life to be sure that you are meeting your goals. It’s an opportunity to make the adjustments required to pull yourself (and your business) back on track, if you find you are veering a bit off course. So, take stock in where you are now and what needs to be done to have an enjoyable (and profitable) second half of 2006!