New Year Planning: how businesses get ready for the year ahead

By: Paul Murray, Posted on: December 22, 2017

January is often a quiet time for accounting practice owners and finance industry professionals, so it’s the perfect time to undertake planning for the year ahead. In the second part of our two-part series on how industry experts approach the Christmas and New Year period, we asked a number of accountants and finance industry professionals how they approach goal setting for the New Year period.

Sasi Santharajah, Owner, Proactive Accounting

January is a great time to reflect on the year that’s passed. I like to consider what worked, what didn’t and what I’d like to achieve next year. I always ask myself and the team: ‘what new things shall we try?’ It’s a good way to stay on top of best practice in the industry.

I start with a half-day session, using the cloud based mapping tool SimpleMind ProI can dump in ideas and then organise it logically later on. There’s a variety of layouts to choose from and I can add photos or link to documents in the cloud, such as Dropbox.

My staff always contribute to the planning process and as a group we will agree on the goals we’d like to achieve. Then we use Evernote to assign tasks, so we start working towards them and don’t lose momentum.

When it comes to evaluation, I’m part of a monthly business networking program, SMART-Connect, which includes regular assessment of business goals. It’s a great way to take stock on a regular basis.

Dianna Butterworth, Owner, LDB Financial

Because my husband and I own our business together, we take a fairly informal approach to goal setting. We’ll spend a day together in January to talk about our objectives for the year ahead. We’ll look at the goals for last year and see if we achieved them, and if not, why not? That often forms the basis for the goals of the year ahead. We might want to grow the business, branch out into new industries, focus on serving retainer clients, invest in team development or take on more projects. Together we will narrow down on what we really want to achieve.

Once we’ve spent that time together we will invite our staff to contribute. We want our staff to contribute to the goal-setting process and take a stake in the direction of the business. When we’re all agreed on the plan for the year, we take stock every quarter to see how we’re travelling. This is a process we have refined over the six years we’ve been in business and it works well for us.

Matthew Peng, Director, Business Continuum

Because January is half way through the financial year, it’s the perfect time for accounting practice owners to take stock. Has your practice hit the halfway point in its business goals, or will you be playing catch up for the next six months to achieve them? If you’re not past halfway to achieving your goals, then it’s best to find out why now, while there is still a chance to turn it around before the year is out.

January is a great time for accounting practice firms to proactively reach out to clients. Get in touch with any former client who hasn’t worked with you for six months with a special offer to get them back on board. Don’t be complacent, remind them you exist.

Another good tactic to implement in January is a staff ‘hackathon.’ Get your team together, to brainstorm ways you can hack your productivity, efficiency and profitability. Come up with creative ways to improve process and workflow for our own business and for your clients. This can be a fun team building day for staff as well as a great way to identify new work processes.

When it comes to goal setting for our own business, we use Scoro. It helps us keep track of our broader business goals and review them on a weekly basis. It gives us the visibility of our goals and monitors our progress towards achieving them. It prompts that mental check-in to remind us to consider our business goals more regularly, and sets the metrics to make it easy to monitor our progress.

Heather Smith, Chartered Accountant, Cloud Solutions Expert, Business Automation Virtuoso, YouTuber, Podcaster, Author, Speaker

I actually do my planning in November, so my thought process has time to settle into my subconscious, and I am ready to hit the ground running in February.

I think of goals setting as a ‘cloud’ journey to a destination. There are many ways to get there, and you need to keep checking your dashboard, to refine your direction to ensure you will get to where you want to go. Every month I review where I am, what direction I am heading and whether I need to refine or redefine existing goals.

My goal for 2018 is to push my experiment of working as a digital nomad further, with extended travel overseas in Asia and New Zealand. I also want to take time in January for powering down. This involves downloading audio autobiographies and whimsical fiction stories from the library, and I listen to them on extended nature walks.

Jason Lawler, owner JPL Accounting

Typically I undertake an annual review every May during the CPA annual conference in Lorne, but this year I’ve also engaged a business coach to guide me through a goal setting program. As a solo operator looking to grow my business, this investment will help me focus on broader goals.

It’s easy to get stuck into the day-to-day of client jobs, so I’m looking forward to having that external accountability to clarify what I want to achieve and how I can continue giving my clients the best possible services.

Kim Anderson, Marketing & Customer Success, SuiteFiles

We start our planning for the year in December. First we evaluate to see if we’ve achieved our goals for 2017. That prompts us to start goal setting for the year ahead. We consider the opportunities we want to pursue, events we want to attend and high-level goals we want to achieve. We like to keep it top level at first and not spend too much time on the goals until they are agreed across the business.

Then, we'll work out how to achieve those goals by using the SMART system (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely). We will break it down by month and allocate tasks to be actioned to achieve the goal. When it comes to evaluation we use a lot of data to assess our progress. Each month or week we will generate reports to see how we are tracking on those goals. Accurate measurement is essential to get a realistic understanding of our progress towards these goals, and checking in regularly keeps them top of mind for everyone. We get our data from a number of sources, particularly Google Analyticsand PipeDrive. If we’re running ads on LinkedIn or Facebook, then we’ll use the analytics from that as well.

Paul Murray, Owner, Murray Business Solutions (and founder of AccountKit)

It’s been a hard run up to Christmas and so the team are well deserving of a good couple weeks off to recuperate and take some time to hit the beach with family and friends.

We encourage clients to take stock at this time of year as well. The break can often result in some of their best ideas for the next year as their brain recuperates and the creative juices start to flow.

Our planning for the year ahead starts well ahead of January. We always start the financial year with a fun staff activity and goal setting session. By January we are at the halfway point to achieving those goals so we have a standing meeting to see how we’re tracking. We assess whether we need to redirect our focus as circumstances evolve.

If your 2018 practice goal is to embrace more cloud-based software solutions to improve the efficiency of your practice, then give AccountKit a try. Learn more at our next webinar or start your free trial today.

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