Fall Cleaning for your Small Business

By Bonnie Sokoloff

Now that fall is right around the corner, many small businesses will soon begin preparations for the upcoming holiday season, which will be upon us before we know it, followed quickly by a brand new year. Hopefully the holidays will be a busy time for you and your business, which means you won’t have much time to do anything but holiday-related tasks, for the most part. But you really do need to review what worked and didn’t work for you in 2011, and then use that information to gear up for 2012. This is where fall cleaning comes in.  Now is the perfect time to get this process started (and hopefully finished) before holiday madness takes over.

So what exactly is “fall cleaning?” Is it literal or figurative?

Well, you can interpret it both ways, and you will likely have to do a bit of both types of cleaning in order to get into a good position for 2012.

Let’s start with the literal, which, aside from the heavy lifting, is actually the easier of the two. Most people are more productive in a clean, unencumbered workspace, so use this time to clear out your work area(s) and file away or dispose of anything that you don’t need at your fingertips. And speaking of filing, why not set up your 2011 archives and 2012 active files now so that you won’t even have to think about doing this when you’re busy with other tasks, down the road.

Now that your work area is free and clear, it’s time for the real work to begin. And by that, I mean taking a good, long, objective look at your successes this year and, more importantly, your failures. Then you can come up with a plan to improve upon your successes and turn the failures around in 2012. Exactly what constitutes “success” or “failure” is unique to you and your business. What specific goals did you set for your business this year and how close did you come to achieving them? For example, if you were aiming for one-million in sales and it’s looking like you will come in at $950,000, you may only have to make some small changes to hit the one-million mark next year. But if you were targeting zero customer complaints and you received two or three, you may consider this more of a failure than missing your sales target, and you may feel the need to make some substantial adjustments. Keep in mind, those adjustments not only affect how you will reach your goals, but also the attainability of the goals themselves.

Once you’ve established where you want your business to go in 2012, it will be time to figure out how to get there. Again, this will be unique to you and your type of business. You will have to take several factors into account, some of which won’t even be in your control, and then do your best with what you’ve got. It’s always wise to come up with some backup plans in case of emergency. For example, the majority of your employees get sick during a busy time and you need to have responsible backup staff to step in right away—wouldn’t it be great to have a comprehensive list of temps that you’ve already interviewed and vetted? Or the city decides to rip up the sidewalk in front of your store, severely limiting customer access—this could be a disaster, unless you’ve got the means to switch to delivery-based service for the duration of the construction. Of course, you can’t foresee every possible problem that may arise, but the more detailed and organized your plan is, the more likely you will triumph over any adversity that comes along.

Do you see what I meant about this being the real work? But it’s an essential part of ensuring that, not only is your small business ready for the upcoming year, but it’s also ready to thrive.

So let the fall cleaning begin!

BONNIE SOKOLOFF currently works as an Internal Communications Specialist for Staples Canada. She has over 15 years of experience with copywriting, editing and print production.

By Adam

September 12, 2011