Planning Ahead: What Your Small Business Can Do to Gear Up for Fall

Planning Ahead: What Your Small Business Can Do to Gear Up for Fall
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The final quarter of 2017 is upon us. Within the next few months, multiple major holidays will make huge demands on small businesses. Retail firms can expect a large spike in business, while customer service companies will have to juggle holiday staffing issues, while still making sure the work gets done. The quiet time before the season really gets going is an excellent opportunity for businesses to update goals and solidify plans. Some will review how they handled the previous year, studying the numbers to figure out what worked — and what didn't. Others will work on improving their online marketing, lay the groundwork for holiday sales or make sure that staffing and inventory levels are where they should be.

So how can your firm gear up for the fall? Members from Young Entrepreneur Council suggest the following:

A. Assign Accountability for Metrics

Companies love strategic planning but fall short when it comes to execution. Gear up for success by assigning accountability of each goal to a single individual, a metric they'll be measured by and a rhythm for check in. For example: The CMO is in charge of 10 percent top-line growth, the key metric is new revenue over marketing spend and check-in happens every two weeks at the all-hands meeting. - Michael Hsu, DeepSky

A. Examine Last Year's Season to Prepare

It's easy to get caught up in last week’s or this week's numbers or plans. In some cases, taking a quick glance at what the business was doing a year ago can yield ideas of things to do (or not to do) this year. As kids are heading back to school, summer is over and the holidays approach, identifying what went wrong or right last year is a great way to plan for this season. - Shawn Schulze,

A. Start Your Holiday Campaigns Early

One mistake I was making early on was trying to promote holiday sales just a week or two before the holiday. Start your holiday campaigns months before — you will be surprised by how many people plan and purchase well before the holidays. This also gets your product in front of their eyes first; a lot of times, customers end up coming back and purchasing. - Chris Gronkowski, Ice Shaker

A. Properly Scale Your Inventory and Personnel Levels

Seasonality is the nature of most businesses. But one should always be ready by scaling to necessary inventory and personnel levels, while not overextending. It is always better to ramp up than be left with a cash-flow-killing surplus. - Marc Lobliner, and MTS Nutrition

A. Set Some Short-Term Goals

There is no better feeling than setting a goal, and then achieving it. Conversely, there is nothing worse than setting a goal and falling short on time. As the fall approaches, it is a perfect time to gather the team and set some goals that can be accomplished in the fourth quarter. Executing these short-term strategic plans will also improve team morale into the following year. - Ryan Bradley, Koester & Bradley, LLP

A. Focus on Claiming Top Brand Name Search Results

Google is the go-to source for all information. When someone searches for your personal name or brand, what will they find? With this in mind, put in the time and effort to make sure your website, blog and social profiles all rank at the top of Google for your name. This is simply one of the best ways to secure sales, increase brand recognition and also protect your reputation in the process. - Zac Johnson, Blogger

A. Attend a Retreat With Your Leadership Team

Strategic thinking is hard to do when you're busy managing the day-to-day fires that come with running a small business. Take some time to get outside the office with your leadership team and discuss your three-month, one-year and five-year goals. - Lisa Curtis, Kuli Kuli Inc.

A. Talk With Your Mentors

As a small business, it is crucial to have a mentor or advisor who has been through the challenges you are facing. This fall we are talking to our mentor and advisor weekly and it has made a massive difference in our growth. There is no better way to learn than from the success and failure of others who have encountered the same issues and struggles that you are going through as a business. - Beth Doane, Main & Rose

A. Focus on Cash Flow

Depending on your business, Q4 can provide 50 percent or more of your annual revenue. Many small businesses need to spend considerable amounts of money to stock up on inventory or part-time labor. However, you need to manage cash flow and make sure that you can stay afloat if the quarter isn't as strong as you hope. Be aggressive and hope for a great quarter, but don't put your business at risk. - Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

A. Motivate Your Team

These times can be a bit tricky. Usually lots of employee vacations are occurring and time off is being taken. You'll want to remind people about company policy and make sure that it's all in order as you get ready for the busy season. Having a good pep talk about expectations, goals and forecasts is a great way to align your team for the coming quarter. - Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now

A. Meet with a Tax Adviser

Set up an appointment with a tax adviser in early Q4 to avoid any end-of-year surprises. Whether you want to discuss business deductions for the current year or bigger tax moves you need to make for the long term, find a tax adviser who knows your industry and can help you plan strategically. And don't forget: A tax professional's fees are also a tax-deductible business expense! - Roger Lee, Captain401

A. Start Planning Your Marketing Campaigns

Fall is a great time to execute a successful marketing campaign. Starbucks does this well with their fall flavored lattes. Think of ways your business can leverage the fall season. If you are a restaurant owner, perhaps you can create a pumpkin soup and get your customers excited through social media and email marketing campaigns. - Syed Balkhi, OptinMonster

A. Create Redundancy

If you have resources, create more redundancy for your business, whether it’s a secondary person to count on when your point person isn’t available, a backup internet connection or data backups. This will prepare you for growth. - Ismael Wrixen, FE International

These answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

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