It's time for your business's midyear checkup

AP News
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Posted: Jun 24, 2011 8:18 PM
It's time for your business's midyear checkup

It's time to give your small business a checkup. The midpoint of the year is an ideal time to look at the company and see what's working, and what isn't. And to do some strategic and financial planning not only for the second half, but for next year too.

The first thing to do is to schedule an appointment with your accountant or financial adviser _ and be sure your books are in order before your meeting. If you have a human resources provider, now is also a good time for a get-together to go over any employee issues you have.

And take a step back and look at your business overall. See if you and your staffers need to be working in a more productive manner.

Some items for your to-do list:

WHY YOUR COMPANY NEEDS A FINANCIAL CHECKUP

The uneven state of the economy means that many small business owners aren't sure about taking any big steps the rest of the year. For example, buying new equipment or taking on new employees. When you meet with your accountant, you can get a better sense of what your options are. They keep up with changes in the tax law, and also have an idea of what changes may happen in the future.

What you'll likely hear from a financial adviser is that you need to base your business decisions not only on the next few months, but on next year as well. Some of the questions you'll need to consider:

_Do you expect to make money this year? And next year, do you think you'll be making more money then? Is it better to take a deduction for big purchases in this tax year, or wait until next?

_Would spending money now help your business grow? Or is the economy too uncertain for you to know?

_If you're considering buying equipment or moving to a different location, would you get a better deal if you did that now?

Many owners might want to make decisions based on how much money they might save on taxes. But that needs to be just one factor in everything you consider.

EMPLOYEE MATTERS

Summer is the big vacation time for most companies. And that can raise a number of employment policy issues.

Employers who have never bothered to create a vacation policy can suddenly find that things get a little chaotic _ let's say, because two staffers have plane tickets and hotel reservations for the same week. Or one or more staffers have child care issues or kids' softball games they want to attend.

The first step you need to take is find a way to resolve the conflicts and get the work done. Can other staffers pitch in? Can you hire a temporary worker?

Your next priority is creating a vacation policy that lets staffers know how many people can be off at once, and what the procedures are for requesting vacation. Will it be first-come, first-served or seniority?

For that staffer who frequently asks to leave early, you need to decide how much time away from the job is OK. And staffers need to figure out how to get their work done when they take some extra time.

It's a good idea to meet with an HR consultant who can help you with employee matters. And probably help you head off problems in the future.

HOW IS YOUR BUSINESS RUNNING?

Besides financial and employee issues, you should be thinking about other aspects of your business. Are your computers working well, or do they need maintenance? If you have a manufacturing business, is your equipment in good shape?

How about the way your company operates _ are your procedures efficient? Are your workers so overwhelmed they can't get everything done well? Are you making the most of online technology that can save you time and money?

And take a look around your premises, and see if they need some renovating, or even cleaning. Is your work environment helping or hurting your business? Is it a pleasant place, not only for your employees, but for your customers as well?

Looking at all these issues now can help you do better well past the second half of 2011.