A Small Business Owner’s Guide to New Year’s Resolutions Jonathan Herrick January 1 is an exciting day for many business owners, as they get set to put brand-new plans for the coming 12 months into action. That could be especially true this year, given that 2017 was such a good year for many firms. In the recent Capital One Growth Index, 60% of small business owners said that current business conditions are good or excellent, and 37% reported being in a better financial position than a year ago, up from 31% from earlier in the year. Nonetheless, we’re in a period of rapid change that makes it a little trickier to plan for the coming year than in the past. Focusing on making high-level resolutions that will truly help your business thrive, rather than to-dos like cleaning out your email inbox, can make a real difference in a period of uncertainty. Here are some factors to consider in your resolutions so you have an amazing year in 2018. Taxes. Most of us would rather not think about taxes, but they’re a fact of life—and a costly one—for many small business owners. Taxes were the top concern for small business owners in the coming year in the Capital One Growth Index, cited by 45%. With tax reform on the table, small business owners may well see a tax cut in 2018, but don’t count on legislative change alone to free the cash you need to reinvest in your business this year. If you don’t have a great accountant who is helping you to plan proactively to make the most of whatever the tax code ends up being, resolve to find a fantastic advisor in 2018. A great accountant is not necessarily the person who charges you the lowest fees on your tax return. It is someone who will help you stay on top of what is going on in the tax code and plan ahead to minimize your tax bite. Although you will have to pay for this advice—accountants are in business, too!—it can be worth many times the fees you pay. Ask other owners in your network now for referrals to someone fantastic. Your books. For many business owners, bookkeeping is a bear. However, if you constantly fall behind on financial record-keeping or your books are always slopping, you’ll never have good visibility into how your business is actually doing or know for sure if your business is meeting key performance indicators. If you don’t have an accountant or bookkeeper to handle bookkeeping for you now, resolve to hire an expert to help you in 2018. Bookkeeping services are generally not expensive, and once you get help, you will wonder how you did without it for so long. Hint: If you need to keep costs down, make sure you automate as much of your bookkeeping as possible. For instance, you can attach your bank records and business credit cards to programs like QuickBooks, so the transactions automatically appear in the software and save hourly work for your bookkeeper. If you’re worried about security, bear in mind you don’t have to give the bookkeeper access to these actual accounts to automate these functions. To find a great bookkeeper, ask around among your network or try a freelance site such as Upwork to find one who is an expert in the program you use, whether that’s QuickBooks, Xero, FreshBooks or another one. Cash flow. If you’ve ever considered signing up to drive for Uber or Lyft during a cash-flow crunch, you’re not alone. In Capital One’s survey, managing cash flow was a concern for 42% of respondents. Cash flow can be a particularly challenging issue if you have employees and need to make payroll. Many factors can affect your cash-flow: seasonal sales patterns, changing market conditions, and slow-paying customers, to name a few. If you are not doing cash-flow forecasting to get in front of these realities, make 2018 the year you master this aspect of running a business. You’ll sleep a lot better at night if you know where you stand early and can plan ahead. One free tool worth trying is Runway, which is designed to help startups determine how long their cash will last. SCORE offers a variety of free templates for cash-flow planning, as well. Technology. Keeping up with technology was another top concern for small business owners in the Capital One Growth Index, cited by 32%. Given how quickly technology is changing in many industries, even “keeping up” may seem like an ambitious goal—especially if you are a technophobe. Fortunately, there are ways to simplify the process. First, make time to talk regularly with others in your industry about what technologies they are using. For instance, if you notice they send out an email newsletter, ask them what marketing automation software they are using and if they find it easy to use. It could be very useful to you, too. Also ask other small business owners you know to share the number one time-saving technology they are using in their business—whether that is an app to schedule meetings, like ScheduleOnce, one for tracking expenses such as Expensify, or a mobile tool such as Polaris, which lets you edit Microsoft documents on an iPhone or Apple device. Even if you find a single app that saves you two hours a week, that 104 hours a year you have liberated for other pursuits—whether that is doing some deep thinking about your business, spending time with family or working out. We can all use extra time to focus on the things that really add to our quality of life so make 2018 the year you give yourself that gift, every week of the year.