As a small-business owner, setting financial goals for your business is an important way to stay apprised of your real progress and monitor your company’s health. And Q4 is the time of year when businesses assess their financial performance over the past months, make needed adjustments and set new goals for the year ahead.
A simple but thorough financial checklist can help small businesses ensure they don’t overlook important indicators of and steps toward financial health. Here, 14 members of Forbes Finance Council share essential activities every small-business owner should tick off their Q4 financial checklist.
1. Review All Insurance Policies, Premiums And Coverage
You should conduct an annual review of all insurance policies, premiums and coverage. Managing your business with the comfort of knowing you are covered in the event of a disaster, employee litigation and/or an E&O penalty allows you to focus on revenue and growth. Not having the proper coverage could destroy your business if an unexpected trigger event requires a claim to recover losses. – Anthony Holder, C&H Financial Services, Inc.
2. Take A Look At Tax Strategies
One important thing to keep in mind as we head into Q4 is the tax strategy side of things. Making some strategic moves before the end of the year can make a significant difference in terms of how much you save (or pay) in taxes come next April. For example, if you prepay next January’s marketing expenses by this December, you can accelerate the tax write-off by an entire year. – Amanda Han, Keystone CPA, Inc.
3. Determine Inflation Risk For The Next Year
Every business should be considering the risk of ongoing inflation in Q4 and the upcoming year. Businesses have gotten used to operating in a low-inflation economy for 40-plus years. When inflation started ramping up in 2021, some predicted that the trend would be short-lived. But core inflation is here to stay for some time due to the limited capacity of central banks worldwide to increase rates. – Kirti Gupta, Qualcomm Inc.
4. Review Your P&L And Focus On Building Financial Reserves
Small-business owners should understand their profits and losses and manage their budgets to allow for financial reserves for future quarters. With the uncertainty of the impact of a potential recession, make sure that you revisit your expenses, have extra cash flow and secure a line of credit in case of an emergency. Reach out to your team of advisors to make sure you are on track. – Letitia Berbaum, The Zandbergen Group
5. Make Tax-Advantaged Decisions Before The Year Is Out
Small-business owners should consult their tax preparers, as Q4 is often your last chance to make tax-advantaged decisions inside of the calendar year. Talk to them about opportunities to accelerate deductible expenses or take advantage of capital purchases. And don’t forget yourself: Make sure you have made contributions to a SEP IRA or other smart personal tax decisions before December 31. – Michelle DeBella, JumpCloud
6. Plan Future Capital And Operational Investments
Making a plan with your tax professional is a key priority to perform early in Q4 so that you have time to execute on the plan. This is beneficial not only to the current year but also to next year, since the timing typically coincides with the budget season. You will have more information to make better decisions in planning for future capital and operational investments. – Rick Loss, MyBasePay, LLC
7. Analyze Future Financing Activities
When a small-business owner is creating a Q4 financial checklist, they must include a future financing activities analysis. This will allow the owner to project the potential weighted average cost of capital and how planned cash and cash equivalents need to be allocated through the end of the current fiscal year, as well as how the Q4 operating activities will impact future initiatives. – Kacey Butcher, Adaptation Financial
8. Look For Ways To Reduce Expenses
Review your finances from the previous three quarters. What are your expenses? Can you reduce them anywhere? Are there tax write-offs or investment opportunities you can look into? I highly recommend meeting with your accounting team and/or CPA to review all the numbers. It’s essential to be proactive, not reactive—especially with finances. – Jared Weitz, United Capital Source Inc.
9. Pay Yourself First
I’d recommend small-business owners ask themselves this question: How likely am I to achieve my savings goal for the year? For entrepreneurs, it’s not about how much you earn; it’s about how much you keep. Entrepreneurs have so many financial demands (such as new equipment, new hires and new markets). They tend to prioritize personal financial goals last, behind their business needs. I advise clients to pay themselves first. – Todd Sixt, Strait & Sound Wealth Management LLC
10. Look At Where You Stand And Chart A Path For Where You’re Going
While Q4 is an opportunity to finish strong and reach your financial goals for the year, it’s also the time when I like to have clients begin working on next year’s financial projections. During this time, business owners should look at where they currently stand and chart a path to where they are going. Focus on budgeting, forecasting cash flow and so on, and prepare for unforeseen challenges. – Justin Goodbread, WealthSource Partners, LLC
11. Reengage Your Sales Team
Use this time to reengage your sales team. Make sure your team knows you are there to help them make their year-end numbers—be available for a prospect pitch; support and fund smart, strategic conference spending; and so on. Also, look at the salespeople who are behind on their targets. Find a way to reengage them without sending a message that you’ll readjust a target if they miss it. – Aaron Spool, Eventus Advisory Group, LLC
12. Curate A Cash Flow Forecast Strategy
Create a regular cash flow forecast strategy for your business operations. Whether you’re planning an expansion, hiring new staff or simply have a tighter budget, creating cash flow forecasts can ensure businesses understand how much capital they must work with. Cash flow forecasting can help businesses avoid cash flow gaps and stay afloat, even during an economic downturn. – Nick Chandi, ForwardAI
13. Identify When Cash Flow Was Weak During The Past Year
So many business owners get cash flow wrong. Most businesses fail because of mismanagement of cash flow, even when they’re making enough revenue. Q4 is a good time to look back at your monthly cash flow over the last 12 months and identify when cash flow was weak during the year (for example, summer months tend to be weak for many businesses) and plan against that for next year. – Sameer Gulati, ZenBusiness
14. Secure Capital Now For 2023 Growth Plans
The Fed increased interest rates by 75 basis points again in September, so we can expect credit to tighten further. Everyone should make sure they have what they need to close out 2022 strong and make it happen in 2023. Ask yourself: Do I have what I need to keep up with my plans? If you plan to grow your business midway through 2023, you should secure the capital you need for that venture now—make it your Q4 goal. – Joe Camberato, National Business Capital