At the end of the financial year: are you ready for the year ahead?

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    Ian Hawkins

    Page written by Ian Hawkins. Last reviewed on March 20, 2024. Next review due April 6, 2025.

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      Swoop looks at how businesses can take advantage of opportunities and make themselves more resilient in the new year.

      Whether last year was your best year, yet, or you are amazed to have survived, a large part of what happens in the future is in your hands.

      Will it be business as usual? Or do you hope to implement major changes? Do you need to reach more customers, or do you need to look after the ones you already have better? Are you generating more business or is there already too much to handle?

      At Swoop, we know SMEs. We speak to all kinds of businesses at all levels of success every single day. With the new year almost here, we wanted to share some of the ideas that have helped businesses overcome tough times and grow. 

      Disclaimer: every business is different, there is no “one size fits all”, so take only what is useful to you from this blog. 

      Ending 23/24

      Have you ever noticed that when you impose a hard deadline, such as the end of the year or a period of leave, things get done? The lesson here is to impose more hard deadlines.

      Between now and the EOY, you should ensure your financial housekeeping is in good order: 

      • Close the books accurately: ensure your financial records are complete and up-to-date. Make sure you reconcile bank statements, categorise all transactions and prepare accurate financial statements such as profit and loss and balance sheet.
      • Minimise outstanding payments: collect outstanding invoices promptly to improve cash flow and avoid bad debts. Offer early payment discounts or consider outsourcing collections if necessary.
      • Optimise expenses: review your expenses and identify areas for cost reduction. Negotiate better deals with suppliers, eliminate unnecessary subscriptions and implement cost-saving measures.
      • Understand your tax obligations: stay informed about relevant tax laws and deductions. Swoop and your accountant will work with you to optimise your tax position and avoid penalties.
      • Prepare for upcoming tax deadlines: file your tax returns on time and avoid penalties. Understand your estimated tax payments for the next year and adjust your withholding accordingly.

      Strategic planning for 24/25

      Whether last year was good or bad, you need to plan for the coming year: great businesses fold when they take success for granted and business owners who wish to grow won’t achieve their ambitions unless they change the things that hold them back.

      There will be a spring budget on 6 March and it is likely there will be some good news in the shape of tax cuts for businesses as we approach a general election. One of the things that the Chancellor will want is a lower interest rate which will make borrowing cheaper. If you need to borrow to invest in your business, you should look at how this will affect your cash flow. 

      The new financial year also marks the onset of new rules introduced in the last budget. Business owners should be aware of incentives such as the re-worked R&D tax credit scheme and potential hazards such as the CGT allowance which has been cut to £3,000. Dividend allowance has also gone down to £500 and there were increases announced in the national minimum and living wages.

      Here are some more tips to get your business in good standing for the year ahead:

      • Analyse the year gone by: reflect on the past year’s performance. Identify your successes and failures, learn from your mistakes, and understand market trends. What did you do that you should keep doing? What do you do that you can stop doing? 
      • Set clear goals for the next year: define your goals for growth, profitability, and other key metrics. Make sure your goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable,Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound). Figure out who is responsible for each part of the plan and hold them accountable for managing their own success. 
      • Develop a growth strategy: outline specific actions you will take to achieve your goals. This could include expanding your product/service offerings, entering new markets, or investing in marketing and sales initiatives. Good ideas are valuable, execution is where the money is made – so figure out how you will put every idea into practice and understand what difference it will make to your journey. 
      • Focus on customer acquisition and retention: customers are ultimately the ones who pay for everything so develop strategies to attract new customers and retain existing ones. This could involve improving your online presence, offering loyalty programs, or providing exceptional customer service. Here’s a radical idea: if you have a client who takes up a lot of your time but gives little return, drop them. If you have customers who treat you well, think of ways to streamline the work you do for them.
      • Invest in your team: train and develop your employees to ensure they have the skills and knowledge needed to contribute to your growth plans. Consider hiring new talent to fill skill gaps. Often you will find grants that will cover some of the cost of this. 
      • Stay informed and adapt: keep yourself up-to-date on industry trends and be prepared to adapt your strategies as needed. Be flexible and willing to pivot your approach based on market conditions and customer feedback. Who are the Key People of Influence (KPIs)? 

      Conclusion

      There are some evergreen things that business founders should always think about:

      There is enormous value in networking with other entrepreneurs and business owners. Sharing experiences and advice can be invaluable, and you can find ways to deliver complete solutions to customers where meaningful collaborations can be found.

      Professional help from accountants, financial advisors or bookkeepers can save your skin. These professionals will often be the first to spot the early warning signs of impending trouble so make sure you talk to them and are open to hearing less-than-great news. 

      Think big: what would you do if money were no object? After your blue sky thinking, come back to earth and try to find ways to achieve your goals. Remember, Swoop is here to give you access to funding you need for growth and you might be surprised by what can be achieved with a modest injection of capital. 

      Will next year be your best year? The future is unknowable but by focusing on both financial housekeeping and strategic planning, you can make your business run more efficiently, more profitably and more enjoyably in the year ahead. Get started with Swoop today!

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      Written by

      Ian Hawkins

      Ian Hawkins is Head of Content at Swoop. As a freelance business journalist and filmmaker he has reported from Europe, Central and North America and Africa. His films and writing have appeared on BBC World, Reuters and CBS, and he has spoken at conferences on both sides of the Atlantic on subjects including data, cyber security, and entrepreneurialism.

      To read our editorial policy, please click here.

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