Financial hindsight is 20/20, but so is foresight with the right planning. For small business owners, the start of the new decade is the perfect opportunity to review your business plans and set long-term goals that will set you up to make real financial progress in the coming years. Here are five actions to take now in order to future-proof your business for the next decade.
1. Revisit your financial plan.
Hope is not a plan! A lot will happen in 10 years. For small business owners in particular, it is critical to have a financial plan in place that ensures longevity and smart growth, and not one that just looks year-to-year. Revisit your projections and consult with those you trust to ensure you have the right tools to achieve your business goals.
2. Put numbers around “scary decisions.”
There will inevitably be times in the next decade when you will need to make a big decision that could alter your business operations. For example, should you add a salesperson to your payroll? Or when is a good time to invest in new technology or machinery? Putting concrete financial numbers around big decisions like these not only makes the decisions easier, but also gives you the confidence that you’re making moves at a time when your business can financially support and benefit most from them.
3. Don’t be afraid of debt – it can be valuable when used the right way.
Once your financial plan is in place and you understand how big decisions factor in, consider all of your options. Many of the small business owners I meet with are focused on saving for growth or for a rainy day. Having a savings cushion is important for a small business, but it’s also important to know when borrowing will advance your business goals. Only 43% of American business owners applied for a loan in 2018, according to a Federal Reserve survey. Whether you want to be prepared in case a vital piece of equipment needs repair or you have a slow month, setting up borrowing options before you need them ensures low-interest options for the unexpected. Your bank should help you understand the options that make sense for your unique position.
4. Identify your support team, and ask for help.
Owning a small business is both incredibly rewarding and challenging. Intentionally identify the mentors, supporters and others who can help you through your challenges. A positive support network provides a safe environment for you to ask questions, share ideas and solicit feedback for anything you may face now and into the next decade. Stay connected with fellow small business owners, too. Your local Chamber of Commerce and online forums are great ways to form relationships.
5. Take stock of your bank, and if they don’t offer what you need, move on.
Just because you started your business with a certain bank doesn’t mean that it is still the right financial institution for your business now. The start of a new decade is a good time to re-evaluate whether your bank is part of your support team. Can they provide guidance that helps you make real financial progress? Look for a bank that considers your business holistically. The right relationship now will set you up for the future.
A decade is a long time-horizon to tackle, but think about where you hope your business will be in 10 years and work backward. Taking actionable steps now can set you and your business up for success in the years to come, and will ensure that you intentionally build financial momentum. 2020 is your year for 20/20 perspective on your small business.
Niamh Kristufek is the head of U.S. Business Banking at BMO Harris Bank.