We’ve reached the final step in the HostGator Home Business Guide, and like listening to your customers, this step is ongoing. Reviewing your business performance is the key to understanding whether you’re reaching your audience and heading toward profitability. Major companies do this all the time, with everything from daily sales goals to quarterly financial filings and annual reports. You don’t need to adopt an enterprise-level review schedule, but you do need to keep tabs on these 11 areas to keep your business on track.
1. Review your role as a solopreneur
Are you getting more skilled and confident at running your business? Do you have time to accomplish everything you need to do? Check in every couple of months and ask yourself if there are tasks you don’t have the skills for or don’t have time to do. Eventually, you may need to hire a contractor or an employee to take on some of that work.
Beyond your work “in” your business, how much time do you spend working “on” your business? Are you building a network of peers and mentors to talk with about successes and setbacks? Have you established great working relationships with your customers? Do you keep up with trends in your industry and attend business-related events?
2. Review your workspace
If you started out storing inventory in your garage, do you still have room to park your car or is it time to rent storage space offsite? Does your office function well without creating family conflict? You may have begun with a laptop at the kitchen table, but you may be ready for a room with a door so you can focus on work and then put it aside during family time. Another thing to think about from time to time: does your office furniture support good posture, or are you throwing your back, neck, and wrists out of whack while you work? A standing desk and a chair with good back support are worthwhile investments if you spend a lot of time at your computer.
3. Review your business plan
Does your original plan still work as a decision-making guide or does it need revisions? Remember that factors outside your business can force you to re-evaluate your plan. Suppliers may change their offerings or raise their prices. The economy’s ups and downs can affect your customers’ shopping habits. By regularly reviewing your business plan, you’ll be better prepared to adapt to these changes.
4. Review your banking, tax and insurance providers
At least once a year, it’s a good idea to look at your business bank, tax preparer, and professional insurance policy to make sure you’re getting the right services for your business. For example, does your CPA help you identify the business-related tax deductions you’re entitled to claim? Are you ready to pass off your bookkeeping to a professional? Have your professional insurance needs changed? Can you find a better deal on a business checking account? It may be that all your current providers are great, but it’s a good idea to check anyway so you don’t miss potential savings or better service.
5. Review your web hosting plan and website
If you’ve had your site template or design for more than a couple of years, you may need to revamp it or replace it to keep up with current mobile-display standards and customer expectations. Are your links all working properly? Does your host still deliver consistent uptime and fast page loads? Do you need to upgrade your hosting plan for more bandwidth or more domains?
6. Review your email setup
Are you making the most of your professional email address? Once you reach a certain level of business, you may want to create more email addresses with your professional domain, such as admin, bookings, or billing @ yourbusiness.com. These can help you sort your mail and stay more organized, and of course if you hire an employee he or she will need a company email address. Review your email signature, too, to make sure it features the most current version of your business slogan or tagline and that all links work properly.
7. Review your customer listening habits
What are customers telling you about your offerings? What’s working well, and what needs improvement? How often do you talk with them in person or hear from them online, via email, and through social media? Has their feedback helped you improve your current products or create new ones? If so, how can you thank them? If not, how can you listen more effectively?
8. Review your sales
Have you reached your breakeven point yet? What does your profit and loss statement look like? Are your sales trending upward, holding steady, or declining? These are all critical questions, and you need to ask these questions often. As part of your sales review and customer conversations, find out if there are payment methods your customers would like you to offer. Making payments more convenient can boost sales, and there are a lot of new payment methods these days.
9. Review your digital marketing efforts
What are the open and click-through rates for your emails and how do they compare to those for similar businesses? How’s your social media engagement? More important than the number of followers is how responsive your followers are. Do you have real conversations with them? Are you regularly updating your blog and responding to comments and questions? You may reach a point where it’s time to hire out some or all of your digital marketing writing and social media post scheduling so you can focus on your core business.
10. Review your pipeline and products
Are you working on your next MVP or an improved version of an existing product? What are your customers asking for and what are they willing to pay for? Have you developed any tiered pricing options or packages? What about cross-sell and upsell options? More options can lead to more sales and new customers.
11. Review your review process
Before you make that Inception reference, rest assured that your whole workday doesn’t have to be consumed with reviews. You may only need to review things like your bank, insurance, and workspace once a year, while customer feedback and sales need frequent monitoring. You’ll have to develop a schedule that works for your business and then stick to it.
There’s one more thing. Are you rewarding yourself on a regular basis for your efforts? Running your own home-based business has its perks but it’s still work. In many ways it can be more work than a 9-to-5 job. So be sure to pencil in regular pats on the back, fun breaks, and time to reflect on everything you’re accomplishing with your small business.
Congratulations, and we wish you success!
Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.