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Business To Do List for 2011

Phew! You made it through 2010, and your business made it with you. It wasn’t easy, but you did it. Alas, time stops for no one. Is your business ready for 2011?

Here’s our list of business to-dos to start the new year right.

  • Plan
    • Create a Business Plan:
      A measurable annual operating plan with quarterly benchmarks can help you achieve your business goals. Refer to this plan regularly throughout the year, and revise as necessary. It’s important to share this plan with your employees, so that they are aligned with your company’s key priorities.
    • Create a Budget:
      Your budget is a guideline for where you want your business finances to go in the next year, and is an important next step after creating your business plan. Your budget should list all anticipated income and expenses for the coming year. Now is a good time to consider whether your company will need new equipment or to hire additional employees this year. When budgeting, be sure to set some money aside for an emergency fund in case you run into trouble.
  • Save
      • Shop for Insurance:
        At the beginning of the year, new rates for insurance coverage come into effect. Go quote shopping for business liability insurance, health insurance, automobile insurance, and umbrella coverage policies.
      • Renegotiate with Suppliers:
        You’re not the only one who has completed a business budget — your suppliers have too. And they’re looking to pin down contracts early on to reach their financial objectives. Negotiate with them now while they’re still hungry.

    With the economy expected to strengthen in 2011, another reason to renegotiate early in the year is to lock in recession-era prices before suppliers look to cushion their margins with higher prices as the economy improves. Accountant Phil Leibowitz says, “With rent and other business specific fixed costs, you want to negotiate two-, three- or five-year agreements where you lock in the current price or agree to only inflationary increases.”

  • Think Taxes
    • Mail Tax Forms:
      As an employer, you can’t wait until April 15 to consider your tax requirements, they’re already here. By January 31 you need to mail out W-2s to all of your employees. If you hired outside contractors, you need to send out 1099s (for any services valued over $600). Meet with your accountant or CPA to start organizing your tax documents now.
    • Create Retirement Plans for Your Employees:
      Set up company retirement plans (401k) as early in the year as possible to permit employees to take full advantage of their annual allowed pretax contributions.
    • Incorporate Your Business:
      While you look into your tax situation, think about your corporate structure. Incorporating your business may save you money in 2011 by giving you a different tax treatment. Incorporating can also help protect your company as you grow into a new phase.
  • Grow
    • Secure Investors:
      As Rocket Lawyer Chairman Charley Moore recently told Inc. magazine, “There is seasonality for fund raising. Heading into January, it’s a high water mark for fund raising for loans, and venture or angel capital. January is the right time to hit the ground running — if you are not ready, you may miss the investment calendar for investors.” As a former venture capital legal strategist, Moore would know.
    • Take a Legal Check Up:
      Although laws change constantly, most of the changes that are relevant to small business owners come into effect on the first day of the new year. Now is a good time to make sure that your businesses is compliant, and to take steps to protect yourself from legal liability. Meet with your lawyer, or take Rocket Lawyer’s free and easy Legal Check Up.

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