Around this time of year, most small business owners start looking to the future, formulating plans for the year to come. Planning ahead is, of course, extremely important. But even more important is to make sure next year’s plans are based on this year’s cold hard facts.

Here are a few things you should be doing as this year comes to a close in order to best prepare for next year.

Get your finances in order

OK, so this is an obvious one. But it’s important all the same. After all, as many of 82% of young businesses fail due to poor cash flow management.

Make sure you’re up to date with accounts payable and accounts receivable, and ensure your tax strategies have been executed correctly. You can also use this opportunity to archive last year’s records like payroll and invoices.

If you have access to industry statistics, take a look and see how you’re performing against your competitors.

Review sales and marketing

These days there are more routes to market than ever before. As a result, many small business owners take something of a scatter gun approach to their marketing efforts.

Year-end is the best time to take a step back and review how things have gone.

Social media been a real winner? Increase your investment in this area. Website traffic down on last year? Consider bringing in an SEO consultant for a revamp if funds allow. A particular product or service underperforming versus last year? Dig a little deeper and understand why.

Seek efficiencies

As part of your year-end review, you should take an objective look at how your time and money are being spent. This means reviewing suppliers and staff performance, as well as taking a peek into your own diary to see which activities have dominated your time from day to day.

Identify any potential opportunities to streamline like renegotiating better deals on contracts that are up for renewal, or outsourcing back office activities that have proven a time-drain over the course of the year.

Look ahead

Once you’ve conducted a thorough review of the past year, you’re ready to think about what comes next.

Use what you’ve learned to set realistic targets for things like sales, profitability, employee growth and more.