I know it can be really hard for business owners to plan for something happening six months from now. Making that sale today, the customer who is in your store right now, making payroll on Friday – these are always more urgent. But, really successful business owners keep an eye out farther than that.

Get ready for Christmas.

I know it’s July. But, if you are in retail, you need to be thinking about this now.

Ad schedule. How far in advance do you need to place the ads? Do you need pictures? Video for your website? When will sales run? This will drive your ad schedule. Consider all media – print, broadcast, and internet.

Inventory receipts: What were your sales last year? What is your sales plan for this year? This will drive your inventory receipts plan. When do you need to place orders?

Will you change your store hours for the holidays?

When are you doing promotions? Thanksgiving weekend (Black Friday)? Last week before Christmas? Week between Christmas and New Year’s?

Have your 2016 marketing calendar done by Thanksgiving

If you don’t achieve this time table, it will be hard to plan for January. MLK Holiday. Super Bowl. As I have said before, February 12 is too late to be planning for your Valentine’s Day promotion.

Meet with your CPA regarding tax planning.

I suggest you have this conversation by the end of August. January 2016 will be too late to plan for 2015.

Did you owe taxes for 2014? This may be an indicator of potential problem for 2015.

How has 2015 gone so far? More profitable? Less Profitable? Have you set aside enough money so far this year for the tax liability? Strategize for possible year-end bonuses.

Can you put some extra money aside into a tax deferred retirement/medical insurance account (H.S.A.)?

Depending on your company’s tax situation, you may want to accelerate expenses into 2015, or delay them to 2016.

Are you current on sales tax? Payroll taxes? Quarterly income tax payments?

Are you prepared for property taxes in November? This can be a big number that sneaks up on people.

Plan for reduced cash flow in case you are slow in winter.

Almost all businesses have some seasonal aspect to their sales pattern. A lot of businesses (not in retail) experience a slow down around the holidays. Others are slow in January-February-March. If this is the case with you, will you have the cash set aside by November 30 to carry you through the slow period when you are not generating enough sales to pay all your expenses?

Maybe you can open later and/or close earlier. This may help you reduce your operating expenses. I suggest you not change the days you are open. Don’t confuse your customers. Also, let them know that you will go back to your “regular” hours on Monday, March 28 (for example).

Prepare a budget for 2016

It is a good idea to go through the process of preparing a monthly budget. Even if you don’t do a great job of it, it will force you to think about your business.

The benefit of all this

Take a look at the successful companies around you. You may be sure that they are not simply reacting when a challenge rears its ugly head. They are planning ahead, anticipating bumps in the road and positioning themselves to take advantage of opportunities. So, start thinking about Christmas, get going on your marketing calendar and budget, talk to your tax guy, and manage your cash. Set yourself up for success.

Matt's Headshot-SBDCMatt Pearce

B.S. in Business Administration, The Ohio State University
M.B.A., The Ohio State University
Business Consultant in Rome

Matt’s previous work experience includes financial management positions in the computer, freight/logistics and investment management industries. He also owned a business in northwest Georgia. He has worked in the Fortune 100, international business, and start-up operations. He brings an extensive background in the areas of financial planning and analysis, general management, business modeling, cash management, management reporting, taxes, sale & acquisition of businesses, and payroll & personnel management. With this broad background and perspective, he is able to help his clients determine the best course of action for their businesses or situations.