6 Ways to Get Your Business in Shape as 2016 Rolls In

This post originally appeared in Chief Executive on Dec. 15, 2015.

Looking back, 2015 has proven to be a banner year for middle-market companies looking to sell or seeking outside investment. And with interest rates remaining low and ample capital ready to be deployed, the new year could continue this positive trend. But mental and operational preparations are key to taking advantage of what opportunities may lie ahead. To start, work through this checklist.

1. Review your goals. Are you building a business to sell, or do you plan to continue running it for the foreseeable future? It’s time to reassess goals. Ask yourself: Where is the business now? Where do I want it to go? What do I want to be doing one year from now? Once you have these answers, create a detailed goal-fulfillment plan for 2016.

 2. Do some research. No two years are the same, and with 2016, we have an election in the mix. Even though no one can predict the future, we can often anticipate a course of change. Talk with advisors, peers and analysts to get a sense of where the market could tilt in the coming year.

3. Explore the options. Maybe a sale is right for you this year. Or it could be time to consider a joint venture or a strategic partnership. Perhaps your next step requires financing. Regardless, think about all the options ahead and examine how each could improve your business. Then get into details. For instance, from a financing perspective, traditional bank loans can be difficult to obtain and expensive to repay. However, small to medium-sized companies have many additional financing options, such as private equity or debt equity. But don’t be hasty. Work with advisors who can recommend the right solution for your company.

4. Check your books. No matter where you’re headed, you’ll want your financial narrative to tell a strong story. Before year-end, enlist a third party to audit your finances. A fresh set of eyes can help target small problems before they can impact next year’s bottom line.

5. Evaluate your brand. Does your brand set you apart from competitors? Would investors know your name? If not, think about ways to market your company in the coming year. It starts with knowing your target audience and understanding what makes your business unique, trustworthy and valuable. Then, spread the word.

6. Work smarter. How often do you resort to a quick fix to keep your day-to-day operations in motion? Think of reoccurring issues your company has faced. This is the time to design a permanent solution and build a stronger company foundation that can support your next stage of growth.

To position your company for a new year, it’s important to plant the seeds of success now. Otherwise, you could risk losing a pivotal opportunity for lack of preparation.