Small business planning tips for 2022

As we move into the third year of the pandemic, small business owners face some uncharted territory. There have been new mandates and supply chain issues, shifting work processes and changing consumer demands. As a result, SMEs and entrepreneurs must rethink and adjust how they do things to remain relevant. 

Recent business decisions have been largely reactionary as companies worked to keep up with disruptions. But after nearly two years of uncertainty, adaptations to the way we work may mean the worst is behind us. As you return to pre-pandemic standards of operations, you can set yourself up for success in 2022 with good business planning.

There’s no guarantee of what “business as usual” will look like in the next year. You will likely have to analyse and adjust as the year progresses. But having a blueprint in place from the start can set you up for success. In fact, the right planning will let you work toward your vision with informed direction and ensure your company continues to thrive. 

Whether you’re starting a new enterprise or seeking to stabilise in the wake of recent events, follow these tips to plan for a successful 2022 business year.   

Table of contents

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Revisit your business strategy

Even at the best of times, the economic and competitive factors that affect your company can change rapidly. You always need to be ready to adapt to new circumstances and stay on top of industry trends. And that starts with a good business strategy. 

Your strategy acts as a road map that clarifies where you’re going, so it’s a good idea to review it regularly. Start by taking a good hard look at how your existing strategy may or may not still apply. Then take the following to update it for the current climate and the coming year.

1. Set clear business goals

You may need to adjust your objectives based on what’s changed for this year. Have you gained or lost market share? Clients? Set goals that will help you grow your business in light of these changes. 

Conduct a SWOT analysis to figure out where to focus your attention. Analysing your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the current market will help you set meaningful goals for the year. Consider each element:

  • Strengths. Take stock of your strengths. Beyond your own value proposition, what might outsiders see as your edge? Talk to your employees and your customers to find out what you’re doing well. And find out how they see your company in relation to your biggest competitors.

    Strengths may include strong employee retention, competitive pricing or strong brand recognition. Log successes from the past two years to ensure you continue to build on what’s working. 

  • Weaknesses. You also need to consider and research potential weaknesses. Are there areas where you’re not living up to your potential due to missing processes or resources?

    This doesn’t have to be a negative exercise. Examining your weaknesses will show you where you can improve. It will also help you identify areas that could become strengths with the right alterations.

  • Opportunities. Despite change and upheaval, recent years have presented new opportunities for small businesses. Take stock of what those are and which could benefit your company.

    Reassess whether there are new markets you can go after or new tech you should integrate to improve the customer experience. Have new working models improved processes? Or would it be a good time for you to introduce a new product to a market that’s ready for it?

  • Threats. Similarly, identify any threats you face. Are there new scams or fraud attempts you need to be aware of (such as circulating COVID schemes that prey on small businesses)? The recent hiring shortage or unstable global markets may also pose threats to your business. Understanding the threats you face will help you avoid or overcome them.

Top Tip: Knowing how to recognise common scams is essential for protecting your company. Learn what to watch for in our guide to keeping your business safe from fraud 💡

Once you’ve done your analysis, you’re in a good place to set new objectives for your business. Set smart goals that will build up current strengths and turn around weaknesses. Put plans in place for addressing threats and taking full advantage of opportunities.

2. Review your business plan

Business planning should be an ongoing process. Continuous planning is especially important in a year where the market is still stabilising. Does your business approach still hold up in light of your new goals? If you’re already an established business, regularly reviewing your plan will:

  • Keep you on track to meet your goals and targets
  • Help you prioritise as you make key business decisions
  • Give you a benchmark against which to measure your progress
  • Drive your business strategy

Periodically revisiting your plan will let you see when you’re off track and take corrective action sooner with regular reviews. Consider doing a big review at the beginning of the year. Then, follow up with check-ins every three to six months.

Top Tip: A good business plan is key to successfully launching any business. It’s the roadmap that lets investors and lenders know you’re a good bet. Find out what you need to include in your plan with our complete guide to writing a business plan ✍ 

3. Develop a budgeting process

Cash flow is always a top concern for small businesses. Recent changes to the market and the workplace mean you’ll need to give it special attention in 2022. A budgeting process gives you an overview of your revenue and expenses. 

Once you know where you stand, use your new business goals to determine the most efficient use of funds. Take a moment to consider the big expenses you anticipate this year and budget accordingly.

For instance, your company may be facing decreased revenues and increased costs. You’ll need a budgeting process that helps you make decisions and prioritise spending to keep costs down. If one of your goals is to tap into an emerging market, you may decide to set aside a bigger budget for advertising within that segment. 

Create a calendar of important dates

Going into the year organised will help you keep things running smoothly. One of the best ways to do this is to create a calendar of all your important dates. 

Start by establishing times for recurring administrative events. These might include new client calls, regular team meetings or recurring operations tasks. Find times that work for each of these and schedule them as repeating events. 

Next, consider major dates that you don’t want to lose track of. These might be important investor conversations, media appearances, conferences or networking events. Make sure they get on the calendar and that they stand out to ensure you notice them.

Finally, keep your finances on track by including key tax- and accounting-related dates on your calendar (with reminders!). Being aware of key deadlines will help you plan ahead and maintain a good cash flow. It will also save you from penalties for late filings or payments. Be sure you include things like

  • Tax registration deadlines. Depending on the type of business you run, you’ll need to register with HMRC for either Self Assessment tax or Corporation tax. And depending on your income, you may need to register for VAT. These registrations are one-time events, so you only need to note them if you’re just starting in any of these categories.
  • Tax return due dates and payment deadlines. Self Assessment and Corporation returns are due annually, as are the payments.
  • VAT reporting and payment deadlines. These generally happen quarterly, so you’ll want to make sure you’re tracking these every three months.
  • PAYE registration and remittance deadlines. If you pay employees through payroll, you’re responsible for registering for the PAYE scheme each year. You’ll also need to plan on reporting and paying taxes and benefits monthly.

Top tip: Taking care of your accounting and tax obligations on time is vital for keeping your finances strong. Learn what you need to know in our guide to key dates for 2022 📣

Assess and improve your workplace culture

The office landscape has changed dramatically over the last few years. From a suddenly remote workforce to a small business labour shortage, workplace cultures are undergoing major changes. Prepare for it by analysing your current situation. Then develop workplace policies that support employee retention and wellbeing.

Establish return-to-office protocols 

If you’re still working remotely but planning to make a return to the office (or start a hybrid working model) in 2022, how will you make sure the transition is as smooth as possible? 

  • Create a safe workplace. What protections will you offer employees against viruses? How can you comply with local mandates or expert suggestions?
  • Stay flexible. Determine who’s required to be in-office and establish means of allowing employees choices where possible.
  • Establish channels for communication. Clarify how you’ll stay in contact with employees and customers. How will you conduct meetings and training? To what extent will you welcome customers back to your place of business?

Employee expectations are shifting. Remote work is now seen as a desirable benefit for many employees. At the same time, without guidance and boundaries, the blurred lines between work and home life can lead to burnout.

Be aware of the trends in what employees want and how remote work is playing out in your industry. Then make plans for an optimal experience in your company. Talk about things like expectations around hours and availability, how you’ll communicate and who will be in the office when.

Also, with an eye to recent history, make contingency plans for global disruptions. Even if all or most of your employees are back in the office, have remote and/or hybrid work models in place to minimise the impact.

Top Tip: Protecting your own wellbeing is just as important as protecting that of your employees. Learn to manage the pressures related to running a business in our guide to managing entrepreneurial stress and anxiety 🏆

Automate business processes

Save yourself time and money this year by finding ways to simplify and streamline your business processes. Identify repetitive tasks from last year, or any you expect this year, and review them for automation. When you automate processes, you save time and reduce the chance of errors. 

Look to technology to help. Digital solutions like project management software, electronic reminders, automatic messaging and accounting software are quickly becoming standard across industries. Consider whether a digital solution could transform the way you handle recurring tasks like: 

  • Invoicing
  • Workflows
  • Communication
  • Social media posting
  • Employee onboarding

Top Tip: Automating employee onboarding is one way to make your business processes more efficient and thorough. As you build out your process, make sure you’re aware of all the legal requirements that go with it. Learn everything you need to know in our legal guide to hiring employees 🌟

Optimise your accounting processes

Improving your accounting proficiency is an easy way to increase your cash flow. Take time as you plan for the year ahead to note financial deadlines and due dates. But don’t stop there. Consider eligible business expenses and initiatives as well.

If you’ve got regular costs that qualify as tax deductions, track them now. They’ll reduce your overall tax bill at the end of the year. And in some cases, you may be able to claim them in advance and withhold money along the way. 

You should also review recent initiatives to see if there are any that apply to you. Do you qualify for small business COVID recovery plans or tax extensions? Take advantage of those that will keep your business financially stable.

Top tip: It’s crucial to keep accounting processes running smoothly to protect your cash flow. A Tide business account has features to help you automate, from invoicing and flagging overdue payments to forecasting with free cashflow insights  📌

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Review, pivot or create a new marketing strategy

Just like with your business plan, it’s a good idea to review your marketing strategy regularly. Going into 2022, you’ll want to evaluate what’s working with your existing strategy and make changes that fit the fluctuations in your market. Even if you’re starting from scratch, consider the following questions:

  • How will you attract new and existing customers for the new year? 
  • How will your marketing plan help you achieve your goals?

Continue the strategies that were a strength for your company and make updates where needed. The following steps can help you adjust things that aren’t working and prepare for future market changes. 

1. Place your finger on the pulse of customer needs

Do your research and learn about general customer service trends for the new economy. For example, more business is being conducted remote and on the go. So optimising your site and online offerings for mobile use is going to be more important. What other technology advancements might present opportunities for better customer service? 

You can also stay relevant to your audience by speaking directly to your customers. Find out what they need and how you can solve their problems in 2022. Survey clients to pin down your demographics. Has your target audience changed in age, geographic region or company role? Run surveys or test groups to find out how they’re struggling. 

2. Prioritise the right channels

Take a look at what worked in 2021 and what didn’t. Did certain campaigns perform as expected? Or even exceed expectations? You may find your video marketing wasn’t as strong as you’d hoped, but guest posting in industry publications created good buzz for your business. Maybe you’ve seen competitors grow their market share by producing regular podcasts on topics your audience cares about.

Do your research on the best performing channels for your industry. Decide which marketing activities you’ll double-down on this year and which you will experiment with.

3. Create your marketing content calendar

Once you know what channels you want to target, get organised around how and when you’ll use them. Decide where your top original content will debut. Also, think about how you can repurpose that content to fill other channels. 

Create a strategy for what content you’ll release. Then add to your calendar when you’ll publish articles, when you’ll follow up with social media messaging or when you’ll sponsor content in key publications.

Once you’ve prioritised content creation, document your dates. That may mean simply putting the due dates into your Google calendar with reminders. Or, for more robust content plans, you may rely on task management tools like Asana or Trello to keep everyone on the same page and moving forward. 

Wrapping up

Many businesses are approaching 2022 with more caution or different tactics than they thought they would a year ago. Unexpected changes don’t mean you can’t move into 2022 with confidence and every intention to prosper this year.

If you start planning now, you can keep your company’s approach agile. You’ll be prepared to better serve your customers and capture a greater market share. Thinking ahead will help you make this year productive and set you up for business growth in 2022 and the years to come.

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Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe, published on Unsplash

Adelaide Carleton

Adelaide Carleton

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