I want to start by saying that I hope everyone had a very happy and safe Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving has always been a time when we get together as families, celebrate each other’s company, and reflect on what we are most thankful. The last couple of years have been tough ones for our industry and our country. I’m not sure what the next few years will bring, I only pray things get better for all of us. I am thankful for the opportunity to write this column, I am thankful that Aviva Publishing published my book and that it’s getting good reviews, and I am most thankful to God to be alive and to be surrounded by my family. I hope you are equally if not more so blessed this holiday season.

As we reflect on the blessings we’ve received this year, we can’t help but think about the future. The news headlines aren’t great and we are in a time of uncertainty, but we can begin to chart our course for the future by starting to map out our path or our goals for 2013. What do you want to accomplish for your business in 2013? Do you plan to expand your operation? Do you plan to shrink your business, to lessen the effect of the Affordable Health Care Act on profitability? Have you discussed year-end tax saving measures with your accountant?

We have about six more weeks to the end of the year and that will go by in the blink of an eye now that the holidays are upon us. As the old saying goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail, and General Eisenhower said, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” As business owners, we are in a battle every day to survive. The plan that you wrote last year may not be any good now, but the process of planning that you went through can be invaluable because when something unexpected happens and you’ve gone through the planning process, you’ve considered the alternatives. The adversity that you face may be different than the alternatives you considered, but having gone through that process will be immensely helpful because your mind has already worked on considering alternate strategies.

A foolish business owner doesn’t track his or her progress month-to-month and year-to-year. As you sit back and review your performance for 2012, think about what you can do better in 2013. Assemble your key personnel and trusted advisors and do a thorough review. Review the goals you established for 2012 and determine what worked for you and what didn’t work. As you go through the process, think of this as a fact-finding mission instead of a witch-hunt. You just want to do a postmortem on any failures that you experienced to see what you could do better next year. Likewise, examine your successes and see if you could have done anything better to make them even bigger. If not, see how you can find opportunities to repeat and duplicate those successes in the coming year. In addition, take time to celebrate those successes with your employees as they all had a stake in helping the company reach those goals.

Five keys to help you with your year-end review and 2013 planning:

1. Review your 2012 goals and objectives – did you hit them?

2. Examine what worked for you this year and what didn’t work. Try to determine why it didn’t work and think about how you might correct any flaws and see if you can think of a way to duplicate your successes.

3. Explore opportunities with your accountant to see if there’s anything, you need to do to take advantage of any tax saving opportunities that you aren’t currently using before the year ends. Do you need to purchase a new piece of equipment or new vehicles, etc?

4. Set goals for 2013; list objectives and tactics that you’ll need to achieve those goals next year, set dates for when you need to achieve those goals and assign the objectives to key employees (you may even want to conduct a SWOT analysis to help you reveal opportunities).

5. Establish dates on your calendar now to remind you to follow up and track the progress of the goals that you’ve established for 2013 and force yourself to take the time to do the follow up. If they are out of sight, you can pretty much guarantee that you will not achieve them.

Now is the perfect time to reflect on this year and map out your plan for next year. You still have six weeks to make some corrections and you still have an opportunity to salvage a year that hasn’t been as good as it could have been, or to celebrate your successes with your employees that helped you attain your goals.

My website contains links to all the marketing articles I’ve written for the HVAC-Talk Newsletter. If you are interested in purchasing a copy of my new book, Navigating the Marketing Maze, click here. If you need a branding consultation, a complete strategic marketing plan, or help with marketing services, call or send an email to discuss your needs.

Andy Fracica is president and CEO of Fracica Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in marketing, and social media strategy. He has over 30 years of sales, marketing, and product management experience in the heating ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) industry. He concentrates on helping companies deliver their message in an ever increasingly crowded market by helping HVAC dealers more effectively market their businesses without breaking their budgets. Contact him at 260-338-4554, andy@fracicaenterprises.com or visit the Fracica Enterprises, Inc. website.