And just like that, 2018 is on its way out, and 2019 is only a few weeks away. Building your own business can feel like running on a treadmill without an off switch, and one byproduct of that neverending work schedule is that the months seem to fly by much more quickly than for those punching someone else’s clock. While both exhilarating and sometimes anxiety-ridden, this breakneck pace of business can make it a challenge to take the time to think about what steps are important for reducing risk and maximizing growth as your business enters a new year.

At The Fried Firm, we are here to help you and your business take stock as you enter into a new year, identify both potential legal stumbling blocks and opportunities for expansion, and take action on your behalf to help protect and build your company and brand. To that end, here are five steps you can take before the end of 2018 to kickstart the process of making 2019 your business’ best year yet.

1. Ensure Your Employee/Contractor Agreements and Policies Are Compliant and Effective

For most businesses, employees and independent contractors are integral to providing excellent services and/or products, but, unfortunately, employment issues can be a primary source of legal and financial risk, no matter the size of the business. Indeed, your business can face existential risk due to a number of employment matters, from contractual disputes and employment misclassification claims to sexual harassment issues and discrimination claims.

Many business owners often fail to take the proper steps to shore up employment issues early on in their business life cycle, especially when they work with friends in informal office environments. Now is the time, however, to update your employment and independent contractor agreements (and, remember, just because you do not have a written agreement does not mean you avoid legal risk – in fact, the opposite is often true) and employee handbooks to ensure they are compliant with state, local, and federal law and avoid and minimize future legal risk. Not sure where to start? The Fried Firm can help.

2. Optimize Your Online Presence While Staying Current With New Laws

If you are an entrepreneur in 2018 – or 2008 for that matter – you don’t need to be told that having an online presence is important for your business, but many entrepreneurs today still continue to underestimate just how important it is, and the gulf between knowledge and actual online execution can be huge.

In many cases, a business makes building a website its first step, but then fails to meaningfully update the website as the business takes on a life of its own. This can vary significantly from the messaging and overall design on the original website, and no thought may have ever been given to the legal implications of a business’ online presence. Take a step back to determine what your business’ current online presence is and is not doing for your business, and what it could be doing with some updates and/or overhauls.

Additionally, the relevant law affecting the online presence of businesses has evolved and changed rapidly in recent years. One of the most significant changes has been the General Data Protection Regulation or “GDPR” rules set in place by the EU this year which affect many US businesses. Similarly, the FTC and other government agencies are looking at what businesses do on Instagram and other online platforms in a more intensive manner than in previous years. Work with The Fried Firm to ensure your website and other online presences serve your needs and are in compliance with all applicable laws.

3. Finalize Your Finances For 2018

Having outstanding accounts receivable is certainly not a problem affecting only startups and growing businesses, but failing to collect on these accounts in a timely manner can mean the difference between survival or collapse for smaller businesses. As a result, this can sap up an inordinate amount of energy and time for owners that would of course better be spent on innovation and expansion. The Fried Firm can work with your business to take forceful action to collect revenue while also defending you against unwarranted claims.

Year-end is of course also an important time for taking significant action on taxes affecting all aspects of your business. The Fried Firm can provide referrals to excellent accountants and other financial services, while also working with your business to identify potential legal matters related to your finances before they spin out of control.

4. Identify Your Goals for 2019 and Create a Plan to Reach Them

Again, maintaining the current operations of your business can feel like a 24/7 task onto itself, but it is important to push pause and identify long-term goals for the coming year and beyond so that you can begin to implement action which can make those goals a reality. Some of these goals may be apparent to you now, some may only come as a result of working with outside advisors.

For example, you may know that your goal is to hire more employees or to land a handful of large new dream clients. But you may not know how trademarking your business’ name, logo, or other identifying pieces of intellectual property can not only defend your business from intellectual theft by others but also build new streams of revenue based off what you have already achieved. Whatever your goals, The Fried Firm can help you formulate and execute a plan to help you effectively reach them.

5. Celebrate What You Have Accomplished in 2018

Finally, the business of business can at times feel like a pie-eating contest where the prize is more pie, and certainly the thrust of this article is to find ways to help your business continue to grow, but it is also crucial to take some time to identify and celebrate what you and your business have accomplished in 2018.

You are not in the same place you were at this point in 2017, and you should honor your own efforts as well as those of employees, partners, and clients and customers as you reflect on how far you have come in the past year. Doing so will not only build your sense of accomplishment and well-being but also give you the energy, optimism, and vision that will come in handy as you build an even better year for your business in 2019.