Winter is coming. It might be time to start thinking about some fourth quarter financial planning prep activities in your business.

The billion dollar boys and girls are already planning their budgets, and making last minute adjustments in their tax liabilities by accelerating or slowing down the pace of controllable financial items depending on whether they are expecting a good year or a bad one.

Now is an excellent time to begin making adjustments in your business to anticipate year end and the beginning of the new year. My clients seem to be having a good year. Some started slow and picked up; others built on a strong end to last year and haven’t lost momentum. So many −not all, by any means, but many− are looking at good returns from their businesses and asking, “What does next year hold?”

Plan Time To Talk Taxes and Finances

Certainly you should be talking with your tax advisor and discussing what the glide path between here and year end looks like before year end gets too close. But I’m not here to give you tax advice. I’m here to tell you to take a look at the rest of your business while you have some time to maneuver. And, to do this, adopt your customer’s point of view.

It has been an odd year for many businesses. Fuel prices have bounced around, the drought has put pressure on food prices, energy costs have risen, housing starts rose, unemployment fell, metals and commodities prices have fallen, but coke and raw materials related to metals have risen.

These and other factors have affected sectors in very different ways. You should understand how these factors affect your customers.

Always Consider Your Customers

Will they have more spendable cash available and therefore be looking for ways to invest in their business? Or will there be less, causing them to seek help with belt tightening? Will they be interested in purchasing products and services that reduce costs or that help them grow revenue?

It may be time to shift your position subtly, in your customers mind, from a growth play to an efficiency play or vice versa. This answer will be unique to you. I know clients who are retrenching right now, and I know some that are enjoying a feeding frenzy, and others who are managing expenses and cash very closely.

financial planning

So how do you do this without being either a mind reader or an economist? Talk to them. Have an extended lunch or a long dinner with them, and talk about how their year has progressed and why. Pick your five smartest customers and listen to them.

Of course, you can also conduct a survey and talk to all your customers. We have clients who do this each year. And they simply ask the question, “Will your business with ACME increase, decrease, or remain the same over the next 12 to 18 months?” This question, as part of a well-executed survey, can make the financial planning process much easier.

No matter how you do it, though, please don’t make assumptions. Get the facts and base your financial planning decisions off the facts.

If growing revenue and profits is important to you, make sure to take a look at upcoming Business & Entrepreneur Events.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Aug 29, 2012.