A Realistic End-of-Year Checklist for Your Indoor Playground Business

Something that I've always found as a business owner is that the stronger I end a year, the more powerful my launch into the new year is.

So even though we’re still in the first half of December, technically, I wanted to give you some action items to be sure you complete BEFORE the end of the year.

Now I know you’re busy– you’re probably juggling running your play space, attending all your kids’ holiday events, buying and wrapping presents, maybe hosting, who knows– so we aren’t going to shoot for the stars here.

I’m not expecting you to hunker down for 48 hours and map out every single event for the following year.

Because that’s likely just not going to happen.

So let’s call this episode the 100% realistic and doable end-of-year checklist for indoor playground owners, shall we?


1) Schedule End of Year Employee Reviews

Now there’s a reason why I put SCHEDULE employee reviews on the list and not COMPLETE year-end employee reviews. The holidays can be a crazy time for everyone– not just for US as business owners. If you are feeling like you just can’t commit to dedicating enough time and energy to evaluating your team the right way, at least get them on the calendar for January. 

This way, your team will at least know that they have a date on the horizon where they will be listened to and heard without all the chaos of December.

Because we are already halfway through December, again, I want you to at least get each of your employees scheduled– but next year, you may want to do a bit of pre-planning and instead maybe work on completing these reviews in October or November. 

For us in New York, October begins our busy season, so I appreciated the opportunity to sit down with each of my team members AHEAD of time, address any issues, close any gaps in training or in our procedures, and head into busy season feeling confident we could deliver the best possible experience for our customers and clients.

And if raises are something you give during reviews, doing so ahead of the holiday season might result in an extra boost in morale and therefore performance, and might even help you AVOID the nightmare scenario of a team walking out during the critical months of November or December because they’re feeling undervalued or under-appreciated.

If you want some tips to completing your employee reviews in a productive and insightful way, head to episode 250 of the Profitable Play Podcast, and if you are a Play Maker Society member, I’ve provided you with the full template you can tweak and download to make this to-do list item THAT much easier, as always.


2) Complete A Safety and Compliance Check

Back in episode 150 of the Profitable Play Podcast we talked about our liability as business owners and whether or not our waivers would actually hold up in court and shield us from claims and legal action.

And one of they KEY points I made was that, if an injury or accident happened as a result of negligence by YOU as the owner, you likely will face a claim. So what is negligence? Well, this is definitely something to double check with your particular insurance company, but typically negligence refers to the failure of an owner to exercise a reasonable level of care and safety precautions to protect patrons while on their premises.

Owners of brick and mortar facilities have a duty of care to ensure that their facilities are safe for use, and negligence may occur if they do not properly maintain equipment, adequately supervise activities, or address potential hazards. 

So if one of your play houses has a nail sticking out, or if a floor board is sticking up causing people to trip, or if you mop the floor without a wet floor sign, or if some wiring isn’t covered properly, or if your giant shoe rack or party supply cabinet isn’t properly anchored to the wall and can tip– these are all examples of negligence that could result in a BIG lawsuit against you and your company.

Most insurances require or at least recommend these checks– so make some time off-hours and walk through your entire facility. Make note of any issues, and create a plan to get them corrected. As soon as possible preferably, but January at the absolute latest.

But electricians and contractors and handymen typically get super busy in January, so it’s best to get on their calendar ahead of time.

This is also the time to ensure you have adequate safety and emergency procedures in place and that your staff is properly trained on them. If you need some tips on emergency and safety procedures, go back and listen to episode 77 of the Profitable Play Podcast.

You may also want to do a food allergy safety audit which I detail in episode 106.


3) Evaluate And Clear-Out Inventory

Now back when my Dad was working at a candy manufacturer, their year-end inventory was a BIG huge thing. He’d dread it for weeks and it would require dozens of people to hole up in the factory for days and it was this massive undertaking.

But for us small business owners, it doesn't have to be that way. So don’t let this scare you.

Simply take note and record of all your retail items you have on hand, and do a clearance sale for items that undersold or you just want OUT so you can make room for new items. It's going to be MUCH easier to move these items out during the holidays when people are looking for last-minute gifts they can pick up locally-- so this is something you want to do BEFORE those wallets tighten back up come January.

In episode 143 of the Profitable Play Podcast I shared a creative and cost effective way to do this with a LIVE social media sale.

And do the same for your supplies. If you have a TON of one flavor leftover and it’s going to expire shortly, for example, run a drink special that uses that flavor. I love going into the new year with clean and organized shelves and a simplified space, and the FIRST step to achieving that is to clear out the old, before we go IN with the new.


4) Reward Your Best Customers

I recently talked about this in episode 254 of the Profitable Play Podcast, but now is a great time to do an exclusive sale, rewarding those who have supported you all year.

Maybe that’s a sale ONLY for your email subscribers, so you can tease on IG or FB that they need to sign up for your email list to get access, or maybe it’s a member-only sale. Or maybe it’s a sale emailed to your birthday party clients for the year. 

Whatever it looks like for you, try to show your gratitude to those who had your back, and you will be much more likely to continue developing that relationship in the new year.


5) Give Back To Your Community

Speaking of giving back, I always tried to do at least ONE thing each holiday season to also show gratitude to our community.

So maybe it would be a community baby shower like I talked about in episode 121 of the Profitable Play Podcast, or maybe it would be saying YES to contributing to or sponsoring an event in our area. Or maybe it could be sending your employees to go take care of some angel trees and shop for those in need.

Again, allow this to be aligned with YOUR business values, just make sure it’s top of mind, especially this time of year. It doesn’t have to be complicated or overly expensive. But DO save your receipts for tax time, friend.


6) Make That Business Investment 

Speaking of taxes, if you are sitting on a nice profit for the year, now might be a great time to make that investment you’ve been considering, since it will reduce your tax obligation when you go to file for the year.

Now I want to be clear here, I am NOT telling you to go crazy and spend money haphazardly. In fact, I created an entire episode about why doing that could be a MAJOR mistake (episode 111). 

However, if there is a strategic purchase you were already considering– maybe it’s soft play equipment so you can expand into mobile events, maybe its an online course on how to do really fancy balloon art, maybe it’s investing in a new website

THIS may be the perfect time to pull the trigger. Just double check with your accountant or profit strategist first, or your Profit First calculations if you are a DIY’er.


7) Tax Preparation and Profit Planning

Again, it’s mid December, so I am NOT expecting you to get ALL of your books in order right now, especially if it’s something you’ve been neglecting this year.

However, what I WOULD do is choose an accounting system to help you if you haven’t yet, and I would schedule a meeting with your tax accountant that should take place as soon as possible after the new year.

And again this is especially important if you haven’t been keeping clear financials or reporting throughout the year. Tax accountants get EXTREMELY busy come March and April, so you want to get on their January calendar if possible.

That way, if they give you any homework or reconciling to do– you have  plenty of time before you actually need to file.

And when you book that appointment– ASK them if there’s a software they recommend, if you need to do any prep work before your appointment. I personally know that my books was one thing that kept me up MANY nights– so at least having a clear plan about how I was going to tackle my taxes went a LONG way when it came to my mental health, especially when it felt like I was already stretched thin.


8) Year-End Report Generation 

I don’t know about you, but the last 2 weeks of the year I am NOT feeling super creative. However, I don’t mind curling up with a blanket and some Christmas cookies and doing some mindless admin work as my kids watch the same Christmas movie for the 100th time.

So take advantage of that and run your reports for the year– maybe your accountant gave you some homework, maybe you want to look at how much your social channels have grown, maybe you want to analyze some of your businesses’ KPI’s so that when you go to set goals, which we will talk about in a moment, they are actually accurate and meaningful.

Now every business will have it’s own set of KPI’s, and this is something I teach inside of Play Cafe Academy, I provide you with a whole LIST of KPI’s, in fact.

But an example is average spend per visit. Knowing how much you can expect a family to spend when they visit your facility can help you make better, more data driven marketing decisions (because you know what you can spend to get people IN the door while still enjoying a positive ROI), and can also help you identify growth opportunities. For example, if your average spend per visit is low, and you want to make more money from every visit, you might want to add a cafe to your offerings. Or expand your retail selection. Or give your employees a better upselling script.

In Play Cafe Academy, I teach my members to divide their business processes into 4 categories: Attract, Convert, Collect, and Deliver. And in each of those categories we have a list of KPI’s to track, again, just to give you an example.

Whatever reporting matters for YOUR business, this is a great time to mindlessly crank out those numbers while hallmark is playing in the background. 


9) Marketing Analysis

Speaking of reporting, now is a great time to evaluate what marketing channels impacted your business the most this past year.

Now this might be a tough one again if you don’t have your business KPI’s identified, but this is another place where you don’t necessarily need to get fancy.

Think about your customer journey– how are people finding you? How quickly after finding you do browsers become buyers? Are most of your BEST customers coming from… search engines? Social media? Ads?

If you’ve never spent the time to really figure out which channels are having the BIGGEST impact on your bottom line, now is a great time to dive in. And if you are in Play Maker Society, this is something we look at every year.


10) Goal Setting

Now I actually have an entire episode coming up about this at the end of the month, so hang tight– but at least start THINKING about areas where you want to improve in the new year as you move through this month. 

And this does not just have to be business related- you should be setting personal and relationship goals as well.

Alright I think I gave you enough homework for today– there is PLENTY to do before we start reflecting and setting goals– so we are going to wrap on that little cliffhanger and I will meet you right back here for goal setting next week.

Dream big!


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