I’m an NFL fan, and my team, the NY Giants, have had an up and down season. It almost seems like they only play hard for 48 of the 60 minutes of each game. They’re great for three quarters, but then the fourth quarter comes along and they seem to lose interest in the game. I know they want to win but it doesn’t seem like they’re doing the things necessary to win in the 4th quarter.
As we enter the 4th quarter of this year most small business owners are getting ready.
Unfortunately we’re getting ready for things that don’t necessarily positively affect our businesses. We have the holidays coming, holiday parties to attend, and vacations that must be taken. But this is also the time when we typically lose focus on our business goals for the current year and beyond.
Look, I’m not James Ebenezer Scrooge! I’m not saying to work tirelessly until you hear Jenny McCarthy screaming Happy New Year. But I am saying if you make a few changes in your preparation and planning for your 4th quarter you can enjoy this time and still feel like you have positioned your business for a strong finish to this year and a fast start for next year.
The Year in Review
Big corporations have Strategic Planning Sessions but most small business owners believe they can’t get away from the business long enough or that these sessions are not necessary. Not only are they necessary, they are vital! It involves getting away for a day or two to review how things are going with their business. While I strongly believe as a business owner you should have systems in place to track your business constantly, the truth is we are so busy working in our business throughout the year we often don’t take the time to assess and work on our business.
It is also tough to switch to thinking strategically about your business when you have been focused on the daily tactical decisions that must be made. By getting away for a short time it gives you a chance to clear your mind and shift your focus to taking an overall look at your year.
Here is an example of what we do.
First we grade each area based on goals set the previous year and the grading is simple. Either it was achieved or it wasn’t.
We put three columns on a sheet, Yes, No and Why.
- If the answer is Yes, why did it succeed? Was the original strategy successful or were there some major adjustments necessary?
- If the answer is No, why did we miss? What were the circumstances, was the plan too complicated, etc.
We go through each area of the business we agreed are vital to the health of the business.
On to Next Year
Next we take the results and use them as a foundation to build the strategy for next year and beyond. If you have done these types of sessions in the past, take the information from those past sessions to form your next year’s goals. Here’s where things can become a little tricky.
Whenever you are talking about your future business success, we tend to overestimate or underestimate what we can actually accomplish, depending if you are optimistic or pessimistic about your future.
When Lee Iacocca took over Chrysler no one thought he could turn the failing automotive giant around. He followed the same principles then that we are talking about doing now. He and his leaders assessed what worked well, what the market needed, and how well or poorly they were serving their clients. From this information they made a strategic plan that turned them back into a profitable business.
In the Bible Jesus asks us in Mark 14:28 “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” This same advice goes for you as well! Happy 4th Quarter!
About James R. Cooper
James R. Cooper is a Business Strategist, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Maxser Consulting Group, LLC, Pastor of Restoration International Christian Ministries and author of From Crackers to Caviar: A Guide to Personal Development. James is on the board of several non-profit organizations and is also a Goodwill Ambassador for UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. For more information about James, book him to speak at your next event, seminar or workshop, go to www.fromcrackers2caviar.com.