Episode 12: Quarterly Review
Updated: Jan 15, 2020
It’s December, and December means it’s time to get our planning pants on for 2019, and that’s what this episode was all about - showing you how I conduct a quarterly review and plan for the future of my business like a boss.
Even if you don’t run a business, you may find this video useful because a lot of the information can be applied to your personal life as well - career, relationships, fitness, parenting, whatever facet of life that you may want to grow in or develop. Another video that you may want to reference when doing your own review is episode 9, where we talked about setting SMART goals. You’re about to see that my specific method on this involves a little reflection, a little strategy, and a little magic.
I set a calendar item for myself to sit down and have a planning session once every 3 months - this one is in December, and I will spend most of my time thinking about the first quarter of the following year, so Jan-March of 2019. My next review will take place in March, and my focus then will be on Quarter 2, which is April-June, and so on.
I am a big IDEAS type of person, so when I think or hear of a new idea, or something I would like to explore, I will find the calendar item for my next review and add a short note about that idea, so that when that review date rolls around, I already have a list of items that I know I want to spend some more time researching or looking into. This helps me to not get distracted from the goals I’ve set for myself in my current quarter, but also not let those ideas float away.
I will also use this calendar item as a bit of a diary - we’re going to get into some of the metrics that I review, but something that can’t necessarily be measured would be your *feelings* surrounding a particular task - for example, if last quarter I started a new marketing technique and it was really taking up a lot of time and causing me stress, I would note that in my calendar item so I’d be sure to consider it when making decisions for my next quarter.
Here are some tips for when planning day is here:
If you have a team, it’s important that you are all part of this in some capacity - it’s imperative to all be on the same page. If you are on your own, pull in an accountability partner: your spouse, best friend, a fellow business owner that you trust & respect, or an accountant or business coach who works closely with you.
Slot at least 2-3 distraction-free hours to really focus and be present in this process. It’s important for you and your business. Leave your regular office space if you need to shake things up a bit. Have a whiteboard to brainstorm!
Have your key metrics on hand: your financials (income statement and balance sheet) for the past 3 months, marketing analytics (Social media, google, website), any other items that your company tracks (I.e. inventory, safety rosters, sales closing ratios, reviews, employee turnover, repeat sales). The more solid information that you can refer to during this process, the better. Scheduling quarterly reviews can be a great motivator for improving your tracking!
Now, let’s get started!
STEP 1: EVERYTHING STARTS WITH A DREAM
December is a special review month, because not only are we looking at the next 90 days, we’re also doing an overall view of the entire following year. So, for December’s evaluation, I like to make 1 big goal that encompasses all of 2019 – and for me, that is typically a revenue goal. I will look at my last year’s revenues (total gross income) and then add 20% to that number, and that becomes my BIG yearly vision. I usually like to write this number down on a piece of paper and have it on my desk to be able to see every day and remind myself of the big picture.
Once you have that specific goal or in this case, number in mind, you can start to build your strategy and planning around it. As a quarterly review would indicate, I like to focus on 90 day chunks of time when doing strategy planning.
STEP 2: LOOK BACKWARDS
I like to focus some of my time of looking back at the last quarter, specifically:
Did I reach the goals I had set for that quarter? Why or why not?
What worked really well? What didn’t work at all? To determine this, I use a combination of any tracking tools that I’ve used (i.e social media analytics, my “diary” in my calendar item, my financial statements, feedback from customers, friends and family, etc.)
What were my most profitable items? What were my least profitable items?
What was my biggest win? What was my biggest loss?
What are my biggest pains right now? What is taking up too much time?
As you work through a full year of strategy planning, the amount of items you will track in your business will get naturally better as you realize how useful these metrics are to you, your business, and your potential for growth. Remember, what can measured can be improved.
If you’re just starting out, and you don’t have anything to look back on, use this step to do market research instead – look at what other similar businesses have done or are doing, and what you think works and what doesn’t, how you would change things, or things that you should emulate.
STEP 3: ADD THE STRATEGY
Here is where we get into the nitty-gritty of what the next 90 days are going to look like in order to drive you towards your big dream for the year. Of course, if your big goal is a number, like revenue, or profit, or number of clients, it’s easy to just divide that number by 4 quarters, and know that that is your 90-day goal – this is good, and definitely where we should start, but we need a little strategy to make the magic happen. These strategies are going to vary hugely from business to business and person to person, but here’s some examples of the tactics that you may put into action:
Budget: This goes hand-in-hand with every single other example I am going to give. No matter what action plan you are planning on putting in place, part of the plot should be the budget – see episode 5 for more details on planning for profit. For each project that you choose to take on this quarter, you should be setting a limit to the amount you will be spending – for example, if you are a maker, you may say “I will do a maximum of 3 markets this quarter, for a total spend of $900.”
Marketing plan: Perhaps this quarter you would like to try writing a blog, or a newsletter, setting up a (better) website, or you’re going to put more effort into Instagram or Facebook. Choose 1 or 2 major areas to focus on in each quarter – the whole point of strategic planning is to laser-focus your attention on key areas in order to create momentum in a specific direction (toward your BIG goal), so we don’t want to be all over the place. If you’ve got 10 things you want to try, make that list, but pick the top 1 or 2 you want to try this quarter, and save the other 8 for future quarters – keep them for your next calendar item!
Product Offerings: This is the time to plan rolling out new products or services and strategically plan your launch. When will you start marketing? How will you market it? What is your limit for the amount you will spend on this roll-out?
Training/Development: You can make plans for what you or your staff want to learn about this quarter – so if you a professional that is required to do continuing education, you can plan to focus on a certain area of your industry to expand your knowledge on this quarter. Or, if you are in an industry that there are a lot of conferences that you can attend, choose which conference that is going to be this quarter, and make plans around it regarding budget, who will be running things while you’re gone, etc.
Efficiencies: This may be hiring a new employee, implementing new computer equipment or software, outsourcing some of your work, or re-structuring the way you currently run things to make things more efficient or to save money or time. This may taking some time to research solutions to your biggest pains or time suckers that you discovered in step 2 and making the plans to implement these while maintaining a budget.
Employee Reviews: Because we’re doing this quarterly, it’s also a great time to review your staff as well – this can be anything from looking at attendance records, to a full-blown sit down review with that individual.
Suppliers: When you are reviewing your financials from last quarter, you may notice that there is a jump in expenses or something seems off, this is a great time to discover that and make appropriate changes if required. Also, I specifically recommend reviewing the legal side of your business: have all of your tax, payroll, and GST remittances or installments been made? Is your business license and annual renewals up to date? Are you comfortable with your insurance policies? Do you need to make any changes to any client policies, engagements letters, contracts, proposals, etc?
Pricing: Experiment with changing the price points of some of the ways you plan to bring in revenue. Increasing your fees may mean working less to make more, or planning sales could boost an otherwise slow quarter for you.
Customer Service: Brainstorm ways you can make the client experience better. Is there a service or extra special product you can offer to make your VIP’s even happier? Is there something you keep hearing complaints about?
STEP 4: SET THE DATES
Now that you’ve identified the areas of focus for this quarter, it’s time to really break down each project into steps and assign dates to them. So, if you know that a certain project is going to take 5 hours of work, you need to schedule those 5 hours to either yourself or a member of your staff.
For example, if one of your quarter goals is to get a new website up and running, you need to plan whether you’re going to hire help or build it yourself, and schedule the time to either meet with a professional, or set aside the time for yourself to work on it, learn about it, etc. Set a calendar item for each time you need to be working on it.
Review day is also a great time to plan your quarter’s events – staff meetings, client appreciation, sale days, markets, classes you want to take, etc. Set these appointments now, as best you can, put in all of your calendar items, and you will see right here and now if you are over- or under-extending yourself.
Plan for holidays and personal down-time as well – this should non-negotiable for every entrepreneur – you don’t have endless energy, so you should make your own rejuvenation a priority as well. If you have staff, this is a great time to have them book holidays too!
STEP 5: CELEBRATE!
Congratulations! Planning out your next 90 days is a huge endeavor and you should really excited about it. Pin up those goals somewhere you will see them daily, and celebrate even the tiniest of wins. If/when something isn’t working, you can rest easy knowing that you will be able to tweak it at your next review. Now, pop a bottle, pat yourself on the back, and have your best quarter yet!