When you’re running a small business, it often feels like you take one big breath at the beginning of the year, then dive in, put your head down, and don’t look up again until Christmas.
We get it — there’s always a million and one things to do, and your flexibility and speed is one of your greatest assets as a small business, so why not capitalise on it?
But working this way can also mean that you’re reacting, rather than leading, which can leaves you dealing with ups and downs at best, and blindsided by big problems at worst.
The answer? Quarterly check-ins.
Sure, we all have this idea of doing monthly check-ins, and while that may work for some businesses, it just doesn’t happen for most. That’s why quarterly check-ins are so important. They give you a chance to gather your thoughts, take stock of your goals and your progress towards them, and make a plan for the next quarter. And they only happen four times a year, so there’s really no excuse for not setting aside at least a few hours for them.
What should you be thinking about?
The main point of a quarterly check-in is to review the pillars that keep your business running and see what’s working, what’s not, and what you’re going to do about it.
While these pillars are different for every business, these four tend to be pretty consistent:
- Your finances.
A business isn’t a business without money, so make sure you keep a close eye on yours. Take this opportunity to review your income and expenses, send out reminders for any invoices that have slipped through the cracks, and do projections for your next quarter and some tentative calculations for the end of the year. (These will become much easier with the introduction of real time tax in the MTD initiative — then you’ll be able to know exactly what you owe at any given time rather than guessing and hoping you won’t get burned at the end of the year.) Many small business fail, not because they’re not profitable, but because they run out of cash, so assess your cash requirements for the coming quarter and take any steps needed to plug any possible gaps. Don’t forget, your accountant can be a great resource here, so use them!
- Your strategy.
While your strategy probably won’t change dramatically from quarter to quarter, you should take some time to review how well it’s been working so far this year. Which areas have you really shone in, and which haven’t been working out so well? Do you need to adjust your strategy to reach your end of year goals, or is it becoming clear that you need to become more realistic about certain goals? Or perhaps you were too conservative in your goal-setting at the beginning of the year and need to set bigger goals, given your performance so far.
Finally, try to proactively address as many problems as you possibly can for “future you”. Don’t let lapses in strategy now come back to bite you down the road, do whatever you can to identify potential issues that could come up over the next year and create a strategy to address them ASAP.
- Your systems.
You know those little things that gum up your whole business operation? Whether it’s having outdated scheduling software that leaves you in a never ending spiral of “What time works for you?/No, what time works for you?” or never having created clear systems for client onboarding, referrals, testimonial gathering, hiring, etc; now’s the time to either fix these problems or create the systems. It may seem a bit time consuming, but sorting these things out always gives you a huge ROI down the road.
- Your mindset.
This is particularly important if you’re the main person running the business, because if you start struggling, the business is going to struggle right along with you. So ask yourself, are you doing the things you need to do in your off time to keep you firing on all cylinders when you’re working? How’s your work/life balance? Do you need to spend some time building up your support network? Are you getting enough rest, exercise, and healthy food? All these things can slip down your priority list when you’re busy, so make sure you’ve got the resources in place to take care of yourself over the next quarter.
All fairly simple … and all of which can make a profound difference in your business!
One thing you should absolutely not do after reading this article:
Nod your head, think, “Wow, what a great idea”, and then don’t actually do it. It might be tempting to get to other things that feel more urgent, but the truth is, you either make time to plan in business voluntarily, or you wait until problems in your business force you to.
So take advantage of the natural pause that’s coming up at the end of September and set yourself up for success in Q4 — your business will thank you for it.