Happy New Year!

As we embark on the first quarter of 2016, it’s a great time to make sure your business is set up for success in the coming months. I often counsel a quarterly business check-up for people to make sure that they are on track for their larger strategic goals. Quarters are perfect units of time – long enough to get things done, but not too long to shift gears if things aren’t working properly.

Balanced Scorecards are a popular way to go about this – but they may be too complex for your needs. I know that for myself, they are certainly more than needed as my business strategy is largely reliant on my own workplan, and assigning functional areas to what is all essentially personal responsibility seems like more work than I want to do.

A quarterly strategic action plan is a great in-between step – taking your strategic vision and moving it into actionable goals. The following instructions are based on the great article in Inc. by David Finkel. He focuses a lot on the need to keep your quarterly plan SIMPLE and to review it weekly. I find that weekly is a good metric – but I also just keep a copy of my goals up on one monitor – easily reviewable when I set my task list for my daily grind.

Step One: Identify Your Quarterly Goals. These can take broad form – “identify and close new clients” or “review and realign service offerings” – or can be more specific – “clarify office manager role” or “implement new CRM.” When you assess these quarterly goals, make sure they are reasonable and actionable. Bad goals are ones that you can’t track. When I look personally at my goals for 1st Q 2016, my top tier goal is “be more accountable with time management” – I have a bad habit of working 12 hour stretches, then taking a whole day off. It is an actionable goal which can be measured by specific criteria (time worked over each day per week).

Step Two: Determine Your Success. When you think about your goals, ask yourself how you will measure achievement. For me, when I think about my time management goal, I want to be able to look at a seven day work week and see 5-6 hour blocks of productive accomplishments over six consecutive days, rather than see 12 hours on, one day off, 15 hours on, one day off, then four days straight of 6-9 hours. For me, this constancy will mean success on this particular goal.

Step Three: Make a Plan. Any actionable goals take time to implement. When you look at the approximately twelve-week timeframe this quarterly action plan will cover, think about the other actions and tasks that you need to run your business. One of my other goals for this quarter is to plan and execute a conference for family businesses. This particular goal has a lot of dependencies, so its implementation is somewhat more challenging than the aforementioned time management goal. When I think about the action steps to take for it, I need to account for the response time of other parties involved and set reasonable goals for myself and my actions that can be completed outside of their work.

Once the plan is made (and written down!) it’s your job to refer to it often and revise it as necessary. I am excited to bring my goals to fruition in the first part of the year. What goals do you have, and how are you working towards getting them to happen?