It’s not just massive Fortune 500 firms that can benefit from the discipline of quarterly planning and reporting – it can also be an equally essential tool for small businesses. In this piece, we’ll help you steal a trick or two from the big boys by breaking down four reasons why quarterly planning also makes perfect sense for most smaller scale operations.
- It Shows You’re An Increasingly Mature Business
Biting the bullet of quarterly planning sends a powerful message to yourself, your team, and the outside world. It says that you’re dealing with an organisation that’s both built to last and laser-focused on the here and now.
Most early-stage entrepreneurial efforts are dominated by a potentially unfortunate mix of short-term panic and looming worries about annual performance. The shift to quarterly planning shows you’re over the initial hump and starting to think about your business in a much more structured manner.
- It Gives You Nicely Optimised Time Windows
Thinking about your year in three-month increments lets you hit a particular sweet spot in terms of both being able to plan genuinely large projects and react quickly when necessary. A three month window gives you time to set specific goals which can then be broken down into achievable milestones.
It also helps avoid the risk of falling into pie-in-the-sky projects with little to no chance of a successful conclusion. Nine weeks is a near ideal amount of time to get something done and effectively review how far you’ve actually come.
- It Makes Managing People Easier
Management is a classic bugbear of many fledgeling entrepreneurs. It’s hard enough getting your own work done half the time when you’re starting off – managing that of others can be a genuinely daunting prospect.
Moving to a quarterly planning model makes organising your team substantially easier. Rather than giving your team vague annual goals (or ridiculous “stretch” targets), you’ll be able to break their work down into achievable chunks and easily schedule natural review or checking-in phases around a nine-week schedule. Long story short, it keeps you closer to your team and them closer to their goals so it’s win-win all around.
- It Gives You Meaningful Reference Points Down the Line
As you get up and running with your new quarterly reality, you’ll find a pleasant degree of clarity starting to hit in year two in particular. With a solid year of quarterly planning and performance behind you, you now have meaningful metrics for past years to compare current efforts against. Particularly in seasonally-driven businesses, this ability to look at previous performance in quarters rather than years can be invaluable.
The four points we’ve covered above are by no means the only ones in favour of moving to a quarterly planning model, but hopefully they’re enough to start you thinking seriously about it. While you’re looking at a little extra effort up front to get everybody on board, the payoffs down the road in terms of general clarity, focus, and accurate reporting are more than worth it!