Finish Strong in the 5th Quarter
Updated: Jan 20, 2021
If you’ve ever attended a UW-Badger football home game, I hope you stayed for the 5th Quarter. It is legendary. The game just isn’t over until the Badger Band stops playing and the crowd stops dancing. Even the opposing team’s band members, cheer squads and alumni join in. It’s a blast and the band always puts on a great show.
Can you say the same for your business? What happens at the end of Q4? Did you finish strong? Did you prepare for a “fifth” quarter, knowing your team put all their efforts into doing everything to the best of their ability and are looking forward to a memorable wrap-up to celebrate?
That’s what the term finish strong means. It’s an attitude that includes proactive planning as an owner and leadership team. Looking at past performance, productivity and goal accomplishments does nothing if you wait until January of the next year. By that time, it’s too late to affect your bottom line. We might find it tempting to step back and slow down because we’ve worked so hard for so long – that’s an attitude. Looking to the future and planning for 2020 is more exciting – and is also an attitude. When momentum waivers, focus changes and distractions or justifications take over. It takes courage and fearless leadership to remain strong in these last few months of the year.
That means the amount of time left for working in 2019 requires a little proactive scheduling on your part. Here are three key events to schedule prior to year-end.
Get your financial house in order long before December 31
Set a meeting with whoever you consider your trusted advisor for financial-business strategy. In this meeting,
Discuss the tax consequences based on current year-to-date numbers, projecting out November and December. You don’t want surprises that will affect your financial situation in 2020.
Discuss not only tax strategy, but financial concerns as well, leaving enough time in the current year to modify, course correct or rearrange.
Discuss year-end cash flow. What is needed and how can cash be optimally managed by the end of the year? Are there creative and different ways to collect A/R or modify A/P? Can we prepay certain expenses? Is there enough cash for year-end bonuses (if it hasn’t been budgeted)?
Review the Wish List. Can we afford to invest in additional assets prior to end of year or does it make more sense to wait to invest in the new year?
Schedule a strategy session
This full-day leadership team meeting should be at least a quarterly review, but you may want to consider an early annual strategy session as well. Follow through with your team, meaning no one cancels! Focus on:
Optimizing sales. Make a final push to close deals (front-end) and collect (back-end).
Optimizing production. Just “get it out the door” as opposed to starting the new, more exciting stuff. Finalize what has already been promised – do you know what that is? Manage inventory by taking a deeper look at what is on the books.
Set 1-on-1s with direct reports
Get a pulse by uncovering “where their heads are at”. Like preventative health where you go to the doctor before health problems arise, think of this as a well-check for your employees.
Take the employee’s temperature around intentions. In this tight labor market, do you want to be blindsided by one of your high performers who intends to leave in the new year? The reason why managers end up totally surprised about key employees leaving is they didn’t have enough check-ins with their people, didn’t understand their personal-career goals and assumed they were happy in their roles.
“Simply having a talent management process in place can instill a false sense of security about one’s bench … Companies often waste time trying to fix what’s broken when they should be investing in their highest performers and grooming them for future roles.” – Courtney Hamilton, TMG managing director
Take the time now to push to the best of your abilities and finish strong. As the famous poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote long ago, “great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.” That still holds true in Q4 of 2019: “Starting strong is good. Finishing strong is epic.” (Robin Sharma). It could be a game changer, one that leads to the 5th Quarter fun.