At this time of year (it's tax time here in the U.S.!), everyone is talking about annual goals, projections, and ways to grow the bottom line. But what about thinking in the shorter term? Sure, we need to have long-term goals, but sometimes it can be more effective to break down those "big picture" goals into short-term goals. For me at least, it is much less overwhelming to think and work this way.
PLANNING QUARTERLY BUSINESS GOALS
Here's the process I like to use when planning quarterly goals. I realize that everyone does this differently, so if you have some tips to share, please do so in the comments. I'd love to hear them!
1 | TAKE A LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE.
I like to look at the big picture for the purpose of deciding the direction I want my business to go in a given year (or even a few years out, but let's start with one year). I know. I said not to think long-term. But for the purposes of quarterly planning, we need to decide what we want to accomplish overall in a year.
Ask yourself these questions:
● What would make this year amazing? What needs to happen for you to consider this a truly successful year?
● What are the numbers? Consider how much revenue you want to bring in, your business' reach (social media, email marketing, etc.), new hires you might need to make (accountant, assistant, marketing consultant, tax preparer, etc.), new initiatives, new income streams, etc.
● What value do you want to be sure to provide to your customers this year?
● How do you want to provide that value (new services, larger projects, etc.)?
● What resources do you need to make this happen?
These are your overarching annual goals. These set the framework for planning per quarter.
2 | TAKE THOSE ANNUAL GOALS AND BREAK THEM DOWN INTO SIX-MONTH GOALS.
To make this easy, we can cut the numbers you provided from question 1 above in half and try to shoot for these numbers by the mid-year mark.
It is essential to also consider the value you want to provide in your business. How can you handle the various aspects and details that go into providing this value? Do you need to delegate tasks or choose one to two days per week to work on certain projects that will allow you to provide better value? Turn the bigger goal of how you want to provide value into a smaller goal to be met six months from now.
3 | CUT THOSE SIX-MONTH GOALS IN HALF AGAIN.
Now, we are left with quarterly goals. And now that you know how much money you want to make in a year, how many new or improved services/initiatives/income streams you want to offer or have, you can take these quarterly goals and convert them into action items for each of the three months in a quarter.
Here's an example. Let's say you want to make $100,000 this year in your business. Your 6-month revenue goal would be $50,000 and your quarterly revenue goal is $25,000. Pretty simple, right?
And let's say you want to provide two new services this year. You could offer one in the first six months of the year and begin providing the other in the second six months. That means that this quarter and next quarter you'll be working toward offering one new service by taking actionable steps to get there and making sure your clients know about them.
You could spend a month or so doing research about what your clients need in terms of the new service offering. The next month, you could spend time gathering resources and creating copy and sales emails/social media posts surrounding the new offering. The following month, you could launch the new service with a small group of your clients and run it as a beta version. Be sure to request feedback!
Next quarter would be all about taking that feedback, refining the process and improving the service. This will also help you determine the right price point for the service and give you a better idea of how to provide your customers with the best value based on the feedback you received.
By setting smaller goals, you allow yourself to create specific tasks and timelines more easily, which means less overwhelm! I love to use this method of "working backwards" because it allows me to see the overall picture and create smaller steps in order to reach bigger goals.
4 | MAP IT ALL OUT.
Before we finish up here, there's one final and very important step to tackle. Map it all out!
Take a look at your calendar for the next three months. Mark every trip, special occasion, doctor's appointment and any other commitments you have that would keep you away from your desk and working towards your quarterly goals. Go ahead and get them down on paper so that when you plan your action steps for each month (or week, if you're like me!), you already have these important dates on your calendar and you won't overbook yourself. There's nothing worse than getting all set to tackle a bit goal and then realizing you have to reschedule the actionable steps that it's going to take to reach it.
This will keep you from missing the mark or getting behind on working toward your goals, because it shows you exactly how much time you have to put toward them. You might see that you were overly ambitious with your quarterly goals and that you really don't have as much time to work on them as you thought. That's okay. Reschedule your actionable steps so that you can be sure you know what you need to do, and when, in order to meet your goals.
A great way to work toward your quarterly goals is to schedule your actionable steps in batches. I like to work on certain tasks which I batch on certain days of the week. These are called "batch days" by productivity experts, and they really do work. Each week, set aside a certain day when you will only work on the tasks that bring you closer to reaching the goals you have set. So, if you plan to start a blog for your clients, choose to write your outlines and posts every Tuesday. This way, you not only devote specific time to the tasks that take you one step closer to your goals, but you also give yourself some devoted time that is non-negotiable. Try not to schedule any other work tasks for that day and focus solely on creating content for and working on your blog. Give it a go. I promise it works!
5 | REASSESS AT THE END OF THE QUARTER.
Now that you've set your quarterly goals, put a date on the calendar for the end of the quarter to assess how well you did in meeting those goals. Once that date comes, take a look at how close you came to meeting the original goals you set for your business.
● Did you come close?
● Did you surpass your goals?
● Did you miss the mark completely?
If you more than surpassed your goals, you can probably shoot for even bigger goals next quarter. If you missed the mark, try to rework some of the actionable steps you laid out, and focus ruthlessly the next quarter so you can hit those marks.