A good quarterly plan is the magic wand that can take your business to places you thought were un-get-able. Our practical step-by-step guide to quarterly planning is nothing like the boring and tedious processes you couldn’t be bothered with in the past.
Chances are you’ve heard the saying that has been widely accredited to Einstein:
‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’
Rumour has it he said no such thing. But it doesn’t make it any less true.
As a matter of fact, I have my own version of it:
‘Nothing changes if nothing changes’
It’s one of my favorites that I refer to again and again.
Because, generally speaking, we resent change. Often, it’s not until we find ourselves stuck we will consider anything different.
Guess what? It’s exactly what happened to me.
For years, I did no annual planning, let alone quarterly planning. All I did was run the merry-go-round of working client projects and chasing the next lead. Anything else... sorry, no time!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a meticulous planner. In the business events industry (my industry), it’s a non-negotiable. So I have the skills, no doubt. Just...not the time.
Because my clients are my priority, not my own business.
It’s the story of the car service centre. The last car to get serviced is the owners’.
UNTIL I decided it wasn’t serving me AND it needed to change.
I needed to change!
So for the last 5 years, I have been really intentional about my annual and quarterly planning. And words can’t explain the difference it has made to my business!
IT CAN DO THE SAME FOR YOU!
We’ve already dedicated a podcast and blog to my annual planning process. I won’t go into it again, but you can find it here. Because the quarterly planning process naturally flows from the annual planning, it makes sense to start there.
So with that out of the way, we’ll dive into my quarterly planning process!
How To Make A Quarterly Plan?
Creating a quarterly plan has a reputation of being time-consuming, boring and tedious. But it doesn’t have to be any of these things!
Scheduling: The Quarterly Planning Calendar
When I mentioned earlier that in the past, I never got to quarterly business planning because my clients were my top-priority, I wasn’t joking. I knew the importance of making a quarterly plan; just never got to it.
That changed as soon as introduced a quarterly planning calendar... and stuck to it.
Admittedly, it comes with a few ‘rules’:
- At the start of the year, I lock in 4 dates into our business planner.
- They fall either into the last week of the previous quarter, or the first week of the new quarter. This gives us a 2 week window.
- I allocate 4 hours for each meeting.
- The quarterly planning meetings have absolute priority over anything else.
Attendees: Who’s involved?
I have a small team and all my full-time employees attend the quarterly planning meetings. That’s important because I no longer have a finger in all the pies. So, in getting their feedback, I avoid any blind spots.
Structure: Step-By-Step Guide To Quarterly Planning
And then, it’s time for the action!
In real life, all we need is a whiteboard and a bunch of sticky notes. When we’re working as a remote team, it takes on the shape of MIRO, which is a visual collaboration platform I like to work with.
Then we all get to work on our sticky notes.
It’s a 4 step process.
For every step, we spend some time reflecting and writing our thoughts and ideas down. Next, we discuss as a team.
These are the steps I follow:
1. The Wins
We celebrate our wins, give each other a big pat on the back. It sets a positive mood and motivates us for the task ahead.
2. The Adjustments
We look at adjustments that are needed. For this, we use the KISS quadrant.
- Keep: What helped us move forward and therefore should be kept?
- Improve: What could we do better to move things forward?
- Stop: What we should stop doing?
- Start: What would make things better than before?
At this time, we also consider if the changes we are tossing up are easy, timed right, what it will look like, etc.
3. Looking Back
We reflect on the previous quarter. What did we set out to do, and did we achieve that? I would say for 80-90% of our targets, the answer is yes. But sometimes things need to be carried over, or reconsidered.
4. The New Quarterly Plan
Only THEN do start planning the new quarter.
For our new plan, we look at:
- Are there any unfinished tasks from the previous quarter we need to carry over?
- What is our day-to-day workload and how much room do we have for other things?
- What were our annual planning focus area?
Crunch-time: Putting It Into Action
Then out comes my fancy A4 piece of paper with 4 columns.
In the first column, we put our focus area based on the above considerations. For my business, this often boils down to an area in my business we want to improve (like our proposal and job costing process), or something new we want to introduce (like a new product or a new tool).
The golden rule is: no more than 4 focus points, otherwise you lose yourself.
Then we translate our focus area into smaller tasks to be completed in months 1, month 2, and month 3 of our quarter. This ensures we only take on the amount of work we can handle.
Next, tasks receive due dates and are allocated to a person.
Once that is done, my VA puts the tasks into Monday.com, our project management system, a tool we use every single day.
Every week, during our staff meeting, we track progress. Doing this keeps us focussed and holds us accountable. In the end, you find you can do things you didn’t consider possible!
Make The Quarterly Planning Process Work For You
So what does all this mean for you?
This step by step quarterly planning process works for my business in business events. Like you, at one stage, I picked up the quarterly planning process idea from another business owner who was sharing it generously.
As the years passed, I’ve tweaked it and I suggest for you to do the same: see how the shoe fits. Keep what works and change what doesn’t.
But above all... GET STARTED!
My FREE Step-by-Step Guide is a great tool to help you turn big goals and dreams into bite-size action points. You can find it here.
I really hope this has been helpful to you! As always, reach out to me on Instagram with your questions and thoughts. It would mean the world to me if I could be the person who gave you the tools to move your business to the next level.