December is the most hectic month for many businesses. Between year-end reporting, tax preparations and holiday celebrations, it's hard to stay on top of everything -- and yet, you also need to be thinking about the year ahead.
If you want your business to thrive in the new year, it's essential to get your game plan in place now and create a strong strategy for Q1. Here's how eight entrepreneurs advise preparing your business for the first quarter of 2019.
Finish your current projects before starting new ones.
Many businesses begin the new year with a few loose ends and unfinished projects from the year before. But according to Bryce Welker, CEO of Accounting Institute for Success, rather than starting new projects in January, it can be more productive and effective to spend the first quarter of the year finishing as many outstanding projects as possible.
"This will provide your team and board members with tangible results as quickly as possible and will clear the table for exciting new projects," Welker adds.
Reflect on what didn't work.
While you should celebrate your wins of the year, Nicole Munoz of Nicole Munoz Consulting, Inc. believes now is a good time to reflect on the projects and situations that could have gone better.
"It's important to tally what worked and what didn't," she says. "This is going to require some real honesty, but if it's done correctly, you'll set yourself up for a great start in Q1."
Talk to your employees.
Before you begin making any big plans for Q1, Michael Kurland, CEO of Branded Group Inc, advises surveying your employees to get their thoughts and opinions.
"Feedback from our team has been critical to the programs we have implemented for the business and our clients," he says. "Business success is grounded in an engaged team that rallies around your vision. This feedback provides key insights into the pulse of your company."
Do a 'business reset' to question your assumptions.
For Aaron Schwartz, co-founder and COO of Passport, the beginning of the year means having an offsite meeting with his co-founder to "reset" their business. They use this time to consider what they've learned, the skill sets of their current team and how the market is changing.
"We then write up a new business plan, questioning all assumptions," Schwartz says. "By starting fresh, you give yourself a chance to ensure you're doing the right work toward the right vision."
Define a quarterly focus.
Sometimes the best preparation strategy is to look at the bigger picture and map out your entire year. Rachel Beider, CEO of Massage Outpost, sets her big quarterly goals at the beginning of Q1.
She shares: "Each quarter I like to focus on one of these four areas: getting new customers, getting referrals from customers, getting customers to purchase again and getting B2B connections."
Create a monthly one-page action plan.
Once you've planned your quarters, you can drill down even further and create a one-page action plan for each month of the year. Syed Balkhi, founder of WPBeginner, likes this approach because it keeps things simple and measurable.
"A one-pager of your goals for each team member will help you clearly visualize everyone's tasks," Balkhi says. "This will help you keep track of which goals are being accomplished and which ones are not."
Create your content strategy for the new year.
While there are many initiatives you can focus on in Q1, Jean Ginzburg of JeanGinzburg.com recommends prioritizing your content marketing strategy.
"A content strategy is one of the most significant methods to get your brand to your audiences," she explains. "Identify your market's challenges, then create content on those challenges and explain how your brand addresses them. Set up a content calendar to distribute your content on social media."
Look at future trend predictions.
Thought leaders and experts in your industry are already making their 2019 predictions, so it's in your best interest to pay attention to the trends on the horizon.
"Many of these are best taken with a grain of salt, but no matter what industry you're in, there are bound to be valuable resources online that can help you prepare for the coming year," says Thomas Smale, founder of FE International. "Read widely and educate yourself on what to expect in the new year."