Winning Season: Small Business Tips for Tackling the 4th Quarter
The University of Miami Hurricanes football program is widely recognized as the originators of the "Four Fingers" tradition in college football, when both the team and fans hold up four fingers at the start of the 4th Quarter. While this symbol can often signify a push for a win, it always speaks to finishing the game strong. As a coach, finishing strong can mean avoiding a let down in a game that has been a success by all measurables, mounting a comeback and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat or successful implementation and execution of plays that will lead to future triumphs. The 4th Quarter is equally important for small businesses, entrepreneurs who play the role of coach must finish strong in all facets, meaning they must be equally focused on winning the quarter and preparing for the next game. Here are a few things to consider as you head into the home stretch.
Running Up The Score
For those that have had a successful year this is not the time to rest on your laurels or take your foot off of the pedal. Stay focused and cultivate your base.
You've executed a game plan that has led to success and you're nearing your annual goals. This is not the time to be led astray. The 4th Quarter will offer many opportunities to deviate from your plan, as you will see other businesses aggressively working to climb the ladder to profitability. Remain steadfast, stick to your principles and if the opportunities present themselves, be ready to capitalize. However it is of the utmost importance that you plan to work and work your plan. Don't fall victim to your success.
Client and Vendor Appreciation
A product of having a successful year is the accumulation of partners and/or clients. Now is the time to reengage those clients in a meaningful way. This is both an opportunity to thank them for their support and to remind them that your services or goods remain available should they be needed. Great tools to emphasize this point are holiday cards and/or small gifts. As a small business, part of what makes you unique is the attention you can pay to your clients. Personalize your cards when possible. Additionally, if you have new offerings specifically for the holiday season, use this opportunity to send samples as gifts.
Mounting A Comeback
For many, the 4th Quarter will be a make or break period for your business. For the sake of this article, we will assume that you offer an excellent product and or service which can only mean that you haven't had the level of success you desire because people aren't aware of your business. This means for you, the 4th Quarter is about Marketing!
Website, Social Media, Mobile and Emails
Now more than ever, you need to assure your brand is properly positioned in all customer-facing digital channels and that you are ready to meaningfully engage. Specifically, which of your marketing streams are getting the most interaction. Focus on expanding your reach and asking yourself questions. Is there particular content that gets more likes than others? Do certain demographics gravitate to certain media outlets? Should I be advertising differently on LinkedIn than on Facebook and Instagram? These will all be key considerations as you make your 4th Quarter push.
Zig don't Zag
People have become accustomed to being bombarded by sales, discounts and special products in the last quarter. With Halloween, Thanksgiving and a myriad of other holidays on the horizon, it is a veritable bonanza for the small business owner. But to remain unique you must diversify your content. This means rather than focusing solely on offering deals, you must offer tips and suggestions for navigating the season apart from making a sale. Discover different ways to add value to your audience and that engagement may help reap rewards. While everyone else comes empty handed making requests, you come bearing gifts in the form of tips and advice which will help you stand out amongst the crowd.
Planning for the Future
Whether the first three quarters of the year have exceeded your wildest expectations, made you question whether you're in the right business or somewhere in between, you have gained valuable lessons. Namely what works and doesn't work for your business model. What you do with that information will determine your business trajectory for the 4th Quarter and the 1st Quarter of the new business year.
Check the Budget...
Now is the time to make sense of your current budget and plan the next one. Dive deep into your profit and loss statements and decide what worked and didn't work. Begin structuring your business accordingly. If you have been able to turn a profit, what will you do with those funds? If you find yourself in the red, what cuts can be made to your expenses without diminishing your business? But before you can move forward you must understand the numbers. If you can't understand how you've performed, this would be the time to engage an Accountant. For many these numbers and what decisions they drive you to make will have lasting effects on the success of your business.
Strategic Planning & Preparation for the New Year
Now that you understand the numbers, its time to determine the future of your business. Take a moment to praise yourself and your team for successes, but also highlight areas of weakness where improvements are needed. Now is the time to set both goals for the 4th Quarter and the 1st Quarter. Do you have a revenue target? Do you have a customer target? How about social media engagement? All of these will be factors in both your short and long term business targets. Successfully running a business means being ever focused on the past, present and future and governing yourself with all in focus. Therefore, don't become so focused on the 4th Quarter that you forsake the future health of your business. Now is the time to reevaluate your entire operation. Is my supply chain solid? Do my contracts properly protect me? How about my price points, am I overcharging or undercharging? If you can't answer these questions, now is the time to engage a Business Consultant and/or mentors within your category, if available, to help you finish strong and to see your business grow and expand. I'm rooting for you!
Archie L. Alston II is the Principal of Genesis Crown Consultancy, focusing on coaching small business owners through all phases of the Entrepreneurial Life Cycle. From Opportunity Recognition to Maturity and Expansion, he has the business acumen and legal training to articulate the concepts needed to create and build any company.