Welcome to the fourth quarter of the year. Your team is back from summer vacation, and the economy is buzzing in the run-up to the holidays. A medley of trade shows and exciting new product launches are on the horizon. In short, it’s go-time, which can either be very exciting or very stressful.
For startups and small businesses, Q4 is an ideal time to undertake projects that can be started and wrapped up in the space of the quarter. Make them ambitious. If you accomplish 70% of them, you’ll still see huge results. But on top of all that, the fourth quarter is still the time to start planning for next year. All said, that’s no easy challenge. So here’s a month-by-month breakdown of where to focus your energies.
Even if your organization is used to working in sprints that are shorter than a quarter, October is a great time to start thinking about next year. Start early so you can make whatever staffing changes you’ll need to reach those goals, and account for the time it’ll take to recruit, hire, and train new team members. If you wait until December to start listing jobs, you’ll already be a month or more behind once the first quarter of the next year arrives.
October is also the time to gather feedback on your entire company’s objectives from the bottom up. That means going beyond just the exec team in order to seek out input from everyone on staff. Your frontline workers come in contact with buyers and users of your product more than anyone else, and they can add perspective that can help steer your strategy into the following year. That’s especially true if you’re a startup that’s grown quickly over the past year.
Once goals are set, you need to communicate them. Make sure managers knows what they’ll be held accountable for so they can start preparing their teams. If you’ll need to train or retrain any staff, start designing those programs in November. If you’re planning a kickoff event, start getting those pieces in place before the holidays hit.
The point is to keep everyone working together and thinking about what’s ahead. That’s important year-round but all the more so during Q4, when the “fresh start” feeling of an approaching new year gives you the chance to do something bold. Just remember that between ideation, research, collaboration, and communicating across teams, it takes time to do it right.
Finally, November is also time to celebrate your wins from this year. Plan a holiday party, an awards banquet, or whatever you feel is appropriate for your organization. It’s the time of the year to be thankful and to acknowledge the people who drive your business forward.
You should always be evaluating the effectiveness of your work, but December is the best time to take a step back, review what you’ve accomplished, and consider what you could improve. This may mean rolling up your results for the year and dissecting them privately, or inviting others to give you feedback.
For leaders, I recommend anonymous 360 reviews, which invite your team to give honest thoughts about your performance and leadership. And just like with your business goals, it’s important to set realistic targets for self-improvement. A few months down the road, hold a second round of 360 reviews so you can compare the results.
Likewise, take the time to give your team meaningful feedback. “Keep up the good work,” doesn’t count. It can be tedious to make detailed notes, but your team will appreciate knowing that you’ve noticed both their strengths and areas for improvement. And they’ll carry that feedback into the new year.
So go forward and work with enthusiasm. Be excited, stay focused, but also take time to spend time with family and friends. For startups and fast-growing businesses especially, it can be easy to get caught up in execution mode, but don’t forget to step back, take stock, and enjoy the ride you’re on.
Andrew Filev is the CEO and founder of the collaborative project management system Wrike.