The key to executing on your strategy to accomplish your business goals lies in the quarter. The quarter is the perfect unit of time to bridge your big picture goals and your weekly planning and daily action.
It’s long enough that you can get meaningful units of work done that collectively bring you closer and closer to your long term goals, but it is also a short enough time so that you can frequently course correct and hold your focus.
But just what you pick to focus on for the quarter?
A quick word of caution–beware of biting off more than you can chew. The quarter comes and goes awfully fast. Think of it as a 90-day sprint. Your company will benefit far more by you choosing to go after fewer, better things that you actually take to completion rather than half starting and not finishing a dozen projects.
When you build on the quarter, you’re team gains the confidence that they have a large enough block of time to get meaningful work done, and you have the security of knowing that you can make adjustments to your bigger picture plan for the coming quarter. In essence, this quarterly planning methodology gives you the benefit of momentum and flexibility.
So we coach our entrepreneurial clients to limit themselves to 2-3 “Focus Areas” for the quarter. A “Focus Area” is your choice of the highest tier of priorities for your company as a whole. Sure you’ll still have to take care of business, dealing with the day-to-day operational needs of the business during the quarter, but your Focus Areas are your intentional decisions where your team will invest a portion of their best time during the company.
Where the day-to-day keeps the status quo stable, your Focus Areas are where you’re investing for the growth and development of your business–for its future.
Here is a quick cheat sheet of how to pick your company’s top three focus areas for the quarter (which you’ll then build your written 1-page action plan for the quarter.)
Focus Area One: Pushing back your current Limiting Factor.
Your first Focus Area should be something that directly helps you push back your number one Limiting Factor for your business.
By definition your Limiting Factor is the single biggest current constriction to growth, and hence it is a great leverage point to focus on.
If each quarter you take concrete steps to push back your then current number one Limiting Factor you’ll be putting resources where they will do great good in growing your business.
When you pick your Limiting Factor, do your best to drill down in your diagnosis. Don’t just say, “Our biggest Limiting Factor cash flow.” Instead drill down. Is it that you’re doing poorly with collecting on your receivables on a timely basis? Or are your cost of goods sold too high? Or are you overstaffed and need to reduce headcount? Or do you need to increase pricing? As you can see, the more precisely you can nail down your Limiting Factor the higher the quality of your chosen solutions to push that Limiting Factor back.
Focus Area Two: Seizing one of your biggest opportunities.
Your second Focus Area should be about seizing one of your company’s biggest opportunities.
You win the game of business by effectively leveraging big opportunities, not by inching your way along accepting the status quo. That is why each quarter you should choose one of your biggest opportunities to invest some of your best resources on taking advantage of.
Often some of the best opportunities will take more than one quarter to seize and as such you may find yourself working on this Focus Area for several quarters.
Focus Area Three: Mitigate one of your gravest threats.
Every business faces threats–those things that could deeply hurt or even kill a business. That’s why for your third Focus Area we recommend you look at your short-list of the top threats facing your business, and you pick one of those threats to focus on mitigating this quarter.
For example, one of the online businesses we coach had to completely switch their business model when the government changed a key regulation in their industry.
So what key threats do you face? Regulatory change? Entrance of a new competitor? The introduction of a disruptive new technology? Loss of a key employee, vendor, supplier, or channel partner? You get the idea.
Pick one threat to work to mitigate this quarter. Maybe you can’t eliminate it completely in 90-days, but you can take definite steps to reduce your business’s exposure to this danger.
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