During December it’s easy to get carried away with end of year hustle and bustle. Social activities abound and businesses start to wind down. For me though, I’m avoiding a loss of business momentum by making time to review and prepare. I’m running two sessions with my team to review 2016 and I’m also planning 2017 in detail – particularly the first quarter.
This is so important because the slowdown and lull over the holidays can really take the wind out of business momentum and its sails (not to mention its sales). A well-planned transition through the end of the year however can be a valuable time to learn lessons and to hit the ground running in January.
A review of a most unusual year
This review and plan is even more essential this year because it’s been such a surreal year. All the businesses that I speak to are seeing some impact from the Brexit decision on 23 June, and anyone doing business in the US is seeing changes there too. But what I’ve been most surprised and spooked by is the extent to which some people are prepared to bury their heads in the sand and carry on regardless.
At a reception in Number 10 Downing Street last week I was told by business minister Margot James that there’s never been a better environment for small businesses in the UK. In the same week I got a call from two large supermarkets which objected to Ormsby Street publishing abysmal performances by each in paying suppliers late – not because either were concerned about damaging suppliers – but because internal finance teams said everything was fine. Neither believed the information gathered directly from thousands of small businesses by all the major credit reference agencies, which painted a very different picture.
So, determined not to bury my own head in the sand and say “i’ll look at that after Christmas”, I’ve been knuckling down for a tough look at what we’ve done right and wrong this year, and figure out how to share that with my team.
This is always a difficult balance to strike. On the one hand there is lots of positive stuff to take away and it’s important to celebrate the good news. On the other hand, it’s important for everyone to realise that the business is relying on them to move fast, make the right decisions, and execute well in order that we can survive and thrive.
Getting the message across
Within my team, I’ll be communicating this message in a number of different ways. We’ve already had a review session where I laid out the broad landscape, and we’ll have another with the whole team to encourage more of a discussion once people have had a chance to think about the areas that I’ve highlighted.
I’ll then refer extensively to this in both my end of year and New Year messages to the team, which go out in written form. Then in the New Year I’m taking the first two days the business is open to get everyone working together in a hackathon-style to deliver a key new part of our product. In this case, the product is important, but the way that we deliver the product, balancing speed to market, functionality and quality is what I am influencing, so starting the year off with a high adrenaline high value delivery like that will give us all the boost that we need to get out of the Christmas lull and off to a flying start in 2017.
Finally, I’m planning how this all gets followed up and how we can ensure that the lessons we’re learning from last year and the new focus that we bring to the next year are reinforced in every regular meeting, daily scrum, scheduled report and conversation that we have.
The break that we have at Christmas is important for business, because it’s the one time of year when (as a B2B company anyway) the vast majority of the team are away at the same time, and we have the opportunity to come back and make a fresh start. I’m determined to use the opportunity to maintain business momentum and make 2017 out best year yet.