Year-End Reflection and Renewal: Fine-Tuning Strategies with Q4 Insights
By Peggy Tierney Galvin, Force4 Technology Communications
The concept of kaizen means “change for the better” and is synonymous with “continuous improvement.” Toyota famously uses this concept as a foundational principle of its production system, “empowering individual members to identify areas for improvement and suggest practical solutions.”
As the new year begins, it’s paramount for leaders and organizations to pause, reflect and recalibrate their strategies for the upcoming year. For your own organization, it’s important to leverage Q4 insights and take stock of:
- what worked
- what didn’t
- what was within the team’s realm of control
- what wasn’t
- what to do differently and/or more of in the new year
At Force4, we recently went through this process ourselves. We looked at reasons why we gained new business and why we didn’t, and analyzed whether those reasons were in our realm of control or were due to market forces outside of our control or a mixture of both.
Sometimes, reasons remain elusive. For instance, why are the markets behaving in a certain way? This is an opportunity to double down on things inside your realm of control that directly lead to growth. It’s also important to be able to look at the whole picture with clarity and without ego – and without the emotion of what you’re feeling that day, either positive or negative, influencing your assessment.
If you’re a services organization like Force4, clients will want to know what recommendations you have about what worked well and what could benefit from change. Performing this analysis and acting on the recommendations – and making a habit of this – contributes to an overall culture of constant improvement.
Q4 insights and their impact
Dive into specific insights gained from Q4 analysis. For instance, looking at how long you’ve been working on landing certain accounts reveals trends about the desire for marketing support on the client side, versus the availability of funding on the VC or investor side and/or the availability of budget on their own customer side. You can use such insights to assess how best to scale, what the “care abouts” of each persona category are and what level of resources are needed for each customer to be successful.
Q4 insights have a unique impact on strategic planning. Three-quarters of the largest companies have their fiscal years mapped to the annual year, with their fourth quarters ending on December 31. That means that Q4 is a make-or-break quarter for many companies looking to finish the year profitably. Its metrics enable a company to look at an entire year’s worth of sales and account data to compare in aggregate against other years. This helps allocate additional strategic sales and marketing support for the times when it makes the biggest impact, alongside ongoing annual programs that provide sales air cover.
You also need to examine areas where recalibration may be necessary. Now is a great time to measure the value of tools, activities or services. What were they able to deliver compared to your original goals? What was the ROI? Can you measure it? Having this information will help you plan your budget for next year in a way that learns from the past and drives future success.
New goals for the new year
Know what’s important to your company, from both qualitative and quantitative perspectives. Use this information to set out measurable and competitive goals at the beginning of the year for your company and team to achieve. What metrics do you use to measure success for an account? For the company? What needs to happen every quarter to achieve these? Every month?
Getting as specific as possible about your desired outcome is the first step to putting together a plan to achieve it. If you want to increase sales – and who doesn’t? – give that desire a concrete figure that you can measure against at year’s end. If you want to enter a new territory, decide what success will look like for that endeavor, such as number of sales, new reseller partners or new employees to do this work. Then break down each desired outcome into steps, each with its own deadline. A plan with actionable goals at the beginning of the year is the first step to knowing whether your company achieved those goals at the end of the year.
Plan to succeed
A little introspection is a good thing now and then, and the start of a new year is certainly a good time to look back so you can look ahead. Dig through your business data and see if you hit your goals; if you didn’t in some areas, readjust your strategies and resources accordingly. Assessing past performance and understanding market dynamics from last year’s Q4 will help inform strategic decisions for Q1.