It’s November and you have a lot on your plate to get the business ready for a new year.   Most of these to-dos don’t have hard deadlines but are important things you know you should do to maximize the upcoming year’s operations.  Examples include strategic and annual planning, financial planning and budgeting, and risk management and legal compliance.

Without fixed deadlines, many of these projects get sidelined because the busy-ness of business gets in the way and there’s no fixed deadline.   What’s more critical to your business – the quote you’re getting out the door today or the message to your team for 2020? 

We know the answer but don’t dedicate the time to do this critical work. How can we be sure to prioritize the steps needed to drive the business forward?  Enlist help.  The helpers in your business include key management team members, professional advisors, and accountability partners or groups.  

First, create a laundry list of what projects need to be done. 

In addition to the usual activities such as annual planning and budgeting, add any issues that have been nagging at you but haven’t made it to the top of the to-do list.  This might be a review of insurance coverage if you’ve added employees or entered a new market or updating your Employee Handbook and hiring process to reflect the new laws or investigating what’s keeping your profit margin from reaching industry standard.

Next, meet with your internal team to prioritize the projects based on risk and deadlines.

Some projects have a natural deadline due to company processes or legal compliance.   If you roll out your annual bonus plan each year in January, you’ll need to put the time into planning for bonuses prior to that.  Similarly, new laws often take effect January 1, so you must have these compliance issues tackled and ready to communicate and implement in advance of the deadline.  Annual planning is a bit fuzzier.  To give it some teeth, your team must agree upon what the goals are of “annual planning” for your business and what the result looks like. 

Finally, add accountability.

Once you have your list, priorities, and timelines, determine who is accountable for getting the projects done and what resources they need.   We identified your team, professional advisors and accountability partners as helpers.  Each person on your team should have access to those with the knowledge to help them accomplish the project tasks.   Give them the authority to reach out to the insurance broker, CPA, business lawyer, or consultants to get the project done.  

For legal compliance, we’ve seen HR managers spend hours looking for how to implement a new law only to find that the rules aren’t even in place yet or the sample policy they found didn’t apply to their business.  It’s a frustrating scenario for the team member who is working hard to do things right but isn’t given the resources to succeed.   If necessary, give them a budget to spend with legal, tax or consultants but allow them to leverage folks who can point them in the right direction to save them time and frustration.   If your team struggles with accountability, create regular touchpoints or a buddy system to keep projects moving forward.  Visibility is key.

Prioritize Your Team & Business

For your business to perform at its best, you must do the hard work of thinking and planning.  Believe me, I know it’s easier to do the busy work instead but it doesn’t move your business or your team forward.  As a leader, your role is to give the team the vision and resources to excel.

Leveraging your business’ helpers – your team, your professional advisors, and your accountability partners – will drive more engagement, direction, and success. 

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