Mark Richardson, CR, is an author, columnist, and business growth strategist. He authored the best-selling book, How Fit Is Your Business? as well as his latest book, Fit to Grow. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 301.275.0208.
From a sports’ fan’s perspective, halftime may be a chance to go get a snack or another beer. From the coach’s perspective, it’s an integral part of the potential success of the event.
A coach knows that halftime is an opportunity to regroup or make a major change in the game strategy. It’s also a time to take a quick breather and get motivated to dive back in.
It’s been said, “Business is the greatest game that ever lived.” For a business owner or leader, halftime (halfway through the year) is very important. And by drawing on the analogy of professional sports, you can gain insights into how to approach this crucial element of the game.
A healthy business generally has a written plan for the year. The plan takes into account the economy, your pipeline, your team (and the bench strength), and your goals. The plan makes assumptions such as normal weather conditions, a ringing phone, and retention of talent. It is well-conceived and thoughtful, but is only a “fantasy” until it’s executed by year-end.
I always liked to come out of the beginning of the year with a splash. This splash included an aggressive but realistic plan and a way to get everyone aligned (sort of a playbook and a pep talk before the game).
After the first quarter, you need to take inventory. What’s working? What’s not? What is the score? Are there any changes in the environment? Do those changes make it better or worse? If you have a well-conceived plan, you probably don’t want to overreact if something is a little behind or ahead. Minor tweaks are generally a good idea after the first quarter is under your belt.
But at halftime, you need to regroup. This should actually be a part of the game, just like in a sporting event. The following are a few key elements in the halftime process.
Just like for a sporting event, halftime is when you get off the field. Some business owners like to go on a retreat with their business partners or the leadership team. Some prefer to stay close to home but block out a day or two. There should be a process or an agenda to halftime, even if it’s just you. This includes preparation, deconstruction, reconstruction, implementation, and getting buy-in. By having some time to work on the business and not just in it, you will be reenergized.
Know Your Numbers
Generally, you need to go past the basics and delve deeper. For example, rather than just leads vs. sales, look at the demographics of the leads, the average project mixes, and/or the type of projects you are trending toward. You also need to drill more deeply into the financial data and see whether you are off-plan. This is an analytical process more than an emotional one. These numbers are a tool to help you make good decisions for the second half.
Revise the Plan
Even the best plan will almost always need some revisions, including changes to the budget and goals. These revisions should focus on the second half of this year and also include some preliminary forecasting for next year. It’s important that this plan be focused on the “what,” as well as how you will achieve the results. This can be a confusing process for your team, so your leadership is critical for success. You may even want to consult with an outside resource.
And, like a sporting event, there will also be an end of the third quarter. I generally look at this as a time to kick into high gear. The fourth quarter is when you make or break the profits for the year, and you really need to focus on production and at least keep an eye on the spending.
In closing, try to enjoy the business planning process just like you love the sticks and bricks. Once you begin to see business as a game, you will start to draw from other areas, such as sports, to help you become more masterful at it.