Infusing Agility in the Next Twelve Months of Business

As entrepreneurs, we’re frequently required to navigate the challenges that come with a dynamic and often unpredictable business world.

We create forecasts and budgets for the upcoming year, strategies and goals, and metrics to measure it all.

But as the year marches along, we need to stay on top of this roller coaster of highs and lows.

We can better prepare for this journey by implementing a few strategies that allow for adaptability and resilience over a rolling twelve months.

So what are some key considerations for leaders when planning on a rolling twelve months?

Hold a Quarterly Review

One of the most important aspects of planning is to hold regular reviews. Because if it's a plan that you never review, it will very quickly become out of date.

Doing a quarterly review means that we get to adapt our annual plan for the next 12 months, and so that's how we end up with that rolling 12 months. An annual plan, of course, is an important idea, and I still do the annual plan at the end of November and then solidify in December and implement in January.

But I still do quarterly strategic reviews of it and deep dives into the quarters. The annual plan is great to get an idea of what you want to do over the next year, but you also want to set goals that aren't as rigid. And that's what happens when you create that plan and you stick to it for the year. It tends to be very rigid. So that's why I say consider breaking it into quarters and actually put those quarterly meetings in the calendar and make them non-negotiable, non movable. I am always amazed when I see that it's time for those again. Time flies when dealing with challenges!

So I set about three to four hours for those reviews once a quarter. And I truly believe it doesn't have to be longer than that. I've been doing it for years now, and it's been working extremely well. But that's because we also have a full annual plan. I'm not trying to come up with a full annual plan every quarter. We still have the plan, but then it's like we tack on a little bit at the end, and then it's a review and adaptation. So this approach allows for a more dynamic and responsive strategy, and it's much better suited, in my opinion, to the unpredictable nature of business. Things change quickly and that annual plan gets rapidly out of date.

When it comes to these strategic overview meetings, always prepare an agenda. Even though it feels like it's more work, one of the things that I enjoy is putting together that agenda. It's not just a question of saying, we're going to be talking about this, this, and that. Part of it is that it forces a deeper reflection. I start reviewing and consider, okay, these were the goals that we had last quarter. Did we reach those goals? Yes, no, why. Should we be moving some? What has changed this last time? It really forces that deep strategic thinking and reviewing the organization as a whole. Especially as I start reviewing the previous agenda and the goals and go through what updates have happened since that I get new insight into the organization.

These quarterly reviews also provide the opportunity to assess the effectiveness of our strategies, because then we can adjust our goals to match the current reality. And by evaluating performance every three months, then we can quickly spot trends and make informed decisions based on updated data. And so this frequent analysis helps us be more agile and respond to changing circumstances.

So take a moment to compare where you thought you would be and where you actually are in those meetings. And you can do that before, when you're preparing that agenda. But in those quarterly meetings, you aren’t just there to review, okay, this is where we thought we'd be. This is where we are today. It’s about asking whether there is a discrepancy. And yes, in terms of goals, but also in terms of revenue. And whenever there is a discrepancy, whether it's a positive one or a negative one, dig into why. Because if you have a positive one, then you may want to replicate whatever's happening. And if it's a negative one, you will likely want to make changes.

By holding these dedicated quarterly planning sessions, you can keep updating your strategy. You can keep updating the implementation plan on that rolling 12 months and figure out, okay, with these changes, we may have a new goal in mind. And if it's the same goal that you have in mind then it may be pushed back a little bit or you may be adding something to it. And so that's how you can really keep it alive throughout your 12 months.

What's also great about the quarterly cadence is that it's a shorter timeframe and it helps surface more detailed information that we may forget otherwise. Because if it's an annual review instead of a quarterly review, how do we remember something that happened 10 months ago? Unless it was really major, you're going to forget some details, perhaps really important details, perhaps red flags that you should be paying attention to. And so that's why having this quarterly review is a great idea because you're going to remember things because it's going to be fresher in your mind.

Prepare for Cost and Expense Changes

Another aspect of this planning on a rolling twelve months is reviewing costs and expenses. Ask yourself: are there some unexpected fluctuations? Are there new subscriptions perhaps that weren't there before? Was there some equipment breakdown that you need to take into account? Were there changes to your cost of goods sold?

Those are all things that are important to consider when you're doing your quarterly review strategy update, because it's going to impact what you're going to do over the next quarter, over the next quarters, over the next 12 months.

So consider updating your financial information to match this potential new reality. A lot of the time, we create a budget, we create a forecast for the next year. Usually a few months in you're like, oh, this changed, that changed, and therefore your forecast for the year, your budget for the year is quickly out of date. By having this review, just take a little bit of time to update that and, based on the changes, depending on how severe they are, you may also need to update your contingency plan. You may add a little bit to your cash safety net if things went well. Just make sure you have enough room on your various lines of credit or cards or anything like that.

Think about the potential cost of any increases or unforeseen events. Were there some raises that were coming that actually will impact in a certain way. Or maybe due to this other thing, those raises are going to have a more significant impact, therefore, we really should address this other thing. Just take a moment to consider those things and see how the various elements come together and update that.

One of the initiatives that you could do every quarter, and that's one of my favorite things, is identifying areas where we can optimize spending. I love optimized spending, and of course, we want to be careful, right? We don't want to do it to the extent where it's actually creating an environment where people can't do their jobs properly or if it impacts revenue generation, if it's being impacted negatively. So we definitely don't want to go overboard on that, but there usually are some subscriptions that we don't use anymore, things that we signed up for that we no longer need, new tools that now do what three or four other tools do. So take a moment to review those. I remember someone who had said to me, oh yeah, don't come to me unless the changes are in the thousands, but you know what? It adds up. All those little subscriptions, they add up. Personally, I know that at one specific point, I took two hours to review those and I saved thousands of dollars, and it wasn't one change, it was several small changes, but it made a significant impact. So really I'd say take the time, it is worth it.

Plan for Revenue Changes

We talked about the budget a little bit earlier saying there may have been some changes and to really dig into that because just as costs and expenses can change, so can revenue, and we've seen that a lot lately. There's been a lot of movement when it comes to revenue.

Pay attention to what the market is doing, pay attention to what is happening around you and what is happening in the world that will impact your clients’ spending or investing habits and things that they may choose to do at another time. This may have an impact on your revenue, and some of those changes can be predictable.

If you've been in a business for a few years, you may actually see some patterns emerge. I know that I am a big fan of looking at the patterns and then recognizing, okay, this is usually more of a lull. This is usually more of a busy time, but the environment may be impacting those as well. So plan for the patterns, but be ready to react if they don't materialize, because a lot of these changes may be due to this new business reality, and we need to be able to adapt to these fluctuations in income.

One aspect that I found really helps is working toward diversification of income sources, and that can be expanding an existing product or service, productizing a service, targeting new customer segments, exploring different markets, even creating something new that meets a new need that came to be because of these environmental changes. So maybe you're noticing, okay, I'm seeing a drop in revenue because of this change. Has it created a new opportunity? And consider that as part of those quarterly reviews. It’s important to remain flexible. It's important to remain open to new opportunities to generate that revenue, which can help cushion the impact of the revenue fluctuations. Of course, that does not mean start offering everything and anything because there's a need there. It has to align with your business – unless of course you're completely pivoting. Otherwise, keep it within the realm of your business. If your business is even remotely established, people know you for something. If that something is no longer a thing, then yeah, of course, have a look at something else, but assuming that it's still a thing, but it needs some kind of modification, then review that and see whether there are opportunities within your specific industry to potentially offer something new. Usually it's some tweaks, some additions, some innovations, and usually that's enough.

The Need for Agility and Regular Updates

Being in business is highly dynamic. Even the most well-thought-out plans can be disrupted by unforeseen events. In my opinion, to help navigate this roller coaster more effectively, leaders must prioritize agility and adaptability on a rolling twelve months.

Markets change, consumer behavior changes, the world changes, and keeping a more agile approach allows us to build in a bit more resiliency. We are then better placed to take advantage of emerging opportunities and mitigate risks more effectively.

Adaptability born out of regular information analysis is key to ensuring that our businesses remain resilient and well-prepared for whatever twists and turns lie ahead on this infamous business roller coaster.


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