We are quickly moving through the first quarter of 2021 and this means it is time for quarterly meetings! We are constantly learning and growing as we go through business cycles. As we learn and grow, it’s important that all business owners meet regularly with their virtual CFO, CPA, or other advisor to ensure the business is performing well. In today’s podcast episode, we are talking about what quarterly business checkup meetings should look like in case you have never been a part of one and would like to start!
What we cover in this episode:
- 01:51 – Where to start with a quarterly business checkup
- 04:10 – Review financials and performance
- 12:26 – Tackle key issues
- 16:02 – Begin the proactive stage
- 16:57 – Actionable steps
- 18:35 – CPA, advisors, and virtual CFO involvement
- 21:05 – Stick with it
Where to start with a quarterly business checkup
We begin the quarterly business checkup by reviewing the strategic plan that was established during your year-end planning session. We covered year-end planning and strategy in episode #60, so if you missed it or need a refresher, give that episode a listen. As you may recall, in that episode, we talked about planning for the year and the actions you need to take in order to have the right trajectory. We shared the importance of establishing goals, budgets, cash flow projections, and quarterly “Rocks” (mini-milestones) to help move you toward your annual goals. If you haven’t done that yet, don’t stress. You can still have your quarterly meeting. However, if you have planned for the year go ahead and reference your annual strategic plan so you can evaluate where you planned to be versus where you landed in reality.
It is also helpful to make an agenda for your quarterly checkup. Don’t go into a quarterly meeting without any direction or sense of what you’d like to accomplish. Having an agenda will help you and your team stay focused on the task at hand within the given time frame. Throughout the quarterly meeting, you will review many things and notate issues as they arise. You will then prioritize and tackle your issues once you have your full list, so avoid the urge to fully discuss and solve each issue as they arise since that can quickly eat up a full meeting.
Review Financials and Performance
Review your financials and determine if you are on target and in alignment with your goals for the year. Review your budget versus actuals to see if anything is out of the ordinary. Take time to look at any line items that don’t look right to determine if you may have budgeted incorrectly. This is an opportunity to identify if you are controlling your costs appropriately or if you may have missed something when you originally budgeted for the year. You will also want to look at your key performance indicators (KPIs) and whether you’re meeting those goals you’ve set. If you need more information, take a look at episode #08 of our strategic planning podcast series focused on KPIs.
Analyze your progress compared to your strategic plan and have an open discussion among your leadership team and advisors regarding each line item in the agenda. As you go through each agenda item, you want to be looking for ways to move forward toward your goals and note any issues or problems that may stand in your way. We know this can be a bit of a process because you first want to identify all of the issues and then later come back to discuss them more in-depth.
When it comes to reviewing the financials and the purpose of your agenda, this is where you want to stay focused. Once you identify a problem during the review, add it to an “issues list.” You may naturally want to start down the road of solving it but for now, avoid that. Stay focused on the agenda and know you will come back to your “issues list” later. For this meeting to be effective, keep everyone’s attention on the task at hand, which is to review the financials. Once you have the complete list of issues, you can then prioritize that list to ensure you cover what’s most important. You may even discover some of the problems are best suited to be discussed next quarter. Next, review the plan for the year and see if you need to revise that plan.
- Be honest in everything you review. Bring the facts to the table, whether they are positive or negative. There will be things that worked well and others that didn’t. Regardless, they all need to be brought forth.
- Clearly identify what didn’t work so you can make improvements.
- Celebrate your accomplishments. Identify three things that went well in the quarter and acknowledge how far you’ve come.
- Review your “Rocks”, or what you said you wanted to accomplish in the quarter. Did you accomplish everything? If not, why? Were there roadblocks that got in the way? In one of our favorite resources, Traction by Gino Wickman, the author says to revisit your metrics to see if you are accomplishing, on average, approximately 80 percent of your “Rocks.” If you are reaching 100 percent, you likely need bigger “Rocks.” If you aren’t reaching the 80 percent, your goals are a bit unrealistic.
- Reviewing your “Rocks” gives you the opportunity to also see if you need to adjust any delegation of work or if you need to hire another team member.
Tackle Key Issues
This is where you will discuss all of the company issues you’ve compiled. These could have been identified during the review earlier in the agenda or may contain some items you thought of as you prepared for the quarterly meeting. Put this list in order of priority and go into a discussion about each of these things. In this discussion, you really want to get to the root of the issue. Many times, the initial issue is surface-level but not what is actually causing the problem. Make sure you have enough discussion to get to the root of what is going on so you can deal with it, not just a symptom of the problem. Do a little peeling of the opinion to get to what is beneath the surface. Then, devise what steps you can take to resolve the problem and establish a plan. What comes out of this key issues list and conversation is commonly a list of new “Rocks,” or quarterly goals. These new “Rocks” are the steps necessary to resolve the issue. Once you have a prioritized list of issues and the list of new “Rocks,” you need to assign those out. When doing this, take into account each person’s capacity to take on more work. Do what you can to avoid putting too much on any one person.
Begin the Proactive Phase
Once you’ve looked at what’s occurred versus what you expected, identified your results, discussed the issues, and delegated someone to work towards a resolution, now it’s time to go into the proactive phase. You’ve got a plan in place to resolve the “Rocks” identified from this quarter. In looking ahead, identify your next quarter budget and the goals you’d like to accomplish. Ask yourself and your team, what is it we are trying to accomplish as a company and as individuals? The answer to those questions will allow you to see what you’d like from your employees under each of the leadership team members.
The steps you take at this point are going to be dependent on the structure of your business, the number of employees, the number of departments you have, and how you have your teams set up. . Maybe you have certain teams handling certain things. We’d like to assume by now that each leadership person is responsible for a “Rock” (or more than one). They need to take that “Rock” and break it down into a task list, delegating responsibilities as much as possible. Each leader will be the main control function for that “Rock.” They will oversee the project. This means they are the one primarily responsible. You need to have that responsibility and accountability in place, even though that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the ones performing all the tasks in order to accomplish that “Rock.” The leaders can decide to take their problem back to their team or even their department. Again, it depends on how your business is structured. But, they will hopefully have a quarterly meeting with their department to share what they are looking to accomplish and then further break those tasks and assign them to individuals in their department. The leaders will need to monitor the tasks during the quarter to ensure progress is being made towards the goal. It is likely the tasks are broken down with timeline goals where some things will need to be accomplished each week or each month, depending on the size of the issue and how often it needs to be revisited.
Virtual CFO, CPA, and Advisor Involvement
Again, we want to emphasize the importance of involving your virtual CFO, CPA, or advisor in each of your quarterly meetings. The quarterly meeting is a strategic meeting, similar to the annual meeting. It is integral to any business to involve these educated and experienced partners in decision-making conversations. They’re going to lend their experience and invaluable expertise to the discussion and this kind of involvement keeps that person integrated in the business. You want them in the loop with what’s going on because they need to be able to properly advise you as the owner and your leadership team based on that knowledge. If they’re kept in the dark, not involved in these meetings, they won’t be able to provide the level of advice they could have if they were involved.
Stick With It
We encourage you to keep the accountability going throughout the quarter, not just at the end of the quarter. Be diligent about having your weekly meetings with leadership, Be accountable to others. Weekly, quarterly, and annual meetings may be annoying, but having them really pushes you to the next level in your business and will pay back dividends. Get these meetings on the calendar and make attendance a priority.
It’s easy to get caught in the day-to-day details as an owner, but it’s imperative to the success of your business that you meet with your advisors on a regular basis to check in and ensure you’re still moving in the right direction. Your advisors need to be aware of what is going on in your business and involved in decision-making conversations. If you are meeting on a regular basis, you will want to start by discussing the goals you’ve already established. Then, you can review all of your financials and performance data to see how you are measuring up. Sometimes adjustments need to be made to ensure you move closer to reaching your goals as you continue through the year. As you do this review, you may start to notice issues that need to be addressed in order for you to be able to reach your goals. When this happens, take time to hash out a plan and delegate the right people to solve the problem. Then, when it comes time for your next quarterly meeting, you can follow a similar process and continue to make changes. When it’s time for your next annual strategic planning meeting, your advisor will be completely in the loop with everything that’s happened in your business.
Links mentioned in this episode:
- Episode #03: Strategic Planning – Goals for the Next Quarter
- Episode #08: Strategic Planning – Digging Deeper – KPIs
- Episode #60: Year End Planning and Strategy with a Virtual CFO
- Episode #66: How to Avoid the Pain of Tax Time
- Traction by Gino Wickman