Big-picture quarterly planning: three ways to start off Q1 with a bang

Know where you’re going

Can you believe it’s 2018? Rather than jot down a few aspirational resolutions for the New Year, get strategic with a plan of action so you’re ready for your small business to storm Q1. If you’re not sure what your quarterly planning should cover, keep the following areas top of mind.

Make a list (and check it twice) of January’s tax dates for your business

At the time of this writing, the IRS had not confirmed the official open date for the 2018 tax season. Be sure to keep tabs on the IRS’s tax calendar for important filing deadlines.

Until then, pencil in these confirmed January tax dates into your quarterly planning agenda.

  • Jan. 16, 2018 — This is when your Q4 2017 estimated tax payment is due. To file, you will need to use Form 1040-ES. According to the IRS, you do not need to make the payment if you file your 2017 tax return by Jan. 31, 2018, and pay the entire balance due with your return.
  • Sales tax dates — These will vary a bit depending on the state that you do business in. Minnesota, for example, gives monthly and quarterly sales tax filers Jan. 20, 2018, as their due date, while Vermont’s deadline is Jan. 25, 2018, for monthly, quarterly and annual filers. Check with your state to make sure you know which deadline is the right one for your business.

Quarterly Planning ScheduleSet specific goals with your quarterly planning

New Year, new business! Before you jump into 2018 with all of the great ideas you’ve been cooking up throughout the year, make sure your leap forward includes a comfortable safety net of support.

Conduct a year-in-review on 2017

What sold and what didn’t? What marketing tactics worked out and which fell flat? Look at your product line to determine profitability of products or bundles being sold, and evaluate initiatives tackled by each department to help determine the ROI it gave back to the business. When you have a clearer idea of what the numbers look like, you’ll be able to invest more in what is working versus anything that doesn’t.

Get your team on the same page

With your quarterly planning, you should also conduct employee reviews. Talk about the responsibilities that each employee has from an objective standpoint. If someone had a successful assignment or project in 2017 they want to highlight, discuss the kind of ROI that initiative brought the business and what made it so successful.

Afterwards, meet with your team to get everyone on the same page about upcoming projects and assignments spread out over the course of the year. Be specific and set goals for each of your team members, which can be broken down in three-month, six-month, nine-month, and year-long increments.

Be the driving force that motivates your employees

For entrepreneurs, a new year and fresh quarterly planning brings a chance for a clean slate. Your business is a little bit older and wiser now, having learned so much in its previous year. Your team members are equally refreshed from the holiday break and ready to hit the ground running.

However, remember that operating a small business is not a sprint — it’s a marathon.

If you were running a sprint, everything you had in your quarterly planning for 2018 would be accomplished in an absurdly short amount of time. Your team, and yourself, would probably be extremely exhausted and burned out as a result.

Approach the year ahead as a marathon instead. As the leader of the business, get your team inspired for 2018 by being the driving force that motivates them and helps push them forward. Meet with various departments to see what projects they have planned, hold group meetings and discuss initiatives to focus on, and reintroduce concepts you discussed putting into action at the end of last year.

Maintain a positive, respectful attitude with everyone, thank your team for the hard work they put in now, and provide them assistance and tools necessary to succeed if they need extra help. In turn, your team will help lift you up and you’ll spend the year ahead knowing that whatever comes your way, you’ll be ready to successfully tackle it.

Now that you’ve carefully strategized on prepping for the year ahead with your tax payments, specific ROI-driven goals, and efforts to motivate your team, it’s time to head off to the races. On your mark, get set … GO!

The above content should not be construed as legal or tax advice. Always consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific legal or tax situation.