Making December the First Month of the Coming Year
In our experience, December is the slowest and least-productive (or threatening) month of the year. It is the land between Thanksgiving and Christmas and not a whole lot happens or is typically planned on the business front.
This is a practice and underlying attitude that has some of its roots in history with companies that would shut down plants for annual maintenance and restoration during December—and furlough staffs for forced year-end vacations. There was not much left to do for the folks in the office. Even today, December is still a time for companies and their employees to “shutdown.” While the years have passed, we find the practice generally remains. Hence, a company can lose up to an entire month in its business cycle and productivity.
If this sounds familiar to you, we suggest that you take a step or two to change the pace of December and effectively make it the first month of next year. We think this can be done by asking your executives and staff to think hard about the basics of the (their) business for the coming year, and look for improvement. Try doing these 3 things this December to build for 2013:
- Conduct all next-year account reviews by mid-December. Have your sales and logistics staffs review major accounts that are responsible for 80% or more of annual volume or profit. The account “team” should present their next year’s plan to improve sales and profits for each and all accounts—more calls, more products, fewer deliveries, higher prices…… (i.e.: What will be done, how and who will do it?) This plan is the foundation for current account planning in the coming year. And, do not forget to talk about prospective accounts.
- Ask your direct reports and staff to commit to one thing they will do in the coming year to make the greatest contribution to company success—that can be measured. They should also describe how their single action will support the company strategy. Delegate these discussions all the way through the ranks of the organization. And measure the success of these individual actions throughout the year, by asking each employee to measure and self-report.
- Commit to improving the effectiveness of one or two variable pay plans for the coming year and finalize the changes and analyses by December 25th (Bah humbug). You then have a week or three to prepare to communicate the change. Of course, you should start earlier than December, but much of the heavy (and visible) lifting will likely occur during that last month of the year.
As you can see, the above three type of action steps are designed to ask executives and staff to prepare for and make decisions regarding 2013 action plans, and complete that planning before year’s end. By setting these expectations for December, you are giving the message that you want your staff making sales calls, talking to prospective accounts and finding ways to improve profits and service on January 2nd—not just talking about it.
Now some would say that by moving planning from January to December will do nothing more than just move lost selling and account-contact time from one month to another. The reality is that buyers and decision makers are less available in December than at any other time of the year [it is their shutdown, you know]. Hence nothing is lost. It is just better use of your executive’s and staff’s time.