Q1 Review Time: Goals, Closing, Tasks

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It’s almost the end of the first quarter of 2021. Hard to believe. That was quick!

Let’s take a look at a few things you should be reviewing as the quarter comes to a close.

Goals and Targets

Business leaders who want to have strong and profitable businesses tend to set big goals for the year, and often, per quarter.  How did you do with your goals?  I’m slightly behind on a couple of the “Rocks” (high priorities) that I intended to get done by the end of this quarter.  I still have a couple of weeks to turn up the heat and get them done, and so do you!

How are your financial results so far? Are you close to where you thought you’d be? There’s still time!

Q1 is tough for us accounting types. There’s a lot of activity, including closing the prior year, meetings with your CPA, preparing for taxes, finalizing your budget and goals, and communicating with your team.  It’s not unusual to miss some targets in Q1, even significantly.

There are three options if you are missing your targets already:

  • Realign
  • Refocus
  • Give up

Option three is already off the table for an intentional business leader. But realign if you discover that your sights were set too high, and refocus if you came close but didn’t quite make it. Perhaps there are a few details you can narrow in on for the next couple of weeks to hit the target.

Financials and Recordkeeping

I’m amazed at how few companies and organizations have a solid financial close process and still don’t use a simple closing checklist – every month.  I know it’s easy to try to wing it, but from experience, things will slip – not all balance sheet accounts will get reconciled, dates will pass without action, and the overall accuracy will degrade.  I’ve experienced this myself.  We need to maintain the monthly discipline of following a checklist – every month.

A monthly close should take no more than 10 days, and should actually take less time than that. Huge companies can do it – GE, a 95 BILLION dollar company with 250,000 employees, can close in three days.

I have one client that has a complex billing process.  When I began working with them, their month-end close took 30 days.  Not only did the slow billing process affect the close, but it also caused delays in customer payments and cash flow. By focusing on changing the process, we were not only able to improve the close timing, but accounts receivable turnover also increased significantly.

If you are having closing in 10 days or less, investigate what’s slowing the process down.  A recent survey indicated the month-end close (close to disclose) process has slowed due to internal levels of review, growing need to identify and consolidate more detail for financial statements and more time to check for errors.  While these all sound good, the problem seems to be that the close is run by memory rather than clear and specific protocols and checklists

With the quarter ending – plan now to get back to basics.  Get your financials closed quickly (download the closing checklist), compare to your forecasted results, determine what is necessary to get back on track, and plan out an action plan to get back on course.

Tasks and To-Dos

All work isn’t created equal, despite it all feeling urgent.  Step back and ask yourself

What is of highest value right now?

Sometimes, I will look for the path of least resistance.  I can still feel productive checking my email or knocking a small task or two off my list. But deep down, I know I’m avoiding the significant project or important initiative I should be working on.  I have found the following three actions helpful when this occurs, and suggest the following for you:

  1. Delegate routine tasks. An administrative assistant (in person or virtual) can help with recurring tasks so you can focus on what only YOU can do.
  2. Batch tasks. Try to do your “lower value” tasks in batches. Schedule time to process email, read professional development articles, clean up files, etc. as one appointment block so you can knock off a lot of administrative tasks at one time.
  3. Automate.  When possible, utilize apps and other systems to take care of routine details. Automatic payments help you avoid late charges. Weekly reminders through tools like Outlook or Google Assistant help you stop the “try not to forget to …” thoughts swirling in your head. Using tools that snooze email to a more appropriate time can keep you from feeling distracted by a full email inbox.

A quarterly review is invaluable in helping you, and your company, succeed.  I love to help clients grow stronger in their review/closing process. Is it time for some extra help? Schedule a free strategy call today!