6 Organization Tips To Finish The Year Strong Jonathan Herrick We don’t need to stress the importance of finishing 2017 with a bang. The last months of the year are critical for businesses, often representing the biggest sales quarter of the year. Salespeople are rushing to meet quotas, bandying about discounts and pitches; leftover budgets are spent in a hurry; customers are more active than during any other time of year. It goes without saying: it’s a pretty busy time. Having survived a lot of frantic end of the year pushes, I can tell you from experience that one of the most important aspects of making it across the finish line is getting organized and staying laser-focused. Keeping things together also helps you avoid a massive proverbial holiday-season hangover. So here are a few organization tips to help you finish well as you head into the holiday season. Craft a To-Do (and Don’t) List. So much of driving results is being focused on the right things. Let’s face it, you and your team only have so many hours in the day. So create your list of things you need to execute on before the end of the year. This will be your master list for the season, a front-and-center document that lays out everything your business needs to keep on top of this season. It could be a Google shared file or on a whiteboard in the office, so long as you refer to it as a guide through the final stretch of the year. This isn’t where you put individual teams’ projects or daily chores, but rather major KPIs, company goals or even encouraging reminders. (A good example: “Remember that the customer is probably more stressed than you are right now.”) This helps keep everyone in your company on the same page. Also, it’s extremely helpful to make a “don’t list.” That’s right…make a list of things you will not do. There is nothing more freeing than addressing time-sucking activities that hamper your ability to finish strong at year-end. It also keeps you focused on the prize and will enable you and your team to just say no once those random initiates pop up. Keep Teams Small and Empowered. Now is not the time to burden employees with cumbersome bureaucracy. Empowering your company’s leaders to make decisions smartly and quickly is always important when running an agile company, but it’s particularly crucial when things get frantic at the end of the year. Be sure to inform team leaders of their roles and responsibilities ahead of time, so you can check in periodically and not worry about having to micromanage them through tough times. This also helps employees feel independent and engaged with your business. Clean Your Email Inbox Early. If you haven’t answered that email you’ve been putting off since the summer before Q4, there’s a very slim chance you’ll respond to it now. So set aside some time to organize your inbox and more importantly, to purge it. Establish a consistent process for checking and responding to your email inbox. For me, I touch emails in my box only once and bucket blocks of time throughout the day to check email. No matter what your process, do yourself a favor—don’t leave people hanging. If you find yourself swamped during this final stretch, consider replying to emails honestly or using an auto-responder: “This is our busiest time of year, so it might take me a bit longer to reply to your email. But I’ll certainly respond as soon as I can!” But remember, there is nothing worse than telling someone you will get back to them and dropping the ball, so make sure you actually follow up. Clarify and Re-evaluate Your End-of-Year Goals. No matter the KPI, you should have a clear idea of what your year-end numbers will look like. There’s nothing wrong with optimistic goals, so long as you also write out a roadmap of how to reach them. Simply demanding your sales team end the season with 150% more sales over last year will only put undue pressure on them without any substantial guidance or support. The most important thing is to start with year-end numbers and to figure out how to reach them. If you realize you’re only 30% of the way to your target goal of new app downloads, for example, this would be a good time to reevaluate those goals and push ahead with a new strategy for the remainder of 2017 and beyond. Leverage Your Sales and Marketing Tools. If you’re ever feeling overwhelmed about hitting your year-end numbers, don’t be. The key to success is being relentless at following up with sales leads. Studies show that 44% of salespeople give up after one follow-up. Keeping notes from every phone call and meeting and working your task list in your CRM is a great way to prevent precious sales opportunities from slipping through the cracks Keep your pipeline updated and use automated reminders to ensure you are following up at just the right time. That means working on your hot prospects and letting email marketing automation within your CRM continue to nurture those buyers who aren’t quite ready. The truth is nurtured leads typically result in 20% more sales opportunities than non-nurtured leads so put your sales and marketing automation tools to work for you. Keep Rewards in Sight. Nothing gets us through the end of year and holiday season like an actual holiday. If you ever need a carrot to dangle in front of your employees’ —or even your own—dangle the prospect of getting through the next few weeks so you can relax on a company-sponsored trip after the New Year—think a Caribbean beach with a straw hat and a Mai Tai in hand. Or perhaps by offering team incentives such as a healthy bonus or special commission plans to keep them energized and motivated to sprint past the finish line. Whatever it is, align everyone to your goals and keep the prize in sight. After all, if you’re going to finish the home stretch successfully, everyone needs to stay focused, running in the same direction.