Summertime is wonderful for people. Accrued time off is put to use and mostly everyone is happy to be outdoors. Most businesses are not on vacation, though the sum of their parts may be. It’s easy to let the effects of the outside world’s affability creep through your doors, turn to the alluring quiet and the sun-soaked beach as though your business is yourself and your people.
In small doses, a little rest and relaxation may be a good thing in the summer, but a full season’s worth of relaxation can hurt your business and its bottom line if you don’t see to some vital functions. While your competitors are at the beach, you and your staff should be at the planning table honing the business plan for the next three months.
Here’s a small checklist that can help maximize your waning summer office hours:
1. Dust off that crystal ball
It’s hot. It’s steamy. It’s August, but September looms ahead. Once September starts, the sprint to the end of the year starts. If your business is like my business — we earn about half of our revenue from Labor Day to mid-December — then the busy season is imminent. Estate planning must be completed before the end of the year. Third Quarter 10Qs filings are due right before Thanksgiving. Tax planning needs to be complete by the end of the year. Contracts are written. Deals are cut. Investments are made.
So, the time to review your sales pipeline and push everything down the funnel, is now. It’s time to close.
2. Get your ducks in a row
It’s still hot. It’s still steamy. It’s still August, but September comes next, and with that rush to the finish line it’s not enough to close sales, deals, or obtain new clients. Once you shepherd your prospects to the magical land of closing that deal, you need to execute those contracts and convert the promise of sweet revenue into the reality of a bigger bank balance.
The first day of September is the first day of the rest of your year. That’s true in the sales department, and it’s true in the “doing of the work.” You are going to get jammed. Plan on it.
Review your open Project Pipeline and circle your bottlenecks and critical deadlines. Start strategizing to alleviate those junctures and plan to meet those deadlines. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Law practice is 90% boredom, and 10% panic. For example, as soon as we file a Quarter or an Annual Report, in the interregnum between mad dashes to the finish, we get a Word version of what was filed, clean it up, and prepare it for the next quarter. During the quarter, the litigation department keeps the litigation section of the 10Q and losses due to judgment section of the 10Q up to date as we go. Once the quarter closes, we divide up the work among the accountants, the auditors, and our staff — to not only close on time, but to file early. We rarely file early, but without taking all of the necessary steps to prevent disaster we would always file late.
Remember every projects starts out at a 50% pass/fail rate. Everything you do from there moves the needles to your advantage.
3. Tighten those purse strings
After looking at what you can reasonably expect to bring in, and what you have to get done, you should take a hard look at what it’s going to take to fill those orders and complete those projects. Take a hard look at what you’d like and what you need. They are very different things. Sometimes you need to forego a little luxury for a little time to maximize the bang on the bucks you are spending to make money.
And make no mistake, you need to spend money to make money. Just take a look at what you are spending to make that money.
For example, we thought about going completely digital on our tax and securities library. These are annual costs and include quarterly or semi-annual updates to the substantive texts. The digital fees included hardcover books. We were never looking online for the material – we were looking in the books, tabbing important sections, and marking the books. Granted, the digital versions were only slightly more than “just the old-school” books.
This year we cut them. We will revisit when it’s time.
It’s not a great deal of money, but a hard look at all elements of your business could yield significant savings.
4. The Bank of the United States was closed in 1826 by Andrew Jackson
When you take a hard look at what you’d like and what you need to bring in sales and work projects, do not forget to include an amble set-aside for taxes. Make your estimated payments. Federal, state, city. Employment and sales taxes.
When making your income tax estimated payments pay “on protect.” “On protect” can mean a variety of things – you should speak to your accountant – but I generally try to get my clients to pay 110% of last years taxes. Pay in April, June, September, and December for state taxes, January for Federal income taxes. There’s a little more juice for the squeeze in this technique.
Otherwise, you will be calling my firm for something else other than helping your company make money.
5. Set hiring goals.
If your staff is pushed to 120% of capacity, consider bringing on some help. Capacity is not leisurely walking in at 9 a.m., and leaving at 5 p.m. Capacity is not being able to train for a marathon, or work on your yoga, or be dedicated to spin cycle. Capacity is everyone is working nights and weekends and running to stand still. It’s writing a blog on Sunday afternoon before pushing on to filings.
If you decide to bring someone on, have concrete dates for new hire starts. If you’re posting jobs and seeking new talent, the appropriate managers and HR staff should be available to interview and make decisions. You should not expect a candidate who’s interviewed in early August to be waiting by the phone weeks later for a fall follow-up meeting due to poor scheduling. It also reflects negatively on the company. If the interviewers’ overlap is unavoidable then start the process when everyone will be present. Immediately after Labor Day is an ideal time to resume the hiring process for the rest of the year.
Now is the time to accomplish these tedious tasks that are vital to success. Take advantage of the hours when email alerts are infrequent and there are fewer pop-ins. Sad as it may be to say, you’ll soon be uttering the dreaded “fourth-quarter” clichés, which is fine, as long as they aren’t followed by: “We should have handled some of this in August when we had the time!”
To speak more about this and some of the legal tasks you might want to be handling in this time, please click here or give us a call.