Sweating The Year-End
Once grouped, the next step is the important one of assignment and accountability. The project is one where coordination of effort is key. The year-end close can be described as a succession of steps which, at times, need to be taken in a very specific order. It can't work unless everyone knows their role and sticks closely to the script. Because of this, there are some clichés from which we cannot escape. In this case it's "The devil is in the details." The fact is a well-tended year-end is nothing but a series of details. You cannot track every single detail, so you have to assign "sweating the small stuff" to your most detail-oriented perspirers. If you are picking people to inventory resalable cutoff materials, verify invoices or balance your petty cash, it's OK to choose folks unfamiliar with the process. In fact, it might be better. Your employees may not all have the wherewithal to see the interconnectedness of the year-end, but if you make the time to explain the vital nature of accounting, accuracy and the systems that both guard and document your business, they will get it. They are your front line experts and if they are given a good form, a good set of instructions, ample time and a distraction-free setting, they will perform admirably.
Select Tips For An Improved Year-End
Planning and conducting year-end projects is a good practice for owners and managers. They can be extremely rewarding as they so often give you the chance to work closely with a great cross-section of staff in the generally upbeat days leading up to the new year. In my experience, it was a great chance to teach the principles of business to employees but, invariably, it was me who would end up being schooled in the ever-changing realities of business. That is another reason to have your rear-end in the year-end!
- On or about December 1, carefully calculate your projected year-end sales total and compare it to your previous year. If your projection is close to a significant sales plateau or percent of increase, work like mad to hit that goal before closing out billing. Don't fall short of a psychologically important number (10 percent growth vs. 9.8 percent growth) because of a lack of foresight or an itchy trigger finger — you, your staff (and possibly your banker) will regret it.
- If possible, close off or minimize all customer service during the year-end (and send multiple notices alerting your customers).
- Demand plenty of productivity during the holiday week. Balance the company needs by giving back plenty of seasonal treats (and thanks) in the form of candy, cookies, cakes, breakfasts, lunches and breaks.
- Appoint two well-respected employees who are known communicators to head the Planning/Prep Team — make November 1st their GO-DATE for troubleshooting problems, selling the project and eliminating any resistance.
- Allow your employees to give you their own list of year-end activities — promoting buy-in and teamwork.
- Redo files by sending older documents to storage, emptying and readying drawers for the new documents. Get a jump by assigning these file creation projects to your administrative staff on a "perform when possible" basis in the early fall.
- Locate and mark all historic files for impending destruction (confirm with accountant). As files are transferred to storage, prelabel boxes with a "Destroy On" date.
- Preorder new calendars early for use by each team. Store the old calendars — you'll be amazed how often you will refer to them.
- Cleanup all customer and/or vendor mailing lists — concentrate on nonactive customers and acquiring e-mail addresses.
- Coordinate all computer/telephone upgrades and service — run any special utility programs or fixes.
- Assign a perfectionist to identify and find a home for all homeless paper and mystery piles.
- Perform any long-awaited customer or product file maintenance that's been delayed. Have your nitpickers confirm that your carrying costs are current.
- Conduct a comprehensive safety inspection of all equipment, machinery, racking, storage methods, etc.
- Reassign accounts to the proper sales personnel prior to any new-year sales.
- Plan and perform all special labor-intensive marketing, promotional or renewal projects using the extra available personnel.
- Have management personally contact all significant customers, vendors, bankers, etc., offering their thanks for their loyalty and best wishes for the new year. People are far more receptive at this time.
- Prepare a detailed year-end business review for all staff and present a state of the company address.
- Determine any special performance/service awards for employees and present them at this important company gathering.
- Use the seasonal lull to provide any special product, pricing, policy or sales training for your employees.
- Review and rewrite any personnel or attendance policies which need to kick in on January 1.
As the year-end approaches explain it to your staff — make plans, post memos and issue killer to-do lists for each team. No matter what, don't let anyone take on the belief that these are just the four or five empty days before New Year's. Show everyone the brilliant ways your company will be better — and sharper — because you took advantage of this in-between time when your competition took it easy. The best reason to shoot for that fresh start is that fresh starts enable FAST starts. What better way to attack the New Year?
About the author:
Chris Traynor, a Senior Professional in Human Resources, is the director and knowledge scout for Whip-Smart Management Consulting LLC., Wayne, N.J., (and www.whip-smart.com) and has 25 years of experience in the solid surface industry as a consultant to fabricators, distributors, manufacturers and associated firms. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.