I tend to think in quarters rather than months or seasons, a result of too many years in corporate management where that’s the way you measure progress. As a result, you can overhear me saying things that sound stiff and ridiculous, like “We’re planning a couple of warm-weather trips in the 4th quarter” or “I don’t think we’ve gotten together with them since the 3rd quarter of last year.” Old habits die hard.
Even though I try to resist using them in my non-work life, quarters are nice, bite-size pictures of progress, not as rangy and loose as a year, not as short and tight as a month. And forget about days being a measurement. The VP of Sales once came into my office and said that the day before had been extremely poor, and he wanted to know why. I thoughtfully and professionally replied, “Beats the hell out of me.” It was only a day, I told him. The Sales Gods are funny. That day could be followed by the best day in 10 years, which reminds me of when my top sales rep came in and said, “You never said anything to me about last month. It was really good,” to which I replied, “And I also never said anything to you about three months ago when you were sucking wind.” As it is with the Seahawks, what matters is winning at the end, not the close calls along the way.
I used to get sales paperwork on a monthly basis. With eleven sales reps reporting to me, I would come in on the first day of the month to find a pile of paper in the center of my desk as tall as a toddler. Unless I had something specific I was looking for, it went into the recycling bin; but at the end of a quarter, I would shut the door and pore over them for a full day or more, checking the margins and sales figures by territory and by individual accounts. Trends evidence themselves in quarters. You can see a tilt down or up and do things that might make a difference. If you let it go for a year, it’s too long. If you panic after a month, you’re wasting a lot of energy.
Since we’re in it, I’ll remind you that the 4th quarter is the perfect time to sit down, assess your business progress, and think about next year. It’s also the perfect time to sit down with friends and raise a glass or two. I hope you do both!