Settle in with a pumpkin-spice latte and move your business forward with these tips.

I’m not saying I’m ready to say goodbye to summer, but the recent cooler temperatures are bringing to mind the very real fact that fall is nearly here.

In years past, have you noticed that that latter part of the year seems to fly by in a rush of work and obligations? With all that the holiday season entails, many FEC owners have shared that there never seems to be enough time to take full advantage of one of the most profitable times of the year.

That’s why we put together a quick list of five steps to take now that can help you plan for a strong finish to 2021.

Step 1: Reflect on previous years.

Block time to sit down by yourself or with a small group of managers and reflect on events, promotions, or accomplishments from the previous year or past couple of years. Break out a calendar and a holiday or school district academic calendar so you can be sure you don’t miss any of them. Consider the answers to these questions:

  • What went well?
  • What could have gone better?
  • How was communication with the team and/or the market?
  • What was the market response?
  • What friction points arose that you weren’t expecting?

It’s always a good idea to debrief and take notes at the end of a special event, promotion, or season, so now is a good time to refer to those notes if you have them. Make a quick list of the changes you want to make, so things go more smoothly this year.

Step 2: Brainstorm projects you want to accomplish by year-end.

Get a blank calendar and mark the dates of all the special events you wish to undertake. Some examples:

  • Holiday season open house
  • Fall Break (per school district)
  • Halloween event
  • Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday gift card or membership promotions
  • 2022 manager offsite planning session
  • Team Holiday Party
  • Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, etc.
  • Breakfast with Santa
  • Thanksgiving or holiday food or toy drives
  • Staff training sessions
  • Team volunteer events

Once you’ve made a list of all you want to accomplish, review the list and decide whether you and your team can reasonably accomplish them all. Be honest with how much you can really take on and be prepared to cut, reschedule, delegate, or prioritize the events so you can be sure to give them the attention they deserve.

Step 3: Make a list of project deliverables.

Every project you wish to undertake will have several deliverables and deadlines for the project or event to be successful. Make a list of all the things that need to be done in planning the event. Write down everything: working with a graphic designer, ordering gift card stock, ordering print collateral, creating social media ads, booking meeting space, creating new packages, holding staff POS training sessions, etc.

Step 4: Schedule your deadlines.

Now it’s time to schedule when you need to take those actions, along with any corresponding deadlines. For example, if you know you need to order in-store signage for the start of your November 1st holiday canned food drive, you would need to set a deadline for contacting your graphic designer to design it in time. For the projects that I do for CenterEdge, I like to keep all my deadlines in one place, either in my Google Calendar or in a Google Sheet that displays:

  • Date
  • Day of the week
  • Task to be done
  • Deadline (important if different than starting date)
  • Status
  • Notes

Because I often write corresponding email text or social media posts, I also include columns for CenterEdge’s Facebook, Linked In, and Twitter, where I’ll write content that can later be copied and pasted to post to our social accounts. Having everything in one place helps me know every day what tasks need to be done for upcoming projects.

Other people, like CenterEdge Director of Training, Rosie Salas, prefer to keep a separate project plan for each project. You can plot the dates yourself or write formulas to auto-populate a due date based on proximity to your event, such as holding staff training five days before your promotion goes live.

Using one project plan per initiative can be a great way to approach projects if you have multiple people working together on them. Meet about the project routinely to ensure adequate visibility into the deliverables because that’s often where the wheels fall off during the planning phase.

Not only is this approach good for team assignments, but it can also save you time in the long run, as does investing in project management software. Once you set up the tasks and details the first time, you have a template that can be used over and over again with a simple change in event date.  Our CenterEdge training team, for example, uses Zoho Projects when onboarding new clients and undertaking projects.

Step 5: Put your plan in motion.

Once you know what needs to be done and when, you have everything necessary for a successful, stress-free season. Consider blocking a brief meeting with managers each week to catch up on the week’s tasks and go over anything that needs to be shared as a group. This will help maintain accountability and uncover any hiccups before they turn into crises. Before you know it, you’ll have given every project on your list the right focus and attention and reap all the rewards of a job well done.

Have project management tips to share? Tell us in the comments!


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