By Andy Bailey

The fourth quarter separates the winners from the losers. This is true in football and in business. Do you have a winning game plan?

When the pressure is on, it’s often easier to focus on what is urgent than what is important for your company. In that spirit, fourth-quarter strategies tend to get pushed aside for the sake of getting it done or hitting the numbers before the holidays. Unfortunately, that mentality can overshadow your hard work in the previous three quarters and undermine your business’s foundation in the upcoming first quarter.

If you’re in the fourth quarter without a solid game plan, I urge you to take a timeout, huddle up and discuss the four areas of proper planning with your team:

  1. Where are we now?
  2. Where do we want to go?
  3. How do we get there?
  4. How do we ensure the execution of our plan?

Once you’ve taken the time to answer these questions and develop a plan, use the following five parameters to ensure follow-through.

  1. Delegate a feasible amount of priorities—In the third area of company planning, how do we get there, your team arranges tasks that will move the business toward achieving its goals. To ensure follow-through, break down the goals into priorities and assign them to individual team members. I recommend no more than five priorities per team member with an ideal number of three. This way, goals are achieved without the confusion of competing priorities. If you want your employees to fulfill their priorities don’t force them to bite off more than they can chew.
  2. Get specific—Your goals and priorities must be detailed, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound. With these guidelines you can create quantitative results that increase your chances of achieving your desired outcome.
  3. Check in with your team—To ensure your original goals are still relevant, or determine if adjustments need to be made, meet often to review priorities and examine team progress. I recommend half monthly, bi-weekly, and 5-minute-daily check-ins to foster accountability and communication.
  4. Accommodate adjustments—If your team decides the original plan is no longer relevant, or if a team member has been sidetracked from a priority, allow flexibility and open conversation about helpful alterations. In business and in life, things rarely go as planned. To stay on track and fulfill your goals, adjust and reroute. 
  5. Celebrate the small things—Any forward movement is worth celebrating, no matter how small the achievement is. Encourage the little wins to give your team the boost they need to finish strong.

Andy Bailey is lead entrepreneur coach with business coaching firm Petra, and serves as the Entrepreneur Organization’s global membership director. Visit his blog at for more business and leadership insight.