The Last-Minute First-Quarter Save: Five Tactics to Help You Snatch Record Profits from the Jaws of Defeat

Like many business owners, you rang in 2014 with great optimism. This was supposed to be the year you moved results to the next level. So, when you sat down at your desk this morning and saw the big gap between your projected Q1 goals and your current reality, you nearly spit out your coffee. What you thought would catch fire…didn’t. That big product launch, marketing strategy, or customer engagement plan youknew was a sure thing appears to be sliding into a death spiral. As you envision sand slipping through your end-of-quarter hourglass, you can’t help but wonder: How am I ever going to turn this around?

This is not the time to panic, even if every instinct in your body is urging you to. Wringing your hands won’t salvage the numbers. Nor will whiny excuses that begin with ‘But the economy….’

Now is the time to shake it off, get back in the proverbial saddle, and work smarter than ever. You really can salvage this quarter and maybe even blaze through it with record profits—but you’ve really got to stay relentless.

I teetered on the brink of disaster many times as I was starting my company. Instead of ‘launching’ it, I often felt like I was frantically giving it CPR. But I always turned things around—and so can you. Here are five ways to keep your Q1 Report from going up in smoke:

Get that one damn thing done—as soon as possible. Profits are created from a series of actions: new products launched, clients contacted, etc. Like the components of a Mouse Trap game, each action adds up, and eventually, you gain enough momentum to capture success. But here’s the catch: You’ll never achieve that critical mass unless you complete enough of those actions in time—and with the end of Quarter One looming ever closer, the clock is ticking.

Figure out what you care about vs. what you couldn’t care less about. Nothing causes your profit line to hemorrhage faster than giving energy to things that just don’t matter. And according to Evans, that’s often what happens when you first realize you’re not on track to meet your targets. For instance, the thought of confronting dissatisfied clients and bringing them back on board seems too overwhelming…so you organize your email inbox instead.

Don’t quit. Yes, this piece of advice seems obvious. But I insist that it’s also one of the things businesses (and individuals) ignore most often. When a disappointing or painful setback happens, many businesses simply stop. They aren’t willing to push beyond it, and they don’t realize that the very setback that has stalled them might also be the doorway to success. Failure is painful, but if you’re willing to listen, failure will also tell you exactly where you went wrong. With a little ingenuity, you can turn your mistakes around, patch the holes in your plan, and plot your path to the profit you want.

Handle your emotions (or they will handle you). Staring down the Road to Ruin (or at least the Path to a Miserable First Quarter) isn’t fun. It’s depressing, stressful, terrifying, and when you’ve spent a ton of time getting something together that you thought would be great, but wasn’t, it can be devastating. But letting yourself wallow is a huge mistake. If your emotions don’t paralyze you or prompt you to give up, they’ll skew your perspective and push you into making the kind of panicked decisions that lead to financial disaster.

Emotional business management almost always puts you on the fast track to failure. If you need to nudge your revenues back up to where they should be, you can’t afford to see the world as you wish it was, or as you fear it might be. Instead, you need to formulate a plan that’s based on clear, unadorned reality.

Stop being realistic. You can see that at their current rate, your profits aren’t going to meet your projections. What’s your first impulse? If you’re like most people, you’ll get “realistic” and start scaling those projections down. Good idea, says Evans. If you enjoy watching huge amounts of money going up in flames right before your eyes, being realistic is often the best way to do it.

If you want to stay in business, you have to be realistic about what your resources are and about what you can reasonably and legally accomplish. But you don’t have to be realistic about how you achieve those goals. In fact, throwing prudence and ‘the way we’ve always done things’ out the window can be the fastest path to turning disappointment into dollars.

You’ve spent hours, days, weeks (and more!) formulating a strategy to ensure your business’s growth. For a while, things went according to plan. But now, as the numbers clearly demonstrate, kinks have crept into the system. That much is undeniable—but it doesn’t mean that turning your first quarter around is a hopeless task.

A profit plan that seemingly dissolves into a mess might really be a vibrant future with an ‘Under Construction’ sign hanging from it. Know this: Just because things look messy right now, doesn’t mean that things are a mess. And overthinking a plan that was fine a few weeks ago is the surest way to ensure that the future you’ve planned never happens. If you press on, you might find that this ‘mess’ is actually the embryo of ‘success.’