Every year, as the pages of the calendar rapidly flip towards its end, founders across the globe engage in a ritual that feels as timeless as the turning of the seasons: annual strategy planning. It’s that moment when the year’s triumphs and tribulations are scrutinised, lessons are drawn, and a roadmap for the upcoming year begins to take form. But here’s a thought for South African founders: What if our traditional December strategy-planning session isn’t serving us as well as we believe? What if, by embracing the first breezes of January, we can craft strategies that are sharper, clearer, and more attuned to our unique landscape? Let’s dive into this thought a little deeper.
Aligning with South Africa's Financial Calendar
It’s fascinating, and somewhat perplexing, how the gravitational pull of Northern Hemisphere traditions influences business decisions around the world. Consider the rhythm of closing the business year in December. It’s a practice many South African founders have adopted, but is it truly in sync with our context?
In South Africa, tax season happens in February, creating a mismatch when we wrap up strategic plans two months earlier. Some of you might argue, “In January, we’re just too busy to sit down as a team and think about our plan for the year.” But here’s a counter-thought: By aligning our strategy sessions with the financial calendar’s beat in January, not only can we better anticipate and plan for tax implications, but our annual budget becomes rooted in our strategy and is supported by our most current and relevant financial data. This alignment leads to decisions that are not just informed but truly insightful.
The Importance of Reflection Before Planning
A successful strategy isn’t only the result of future-focused planning; it’s also deeply rooted in understanding the past. Human beings, by nature, seek closure and clarity. We yearn for a moment of pause, of reflection, before embarking on new beginnings. However, the year-end rush and hustle often propels founders into the future without allowing time to adequately reflect on the past.
If your inner voice’s saying, “I want to end the year off with a celebration with my team,” listen to it! Celebrations are vital, they anchor us. But consider this: What if we separate reflection from planning, giving each its due time and space?
December can become a month of contemplation — a time to celebrate achievements, learn from challenges, and truly value the journey. It sets the stage in January for strategy that isn’t just reactive but is visionary, a forward-looking blueprint carved from lessons truly understood and internalised.
January's Clarity for Decision-making
There’s clarity in stepping away, in allowing the dust of daily operations to settle. The festive December break in South Africa provides just that – a pause, a chance to rejuvenate. Yet, some of you still believe that setting the annual strategy by yourselves is the right thing to do: “I’m confident about strategy. I tend to do it well by myself.”
Confidence is crucial, but doing it alone is unsustainable and can become detrimental to your business. On the other hand, there’s a certain magic happening when people are empowered to solve problems as a team. It’s a game-changer when the entire leadership team returns with a clear mind, refreshed from the December holiday. This pause can spell the difference between decisions made in haste and those sculpted with precision. Strategy planning in January taps into this fresh mindset, and the potential pitfalls that might escape a solo decision-maker become more visible. In this rejuvenated state, your strategy won’t just chart a path; it will foresee challenges and set you up to seize new opportunities.
Embracing the South African Summer Break
There’s a magic to the South African December—a blend of summer heat, the promise of family holidays, and the collective longing for a well-deserved break. It’s not just a month; it’s a mood. Though amidst this ambiance, some founders might find themselves overwhelmed with thoughts like, “I have so many ideas and opportunities, and I don’t know how to take advantage of all of them.” The siren call of opportunity can be exhilarating, but how can taking a break sound less compelling?
Here’s a proposition: instead of wrestling with strategic decisions in December, why not give the ideas a chance to simmer? By doing so, you’ll allow yourself the mental space to prioritise and focus, filtering the gold from the glitter. Come January, with rejuvenated spirits and clear priorities, the strategic path forward becomes not just evident, but truly exciting.
Leadership in Context
Leadership is not one-size-fits-all. It’s a delicate balance between setting direction, adapting to circumstances, and understanding timing. Many founders rightfully voice concerns such as, “I need to do my job as a leader,” or “We’ve achieved what we set out to do, and I’m not sure where to go from here.” These sentiments capture the weight of leadership and the quest for direction.
Yet, direction without proper timing can sometimes miss the mark. While the urge to lead and set the course is even stronger at year’s end, there’s wisdom in staying in-tune with the unique rhythms of the South African business landscape. By choosing January as the month to set out the annual strategy, leaders align with a time when the collective energy of their teams is refocused and reinvigorated. It’s not just about where to go next, but also when to make those pivotal decisions. By syncing with the New Year vibe, leaders can craft and communicate strategies that resonate deeply, setting the stage for a year of cohesive and inspired action.
The world is abundant with traditions—some steeped in history, others borrowed, and many we create ourselves. In business, strategic planning has its traditions too. Yet, as with all rituals, it’s essential to periodically question, adjust, and refine them, ensuring they align with our unique contexts.
For South African founders, the shift from December to January strategy planning is more than just a change of date. It’s a holistic approach that combines financial alignment, renewed clarity, and timely leadership. By seizing the fresh start January offers, founders are not only setting a strategic course but doing so with the depth, precision, and resonance that only the right timing can provide.
No founder should navigate the complexities of business strategy alone. If you need more clarity on any aspect of this shift in strategy planning, our team is here to guide, answer, and delve deeper with you. Contact our team today.