How to Manage the 4th Quarter 2020 No One Expected

Dealing with uncertainty in 4th Quarter of 2020

How to Manage the 4th Quarter 2020 No One Expected

Dealing with uncertainty in 4th Quarter of 2020

If you’re like me, when you got “locked down” in March you were sure this would all be over and done by Q4 of this year. After all, with an incubation period of two weeks, how long could this whole virus problem last? Sure, there might be a resurgence when the weather gets cold but – hey, by then, we’d be mostly over it, right?

Hah. Unless you were an immunologist or epidemiologist with a much more informed understanding of what we are dealing with, you may now be thinking what I’m thinking: what in the world does this mean for the 4th Quarter of 2020?

This is a critical question for many organizations – for profit and nonprofit – that depend on 4th quarter revenues to top off the year or even “make” the year. Especially since many organizations are now wondering if they’ll even make it to October.

Here are my suggestions, as we head into the fall, for managing your plans for 4th quarter during this most unusual year.

  • Plan for “the worst-case scenario”

I’m hearing many business owners say that there’s “so much uncertainty” they don’t know what to do. Will the virus be under control by October? Will it get worse as the weather gets colder and people move inside? Will people be willing to “come out” again to do shopping? Will consumers or businesses feel confident enough to make purchases?

No one knows the answers to these questions, including me. And, given this state of the economy, the most prudent way to move forward is to plan based on an assumption of the worst-case scenario. At least that way, you’re prepared.

Because in my mind, the worst-case scenario isn’t really figuring out what to do if everyone is still stuck inside and people are still afraid. The worst-case scenario is not doing anything at all – being paralyzed by fear and uncertainty. Remember: swimming forward slowly – or even just treading water in place – is better than not doing anything and going under.

  • Tell everyone you’re planning for the worst – and have “good news” as your fall back

Market signals are almost as important – perhaps more important – than reality. If you let everyone know internally (staff) and externally (clients/customers and vendors) that you’re being very cautious and operating on a worst-case scenario – and what that means for them – they’ll have an understanding of what they’re dealing with. You’ll have created a sense of certainty  for them in an otherwise uncertain world.

As an example, this is why it’s great that various tech leaders are signaling to their employees and the world that, for now, they plan on their employees working from home until 2021. They’re planning for the worst. Because it allows everyone to start figuring out how to make that work. Employees can continue to work and make plans, ranging from day care to equipment purchases (for the WFH office), because they have a sense of what to expect – even in a world of uncertainty.

This is a great gift for people, in many ways. And they will be thankful for it!

  • Keep the lines of communication open and constant

In a world of uncertainty, people’s imaginations often run wild unless you communicate, communicate, and continue to communicate. Here are just a couple of small examples:

  • Situation: I haven’t heard from X colleague/manager/employee in a few days.
  • Worry: Oh, no – maybe she’s sick!


  • Situation: I haven’t heard from a vendor in a couple of weeks. Where’s my order?
  • Worry: Uh-oh, are they still in business?  Should we stop payment to them? Do we need to start shopping for other vendors.

Instead of allowing these types of situations to occur, it’s a good idea to let everyone know, all the time, what’s going on – especially if it’s out of the ordinary. If nothing is unusual – you can even communicate that. There’s nothing wrong with sending out the message: Everything is good here! Nothing’s changed! We’re as (reliable/dependable/on time, etc.) as ever. You can count on us!

I’ve written before about the critical nature of communicating all the time in this COVID-19 world, and the difference between marketing and communication. If you’re concerned about what your end-of-year looks like, be mindful  of the fact that everyone is equally concerned. Planning for the worst-case scenario is the most prudent way to move forward. And let everyone know what you’re doing so they can plan their work (and lives) accordingly.

Overwhelmed by all of this and not sure when and how to communicate internally or externally? Contact me and let’s talk about it.

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