2017 is in full swing, with a momentum and energy most of us have never experienced. There have been shifts, changes and surprises that have affected most of us in personal and professional ways. Feeling nostalgic, I revisited an article I wrote a couple years ago on making this year, your best business year ever – despite the shifting energy around us. The steps I recommend, are here:
1. CREATE SPACE & TIME
Planning may be more effective away from your usual working space. Try a coffee shop, the beach or simply moving from your desk to your dining room table. The goal is to not feel like you are ‘working’. Choose a location that feels fun and exciting.
Be sure to set aside some time for the planning process. Try to give yourself at least a day (two half days or four quarter-days count, too!). Shut off your phone during this time, including social media, email, etc. Eliminate distractions to help you be truly present and focused on this process.
2. GATHER YOUR TOOLS
Eventually your plan may live on your computer, so you can refer back to it. However, during the initial planning process, the trusty ol’ pen and paper method is more effective – and you will be less likely to hop over to check your social media accounts this way.
Personally, picture planning is most effective and often it’s better visualized with big materials. A white-board, butcher’s paper or just A3 sheets or paper can be really effective in getting everything out without being too constrained. Drag out the old magazines, colored pencils and glue sticks for even more fun.
3. REVIEW YOUR HISTORY
Before you start planning for the upcoming year, it is important to review what happened in your business in 2016. Write down the successes and positive moments you had. What you did you achieve and what projects went really well. These items may include:
- Fun projects you worked on
- New clients you really enjoyed working with
- Nice things that people have said about your business
I know that not everything goes well, and 2016 was a little rough – that is okay. Next, write out the things that were challenging in the past year, possibly:
- Things you wanted to, but didn’t, get done
- Projects that didn’t go as planned
- Any hurdles you were surprised to discover about your business
4. NOW, THE FUN PART…
Think about what your big and exciting goals are for 2017.
These goals should be realistic to achieve, with a bit of action on your part. Think SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-measured). They might be things like launching a new product, speaking at a seminar, starting a blog or getting your website revamped.
Having a combination of short and long term goals insures that your business is always moving forward. There is no magic number to how many goals you should have. I generally 1 very large goal, 2-3 medium goals and 3-5 fun, simple goals. And example of a large goal is to increase your profit by 50%. Medium goals may include sign 1 new contract a quarter, or update your website two times a month. Smaller, fun goals can be to grab coffee with a colleague once a month, or send a greeting card to two potential clients each quarter.
Once you’ve worked out your goals, it’s time to work out what steps you need to take to get them done and set action dates. Go through each goal on your list and work out the very-next-thing that needs to be done. If your goal is to start a blog, that might be ‘add WordPress to my website by February 31, 2017’.
If you don’t set aside time to work on your special projects and goals, they will not get done. You can use an online calendar, or paper-based. I strongly recommend choosing one. Both can become complicated and may cause you to miss important commitments. Mark out any dates you need to work towards and schedule time to work on your projects and goals.
6. CONGRATULATIONS! REWARD YOURSELF
All this planning stuff is hard. When you’re a business owner, you basically do everything in your business – from the bookkeeping, to marketing, sales and fulfillment, and client management. And that’s not including the actual work you do. You deserve to celebrate everything you do for your business. So once you’ve finished your business planning, take yourself out for a nice meal. Or buy yourself a treat. I’ll be headed to our local sushi joint!
Now that you’ve planned ahead, you can look forward to another year as a small business owner. Congratulations on making it this far and I wish you a successful year ahead!
· Cory Yniguez-Pironti is the owner of Dandyline Designs. She works with small businesses to create effective marketing pieces that are a celebration of their uniqueness. She is also designer for the Pacific Coast Business Times – serving Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo Counties.