We love the start of a new year. It is a beautiful symbol of starting off fresh and renewed. It is also a great time to look back at the past year and figure out what worked and what didn’t work in your business. For 2015, we created a quick list of steps to start you headed in the right direction. Enjoy!
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’. This experience should be fun and exciting. You also want 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, email and social media during this time. You want to allow yourself to focus on the process, without getting distracted.
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.
For us, big picture planning is 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. If you’re super visual, you may also want to grab some colored markers, post-its and stickers.
REVIEW YOUR HISTORY
Before you start planning for the upcoming year, it is important to review what happened in your business in last year. First, 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
- New things you were surprised to discover about your business (in a good way)
We know that not everything goes well – and 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
- New things you were surprised to discover about your business (not necessarily in a good way)
NOW, THE FUN PART…
Think about what your big and exciting goals are for the next one, two and five years.
One-year goals are things that you want to get done by December of 2015. They 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.
Two-year goals need a bit more time and effort to complete (and possibly a financial investment). They could be goals like doubling (or tripling) your income, opening a brick-and-mortar location, or expanding your team.
Five-year goals are going to be much bigger and scarier. You want them to be a little bit crazy, because that way you know you’re going outside your comfort zone.
Having a combination of short and long term goals insures that your business is always moving forward. How many goals you come up with is really up to you and how much time you have to work on your business. We generally set up with ten to twelve short-term goals, five medium goals, and just one or two longer-term goals.
At this stage, you may also want to update your business plan. If you don’t have a business plan, look into your local small business development centers (check out score.org). In the Ventura & Santa Barbara County area’s, we have a great organization called WEV (wevonline.org) that can be a great resource.
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 1, 2015’. If you don’t know what the next step is, then it may be you need to do some research – online, visit the library or call a mentor.
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 (or a combo if you can keep track of it all). Mark out any dates you need to work towards and schedule time to work on your projects and goals.
All this planning stuff is hard. When you’re a small 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. We’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 we wish you a successful year ahead!
Dandyline Designs is a graphic and web development studio located in Ventura, California. We specialize in brand development and consulting for businesses looking to stand out above the rest.