A new year is upon us – time for planning your business! This is the time of year when people set big goals and dreams and are super excited about all of them, and completing all of it. But it’s important to remember that a dream without a plan is merely a wish. Instead of leaving everything up to chance, why not be intentional about how you set up your year, and especially how you set up the intentions you have for your business? This article will be covering the 7 steps I take each year to prepare for another year in business.
When you first start out in business folks will tell you that you should be planning your business. What they don’t tell you is that a business plan is a living, breathing document that changes as your business continues to grow, and you continue to evolve as an entrepreneur. Use this guide as a way to level up in 2020 and continue your growth for years to come.
Before we begin:
- I do want to point out a few things that will help you on this journey. The first is to focus on small chunks. I recommend focusing on quarter-by-quarter planning as a means to make your goals as attainable as possible. But you can use any small interim sprint as you feel appropriate for you and how you like to work.
- The second thing I would recommend is carving out a good chunk of time to work on your annual planning. I like to start with a guide that walks me through the 7 steps and then move on to putting time on the calendar when I flush out more intricate details like the content or marketing calendar or building out my events calendar for the year. Allowing yourself time and space to go deep into this work is critical to your success. This is definitely an exercise of sharpening the saw. Take time out now so that you can go faster later.
- Thirdly, planning your business is more fun with a friend. So if you have a business partner definitely include them in this exercise and if not, consider an accountability partner or fellow co-working entrepreneur who can share space with you as you delve into this activity. Having feedback as you’re doing it is a huge bonus for your success.
So let’s dig in!
STEP #0: Gratitude
I would actually call this pre-work to the next seven steps. Before we jump into what we want next, why not take time to recognize and acknowledge ourselves for what we’ve done and where we are presently?
What went well for the business this year?
What did you discover?
What new opportunities came your way?
And what major Milestones did you reach?
All of these things are great ways to tap into some of your wins for the past year.Take some time to reflect on what made them so impactful. Answer these four questions by either journaling or speaking them out loud with an accountability partner. This is a good way to get present to your own accomplishments and the progress that you’ve already made.
If you’ve done your pre-work then the next step will be easy. So the first step in this process is to say thank you to those who contributed to your success and progress over the past year. Make a list of those who had an impact on your business and then send those people a nice email or an e-card acknowledging their contribution to you and this last year.
If you want extra bonus points I recommend getting custom cards that say something about you and your business and then handwriting the notes and sending them in the mail. This is an awesome exercise to do at the end of the year as a Happy New Year surprise for people who have already been fatigued by endless Christmas cards. In this way not only do you stand out, but you kick off the year with a flood of thank you and surprise notes back from people who didn’t realize how much their contribution really impacted you and your work.
STEP #1: Brain Dump
Think about all the things that you want to do for the year and then crank it up all the way to a 1000%. This is where you get to set a goal and think about how big it could be if you weren’t afraid to fail. Make a list of all of those things on a giant piece of paper or a blank Google doc screen. This should be fun to really allow your imagination to run wild. Would you write a TED Talk this year? Start a podcast? Be on your local morning TV program talking about your business? Would you launch a new product? Interview one of your mentors? Any and everything is up for grabs in this section so go big.
STEP #2: Craft your Not-To-Do list
This is where you start thinking up all the things you want to stop doing in the new year. A common exercise after any major project is to run yourself through post mortem, and in this way you can ask yourself:
What things are you willing to stop?
What do you want to start?
And what do you want to continue to build on?
With the not-to-do list we are looking at what we want to stop doing going forward in the business. Just as you were able to acknowledge all the progress you made, you also want to take a moment to acknowledge all the things that didn’t quite work or that could be holding you back from your next level up.
What will you commit to stop doing in order to do make room for those big business goals you outlined in step 1?
STEP #3: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
Everyone knows I’m a huge fan of SMART goals and the M in SMART (right after the S for Specific) is to make sure that your goals are Measurable. We’re talking about business here and the easiest metric to measure business success is a financial goal.
In step 3 you’re going to write down the amount that first pops into your head when you think about how much money you want to make by the end of the year. This is going to be your gross revenue number by the end of your fiscal year.
Be bold and loud and proud in claiming your revenue for the new year.
Don’t be afraid and for goodness sakes, please say it out loud and claim it with confidence. If the first time you call out half a million dollars is kind of weak, and sounds like you’re scared that’s exactly how you’re going to approach it for the year.
As a homework assignment for step 3 I highly recommend you do some P&L review and take a look at your numbers. Really examine your bookkeeping software or your Excel file (whatever works for you). What was your best revenue month? Your worst month? And why was that? Look at any spikes in expenses and what caused them, and use this exercise as a plan to think about where you can increase revenue and reduce expenses in the new year. If doing this exercise is a little bit scary, consider how you can improve financial tracking in the new year as well.
STEP #4: Financial Metrics
Step 4 is to do some intentional reflection, not only on those financial metrics and what that was like. Questions to consider:
What did you enjoy creating and working on in this new year?
What did you hate working on or what felt difficult to get through?
Continue thinking about that not-to-do list and also what you would change.
Remember what was the biggest money-maker?
What do you want to double down on or increase marketing around?
What made you the least money and if you were in the red this year financially what caused that?
And how can you prevent that in the future?
Consider what worked and didn’t work in your marketing strategy.
Did your email list grow this year?
Did you find that you struggled with leads or that you had a huge lead generating activity?
All of these questions help you t be intentional for how you set goals and strategies for planning your business in the new year.
STEP #5: Mark Out The Major Milestones
Finally, we’re on to step 5 and that is to start putting things on the calendar. I like to start with three large projects that will anchor my year. Often times large projects are the services or product offerings that I want to focus on for the next 12 months. So start thinking about when you might be having a launch of products or services, or some of the milestones you might have for existing services’ growth and expansion.
As a coach I often think in terms of how many clients I’m carrying on my roster and how I want that to grow. I’m going to put on the calendar when I will achieve certain milestones. That could mean how many clients that I’m carrying (8 clients, 10 clients, 15 clients). It could be a certain amount of revenue that I’m generating ($10k, $25k, $75k). And I repeat this exercise matching the goals to dates on the calendar for other products like my online course and my group coaching program.
Whatever your business is consider the big hallmark milestones and then tie them to a date. The T in smart goals stands for Time-bound or Timely – to make sure that we’re actually attaching these to physical and tangible places in time.
As part of additional homework for this step 5 consider setting additional time on your calendar where you flush out launch dates and think about marketing campaigns towards these goals with your product and service offerings.
Also while you’re planning your business, build in time around when you’ll do post-mortems around each of those milestones. I set mini-sessions like this for reflecting on what worked and what I will do better. Allow time for revisions between launches of major products like an online course or group coaching program.
And this is also where I like to insert when my vacations or breaks for the year will be 😉 A good time to take a break is right after a major launch or after one of your group programs wraps up. Making sure you have downtime built into the year is crucial so that you don’t lose steam and poop out somewhere in the summer.
STEP #6: Create Your I AM Statement
Creating your ‘I am’ statement or affirmation will allow you to show up exactly as who you need to be in order to execute on these grand goals you set up for the year. Step 6 is all about affirming to yourself in the present for what you’re going to create in the future. I like to start by thinking about who I need to be to carry out the vision. How do I need to show up? Then, I create an affirmation or mantra around that. A good way of thinking about this mantra is by calling out how much you’ve grossed by the end of the year, who you served, and who you are being as a result of hitting these milestones.
My example for 2020:
I have grossed over $280,000 this year. I have served over 20 women with my amazing ME FIRST framework. My 1:1 roster has been full of powerful Black women all year. My keynotes are fire, and the She Runs It Community has crossed over a thousand members. I am community and I am flying.
What is your affirming chant or I am statement for 2020? Write it down and then post it somewhere you will see it daily.
STEP #7: Put It All On The Calendar
Finally step 7 is to lay out all of your action steps. Follow up with a time on your calendar to flush them out. So far the actions we’ve spoken about are
- sending out thank-you cards to those who contributed to your success in the past year,
- reviewing your financials and doing a deep dive on your P&L,
- upgrading any system that can better support you for the goals you’ve outlined for the new year.
- This could also include outsourcing and delegating to an assistant. Also consider if your larger team is able to execute on some of these pieces.
- Also consider what new skills you need to learn or what other support structures you could use to help you level-up. Small changes can lead to big impact.
- And finally, fill in the blanks for your next project around the calendar. Consider how you need to create support. Marketing plans and pre- and post-mortems can assist in your success.
A good way to do this is to set up time and space for each of these six action steps. Get down and dirty with a whiteboard or Kanban board to outline how these projects will go.
Again to recap: Thank you notes, reviewing financials, upgrading systems, outsourcing/ delegating, learning new skills, and finishing your calendar.
So those are my seven steps for planning your business for the new year.
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