small business planning for an awesome year

Even before I started my business, I always used the December-January period to assess the year just gone and make plans for the future.

Now that I run my own business, I think it’s even more important to take some time out from working IN your biz to think about the big, crazy and exciting goals that you have swirling around in your head.

Now maybe you’re not a planner. Or you don’t think small business planning is important. I know plenty of people who run businesses and don’t do a lot of forward planning. But personally, I think taking a step back to review where you are headed can help give you the clarity and drive to propel you forward.

So, I wanted to show you what my business planning process looks like, and hopefully inspire you to do the same thing and make 2015 amazing.

Step 1 – Make Some Space

I like to do my business planning away from my desk. I find being in an unfamiliar space helps my brain come up with new ideas. Often I’ll head to my Mum’s place in the country to spend a few days relaxing and thinking.

This year, I’m not going away so instead I’ll be making use of the dining table to spread out my planning tools, with regular walks around the park to clear my head and get inspired.

You may choose to go away somewhere, or set up at home like me. An alternative is your local library – often they have small, private rooms that you can hire for a nominal fee.

You also want to set aside some time for the planning process. I like to give myself at least a day and shut off my phone, email and social media. You want to allow your brain to concentrate on the process, without getting distracted.

Step 2 – Gather Your Tools

Eventually my plan will live on my computer, so I can refer back to it. But I find plain old pen and paper much more effective when it comes to getting my initial thoughts down.

Big picture planning needs big materials. A whiteboard, 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 coloured markers, Post-Its or stickers.

Step 3 – Review the Past Year

Before you start planning for the upcoming year, it’s important to review what happened in your business in the year just gone.

First, write down what successes you had. What you achieved and what went really well. Stuff like:

  • What you’ve accomplished in the past year
  • Things that went well in your business
  • Nice things that people have said about your business
  • Some things about your business that have surprised you (in a good way)

Not everything goes well (and that’s okay). So next, write down the things that were kind of sucky in the past year, ala:

  • Things you wanted to do but didn’t get done
  • Things that didn’t go as planned in your business
  • Some things about your business that surprised you (in a not-good way)

Step 4 – Work Out Your Goals for the Year

goals quote

Now comes the fun part!

Think about what your big, hairy goals are for the coming one, two and five years (you can plan further out if you want. I don’t because my business is still in caterpillar mode).

One-year goals are things that you want to get done this year. They should be relatively easy to get done, with a bit of action on your part. They might be things like launching a new product, running a course, starting a blog or getting your website sorted.

Two-year goals need a bit more time and effort to complete (maybe also money). They could be goals like doubling (or tripling) your income, opening a retail store (if you’re currently online-only), 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 ensures that your business is always moving forward and allows you to achieve those bigger goals.

How many goals you come up with is really up to you and how much time you have to work on your business. I may come up with ten or more 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 (or write one if you don’t have one yet.

Step 5 – Put It Into Action

Once you’ve worked out your goals, it’s time to work out what steps you need to take to get them done.

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’. If you don’t know what the next step is, then it may be you need to research online/call someone/find an expert.

Once you’ve got all your steps written down, it’s time to plan when you’re going to do it. I always find that if I don’t set aside time to work on my special projects, they don’t 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.

Step 6 – Reward Yourself

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 forgetting 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 present (I’m getting myself the MiGoals diary/planner to keep my goals on track for the year).

And look forward to another awesome year as a small business owner.