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Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Business Chat - Your Review

Yay! I survived another holiday season! I made it through several grueling shows, shipped all my online orders on time and still managed to make gingerbread cookies! That means I had better balance in life this year than I did last year! It’s all in the planning people, meticulous planning and sticking to it. Of course for every one thing I did manage to accomplish there are 5 other things that I’d hoped to do but didn’t. While I’m getting better at planning there is definitely room for improvement. It’s time to start working on the 2012 plan of action.

As we move into January sales slow down from their peak in December. It’s very tempting when business is slow to let it drift, after all there’s no sales happening and there’s books to read and cookies to bake! Even though I may not be selling or making anything right now I still have to put some work in. There are times when you work in the business and times when you work on it. Now is the time to work ON it.

At the end of every year I have one major task that must be done in order to ensure that next year will be even better than this year. My annual review.  My review is not just how I functioned in my “job”, or how well the company did, it’s also about setting goals and milestones for the upcoming year. No matter how small your company is I think a review is critical to your future. A review allows you to see exactly where you are now so that you can map out how to get where you want to go.

My annual review consists of 3 steps:
Step 1: Review the Previous Year
Step 2: Outline Goals and Overall Focus for Next Year
Step 3: Plan how I will achieve these goals.

The point of step 1 is to see what I managed to achieve in the past year (and pat myself on the back) and to see where I currently stand. To start I look back on the year and ask myself a series of questions. The questions start very simply:
What went well in 2011?
What did not go well in 2011?

Since I did a review last year I look over the goals I set to see how I did with them. Did everything happen as I expected? Probably not, but it’s interesting to compare results with expectations. In a micro business such as mine, goals aren’t just about dollar figures. I also have goals for learning, goals for balancing business and personal, as well as milestones for business.

In step 2 I think about the year to come. What is my focus this year? And within that focus what are the actual goals I want to achieve.
Think of your own business, what do you think you can achieve in the next 12 months? Goals can be anything: participate in one craft show, or sell 10 pairs of earrings, enrol in a class, start a blog (and keep it up), get a website, apply for a grant, whatever you think you want to do.

Remembering that the goals need to be measurable is one of the most important predictors of success in the coming year. The more specific a goal the more likely it is to happen. Rather than saying “I want to sell my work” a better goal would be “I want to participate in one craft show next summer” or “I want to set up an online store by June 1”.

For step 3, I take each goal and think, “What do I need to do to achieve this?” I list the steps needed to reach that goal in as much detail as possible and then put those steps on a calendar.

Once I’ve completed my review, my calendar with milestones is put on my wall where I can see it. I also enter these into my online calendar so that deadlines (like show application dates and class enrolment dates) don’t pass by.

Starting and running a small business is hard work. Balancing a personal life on top of this is tough. Trying to do this without a map would be insane. As busy as we all are at this time of year you owe it to yourself to set aside a bit of time and plan out how you can conquer the world in the next year. Set your goals high. Take some time to do this right, and you’ll thank yourself later.

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