At this time of year, everywhere you look there is encouragement to rethink your health, fitness and business ambitions for the year ahead.
There’s nothing wrong with this – having goals is a great driver to help you determine the road ahead. But in working with clients at my innovation studio, I’ve learned that annual business plans can only get you so far – what really changes things is a combination of annual and longer terms plans. This leads to greater growth, improved resilience and you being able to achieve your ambitions in a more fulfilling, enriched way.
With the markets being so uncertain and volatile, it can be a challenge to be looking three years ahead but if you don’t start planning now, you will only ever have a year’s thinking on your ‘to do’ list and that is short-termism. When I sat down to write my business book ‘Simple Tips, Smart Ideas’, I had no idea how long it would take or what the outcome would be. 30 months after starting I was holding the launch party. And it’s taken a further year to really see the benefits.
So let’s nail what you should be aiming for this year, and what should you start planning now for 2021 and 2022. Do remember this way of planning works whether you run a business or are freelance!
Hopes and Dreams
Before you start listing your ambitions, let’s start with your hopes and dreams. Draw up a combined list for both your personal and business life all rolled into one. This will give you the horizon point you are aiming for. Refer to it whenever you need a boost or quick reminder.
Firstly you need to draw up the list for the year ahead. This should include activity to deliver against targets you have already identified within your business, including:
- ensuring your new business pipeline stays full
- developing an inventive marketing plan that can flex and pivot
- tidying up all your systems, your financials, your legals such as T&Cs
- looking to see whether you can repackage existing products or services to generate easy revenues from new markets
I would also include a clear review of your sustainability footprint with activities to improve it as it is vital to incorporate the global drive to resolve the climate emergency in all you do.
Once you’ve determined your 2020 ‘housekeeping’ needs, start adding some longer term points to your list. These will require investment of time and money so will need plenty of research and lengthy preparation. They may include:
- adding a further two or three revenue streams to help build commercial resilience
- expansion into new, fresh marketplaces with different audiences to widen your catchment
- introducing digital capability if you don’t offer it already, and developing a real world offer if you are currently only digital
As you add your 2021 ambitions to your list, you will spot that you need to alter your 2020 activities to incorporate research, planning etc to be ready for that 2021 push.
Your 2022 list should be about nurturing those additions you’ve put on your list for 2021, or launching them if they’re going to take longer to get underway.
Most people under-estimate how long it takes to research, plan and develop new ideas to the point where they are bringing in a reasonable revenue. The ‘rabbits’ you set off now in early 2020 may well not earn you revenues for 18-months or 2 years ahead but that shouldn’t stop you starting now.
It took Vicki Anstey of Richmond-based barre studio, Barreworks, several months of hard work to get her teaching methodology formatted and accredited before she could launch her barre instructor training programme. Once she launched her two-day instructor training programme, it needed marketing and took time to find its audience. Now people fly in from round the world to attend it recognizing its top quality. She has just followed this up with a day-long programme teaching fitness instructors how to run a profitable business, The Business of Fitness.
Design-led corporate gift company, Pod Packaging Ltd, pivoted its business over an 18-month period to become the only 99% plastic-free business in a market known for plastic excess. In the process it developed a consultancy and wholesale arm advising retailers on sustainable packaging. And business is booming.
By developing this 3-year plan, you will be putting yourself in a really strong position to build your business in the way you want, determining your outcomes way down the line. We all know the saying ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ – a business isn’t, either. It comes from having a vision for what you want to achieve, creating a plan that covers off the short term needs but has a long-term ambition, which you are constantly targeting and moving towards.
I wish you every success for the year ahead. Happy 2020.
About the author
Erica Wolfe-Murray works across the creative, cultural and tech sector helping companies to innovate through imaginative use of their intellectual assets/IP. Referred to by Forbes.com as ‘a leading innovation and business expert’, she is the author of ‘Simple Tips, Smart Ideas : Build a Bigger, Better Business;. Full of easy-to-use advice on innovative ways to grow your business. Available from Foyles, Amazon and all other good bookshops.