As the title might suggest, today’s post is on planning – although it could well be on procrastinating given how I’ve been slouching around about getting it written!

it’s all in the planning

But, as much as I’ve been procrastinating on writing about planning, I haven’t been putting off the actual doing!  The week between Christmas and New Year’s has always been a time that I find lends itself to sitting down and taking stock of the year that’s passed. What did I do?  Where did I go?  What did I accomplish?  I find it handy to make a list.  If you know where you’ve been, it’s easier to think about where you want to go.

setting some goals

Once you’ve had a chance to evaluate how this year went, what went well, what could be better, the next step is to start thinking about your goals for the coming year.  I’m not talking about New Year’s resolutions – I’m not a fan of those.  They feel so… restrictive and they always seem to set you up to fail. You want to succeed.

Some things to think about when setting goals:

Goals should be specific and measurable. You need to know when you’ve succeeded – and when you’re not on target.

Little, big, in between – goals should come in all sizes.  It’s good to have small ones that you know you can achieve easily and you should always have two or three big ones that you are working towards over the year (or years).  All the others can fit in between.

Reevaluate them regularly.  Circumstances change and while goals give you structure, there is much to be said for being able to adapt quickly when you’re faced with something unexpected.

the plan’s the thing…

Ok, so you’ve come up with some really cool stuff to shoot for in 2010. How, exactly, are you going to get there?

Now’s the time to plot it out. Want to improve your marketing efforts so you get more local business? What are the steps you’re going to take? Refresh your website? Investigate email newletters? Increase your involvement in local affairs? Sponsor an event?

You have to have a plan to get there. And monitor it throughout the year. Measure the effects on your business that your steps have. Are you getting more traffic to your new website? How much? What’s the sign up rate for your newsletter? And your open rate? Are you getting more local business because you sponsored a local event? Track everything and if it’s working, you’re on your way. If it’s not, decide if it’s worth sticking it out a little longer (sometimes it is) or if you should cut your losses and reevaluate.

Run your plans by other people – a mentor, a partner, or a trusted friend – and obviously the key stakeholders in your business, who should be part of the process from the get go. Having somebody who can poke holes in your plans can be a valuable asset. It can be easy to get carried away, especially when you’re enthusiastic and motivated. Having somebody you trust who can keep you on a realistic path can be helpful

does your plan fit who you are?

Your goal may be to improve your marketing efforts but your plan to get there should be true to your brand and the values of your core business. If you design handbags and shoes, sponsoring a local men’s softball tournament may not be the best use of your marketing dollars (although, if loads of wives and girlfriends show up at the tournament, maybe it’s not a bad idea!).

Now that example is, of course, a huge generalization to illustrate the point – but the key is that your planning and the actions you subsequently take, should support your business.

data, data, data…

Keep track of your progress, monitor and record everything – it can be tedious but it will keep you on track to the end result you’re hoping for. Information is power and big companies spend millions of dollars on collecting data on everything from the weather to how many seconds it takes to produce each widget. Obviously, you and I aren’t spending that kind of money, but a simple spreadsheet can hold all the data you’ll need to see if you’re on track. If you don’t know if any of your plans are succeeding, you have no hope of knowing if you’re heading in the right direction!

what lies ahead?

I have actually spent the last few days plotting out the future of Fine Lime for the coming year – both on my own and with the boys and other outside partners. This is going to be a year of some pretty big changes for us, which I’ll talk about in January. But we’re excited!

So what about you? What are your plans for your small business or freelance career for 2010?  Share with us in the comments and tell us what’s on your plate.

Whatever your plans may be, we at Fine Lime Designs wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous year of following your passion!