Do you feel stuck when it comes to planning for next year? Maybe you’re so deep in client work right now that you’re just trying to get by. Maybe you’ve mapped out a whole year in the past only to find that you changed all your plans 1 month in.
While, yes, understanding your goals are important to provide direction for you and your team, we want to be flexible with the projects we’re implementing so we can easily adapt to events outside our control.
In this episode, Nicole shares what’s more important than planning out projects and the first thing you should do when sitting down to map out your business for 2023. She’ll give you tips for brainstorming new ideas and deciding which projects to implement first so that you reach your goals regardless of what life throws at you this next year!
Hey everyone. Nicole here and welcome back to the show. Today we’re talking about annual planning because it is the first full week of December. We only have a few more weeks until the end of the year, and I know that annual planning is a hot topic.
Some of you who are listening may already have your plans for 2023. Some of you who are listening are literally probably just trying to get by every single day and haven’t even considered your vision, let alone your plan for 2023.
So no matter what position you’re in right now, this episode will be helpful to you because I want to offer you a perspective on annual planning that you may not have heard before, and I want to give you some areas to think about to help inform how you approach next year.
So a lot of times when I talk to agency owners about their plans for the following year, they will start telling me, all of the projects that they want to implement. And so they may talk about creating an offer for a new client a new type of client. They may talk about revamping some of their operations, hiring a new team member, a lot of the actions and projects that they want to take.
And while I think this is a great idea, I don’t like to start here. I always like to start with a broader goal. So when you look at this next year coming up, what is it that you desire? What do you want to create? I would love for you to focus a little bit more on the end result versus the “how” you are actually going to do it. We’ll get there, but the first thing is really identifying what.
So if you are someone that let’s say, wants to create a new offering for another type of client. If you work with businesses, maybe it’s a business in a different industry, I want you to ask yourself why. And then really drill down into the meaning behind why you want to do that.
Because there are usually different ways to achieve the result that you desire that maybe you haven’t even thought of. You can do this yourself. You can also run it past a mentor or coach or a community of people that you value that understand your business model, most importantly. But then also understand how you take action and this allows you to start thinking outside of the box. Because if your goal for the next year is to really grow your agency, you’re going to likely need to do things differently. And in order to do things differently, we need to really get creative with our solutions.
So, for example, if you’re a business owner that wants to work with with other businesses in a different industry, ask yourself.
The answer could be that you’ve worked with one business in that industry and it went really well, and you see a lot of revenue potential. Another reason could be that the current business industry that you’re working with isn’t working well for you. Maybe there’s some issues with team or issues with clients, and you feel like shifting the industry that you work with is going to solve that problem.
Really digging into why you desire what you do. And the reason being is that depending on your answer, there may be several different things you could implement or options that you have that maybe you wouldn’t have considered if you didn’t just take a moment to ask yourself why.
So once you do this, you could do it again by yourself, or you can do it through talking to a mentor or a coach or a community, or again, somebody that you trust.
If you’re getting advice and options from other people, and even from yourself, I want you to do this next step which is to run it through your own filter. So just because you have an idea does not mean that it’s something that is worth moving forward with. Just because you have a circle of business friends that suggest different solutions doesn’t mean that you should just do what they’re saying, right?
You really need to take that information and run it through your own filter to determine what it is that you as the business owner want to do next.
So how do we do this? It can be really hard. Maybe you’re thinking, I don’t know. I don’t know how to do this. So what I recommend that you do in this situation is really get back to the vision that you have for your company.
The values that you have at your company, the culture that you wanna create at your company, and really drawing on the experiences that you already have. And sit with that for a minute before moving forward with any ideas.
And the best thing to do is to really get honest with yourself. I have a saying that every every business owner should know themselves: the good, the bad, and the ugly. And so I know when I’m moving forward with different ideas, they have different vibrations. It’s like a different vibration in my body.
If something is very grounded and I feel like it’s been thoughtful and I feel good about moving forward, it definitely has more of like a calming energy, but I’m still excited. If I am like just running on adrenaline because I’ve just met with a few business friends that have some great ideas and I’m like excited about it and I’m ready to take action and I’m ready to move forward, but it’s not grounded. It has a different feeling in my body. I start feeling like a little, almost like frantic, and I, I, if I’m not really in tune, I would say I’m excited, but when I really get down to it, it’s almost like a feeling of anxiety, which can obviously carry those excitement and anxiety have a similar response in the body, but it is different.
And so I invite you to ask yourself, when it comes to moving forward with different ideas and looking at the ones that have actually materialized and the ones that haven’t. What energy did you go into those projects carrying? How did it feel in your body? And that can be another way to filter out what’s meant for right now versus what’s meant for later.
Because, just because something feels aligned, doesn’t mean that it’s next, necessarily the next best step. So this is where I want you to start when it comes to annual planning. And you can also apply this to quarterly planning. You can apply this to any idea that someone may bring to you or that you may have: is to really get down to the why behind what, why you’re doing what you’re doing, and then running it through your own filter and taking even a day or two to just like sleep on it and think about it can be really supportive.
And then eventually, you need to take action.
So I know some business owners move very fast. They have an idea, they’re ready to move forward. They’re bringing the people together. I know other business owners that are almost the opposite, where there’s a new idea, but they need think about it, and they need to plan it out, and they need to make sure everything’s in place.
And then it’s really hard for them to take action. So what we’re really looking for here is a middle ground. So how can we really think outside of the box and come up with new solutions, create new ideas, while also running it through our filter and making sure that we’re being thoughtful in and intentional in what we’re implementing moving forward.
Some other questions to ask yourself before you just jump into what projects you wanna implement is, what do you wanna create more of? After reflecting on your business, after experiencing the past year, what is it that you want more of? It could be more time. It could be more time to create, it could be more money, it could be more clients that are aligned.
Perhaps you’ve worked with someone who was a really great fit and it showed you. That those clients are out there , what do you wanna create less of? Maybe less last minute deadlines. Maybe it is less chaos. It could be a lot of different things. So what do you want to create less of? And just take a minute to write out for yourself what those are. And then ultimately, what do you desire?
And some of these questions are a little bit repetitive, but when asked in a different way, they might spark something new to that comes up. So it’s helpful to ask yourself different questions to see what resonates.
Now I know a lot of people who share with me some clients, some are not clients, that they don’t like journaling. I have some clients that do like journaling, some clients that do not like journaling, and so they’re like, don’t ask me any questions. I don’t want to be journaling. And what I wanna share with you is that if you like journaling journal on this, if you don’t like journaling, literally just take five minutes and jot down a bullet point list that might help you start to create more awareness around this.
And then another thing that I recommend that you do, especially if you a team and team members that you, where you really value their contributions and opinions is to ask them these same questions.
Inside of my AGENCY program, we have a section on team members and how they can give feedback, and I highly recommend you get feedback from your team. You can get feedback from your clients, right? And then, and in doing this exercise, you’re also getting feedback yourself so that you can take all of this into account when you’re planning for your next year. You don’t have to do this alone. And if you have a team that’s fully built out, I really recommend that you make them a part of this process.
Now it’s your responsibility as the leader of the company to create the ultimate vision, to create the direction, to set the goals, and to lead that. And the whole reason why we have a team is to get their perspective because all of them will have different perspectives based on their own lived experiences, based on the experiences that they have at your company and based on their role.
The next thing that I would have you do, and you can do this by yourself, you can also do this with a team, is to audit your agency. I have clients do this every quarter and I just hosted a masterclass. It was a free masterclass where I did this live with folks who were either interested in growing an agency or already had a full, fully built out industry where they audited.
Every area of their business, they audited their foundations, so their clients, their offerings, their processes, were they streamlined, could they be more streamlined and their financials. I had them audit their team set up. I had them audit their management. And then I had them audit their growth plan and strategy as well.
And so what this does is it gives you more information. And so why I always recommend asking more of those broader questions first is because sometimes we can get lost in the data and I like to pair data. With what your gut and intuition is as a business leader who has experience leading your organization for however long.
I like to pair both. So I like to start with those broader questions and then I like you to take a look at the data and then we see where there’s some crossover. So data is not everything. It’s a piece of the puzzle. It’s literally just information, right? But with that information, we can use it to start making some decisions moving forward.
So auditing your agency and its operations and then prioritizing what those projects should be. So once you gather the data, you can start to see, okay, what are some of the things that we need to do first? Sometimes it feels like you have to do everything first.
And this actually happened during a retreat that I hosted for my AGENCY members where we came together, we did an audit of their agencies and they had a bunch of things that they wanted to work on. And the common thread is that I feel like I need to fix all of this at once, and that’s just simply not true. So what we want to do is think about what’s going to have the biggest impact.
And then also sometimes you don’t have to implement a project in full before moving on to implementing another project. Sometimes you can break projects down into a phase one, phase two, phase three, because if you just implemented phase one, it’s going to help you move forward and then you can implement phase two or phase three later.
For example, if you’re auditing your agency operations and you’re finding that, let’s say, your clients that you’re working with, they used to be ideal and some of them just are not ideal anymore based on your experience and your team’s experience at the company. You’ve realized that you need to get a little bit more specific when it comes to the clientele that you’re serving, or maybe you have been so specific and you want to get a little bit more broad.
So if you found that your ideal client is that one area that you really need to focus on, That’s something that is important to implement because you wanna make sure that if you are having sales calls coming up, that you have identified who it is that you want us. Serve and what those qualifications are so that you can immediately start shifting and aren’t accepting in new clients that just aren’t a good fit for your agency anymore. So that would be something that you would want to do pretty quickly.
However, you may also have an issue where you have team that does client delivery, but you need to bring in a manager to really focus in on managing your clients and managing your team as well to make sure things are getting done. Perhaps you’ve been doing it for a while and you just can’t do it anymore. You don’t have the bandwidth or you had somebody else in the position and they weren’t really the best fit. Maybe it was an interim solution, that’s also important. And then perhaps you also know that because you want to bring on this role, you want to create a bunch of processes so that you set up this new manager for success.
Now, if we’re talking about prioritizing, yes, we want obviously the ideal clients to be updated, but we also, it’s important to get you out of management and to make sure that manager’s set up for success. So you can be updating your ideal client while putting together a job post for your manager. That’s something you could do if you start every day and you think, okay, I wanna do one activity that helps with the ideal client and I wanna do one activity that helps with the manager. Or you might have one day where you just want to focus on one of those and then the next day you focus on something else. You can make it work for you just based on your working schedule, but you can balance those at the same time. It’s not like you have to completely finish coming up with your ideal client and the qualifications before you start putting together a job post for a manager. You also don’t need to fully hire a manager before you update your ideal client avatar. I say avatar and I hate when I use that word because it doesn’t sound very like human. But just to update the people that you wanna be working with, right? What are those qualifications?
And when you look at processes, I just had a call with a client yesterday, and she knew that the next step for her and her agency was to start creating more processes so that her team knew what they needed to do and were all on the same page, and that things could start to become a little bit more standardized, and she felt so overwhelmed.
She had been wanting to do this for over a month and just hadn’t started because it felt like a really big project. So yes, you obviously wanna have some things in place before you hire a manager, but you don’t have to have everything. So what are those first things that your manager will need? And you can create those first, and then the next piece of it, maybe you’re, by week three you’re adding on a new responsibility.
So three weeks into having that manager, you would then need to have those updated processes. This is really helpful when you have an onboarding plan, it’s a resource that I have for all of my clients on how to create a really great team onboarding plan because it really walks you through what your expectations are for that role and then it’s so easy to see what processes need to be shared with that team member at what time. So again, you don’t feel like you have to do everything at once.
My advice to you is when it comes to the new year, it can feel overwhelming at times to feel like you have to map out an entire year because especially in smaller micro-agencies, micro-agencies, boutique agencies, even larger agencies too, with 10 to 20 to 30 employees, things change.
There’s market fluctuations. There’s new business opportunities that come into play that weren’t available before. And so it’s important to be flexible with those plans, and sometimes it can feel like a waste of time to map out your entire year when you just know that something’s going to probably change anyway.
So what I recommend is yes, spend a little bit of time planning for the year. You can think about how much revenue you want to create next year. You can divide that up into quarters. You can set some sales goals for yourself. It might help you with marketing.
When it comes to operational projects. You can also have goals for what you’re creating more of, what you’re creating less of. You can have your team contribute to that. You can have some general ideas of what projects you’d like to implement, but the most important thing is prioritizing what to do next based on the experiences that you’ve had over the course of, let’s say, the last year or the last quarter and matching that with that end result that you want to create.
So once you determine what that end result is, let’s say for example, you initially feel like you want to create a new offering for a business that’s in a different industry, and you realize after you ask yourself why is because the current business that you’re operating isn’t really operating smoothly.
Then, maybe the desire there isn’t to have this new industry that you’re working with, but just like a business that’s sustainable and that operates well. What is that why? And then once you have that, you can take a look at your evaluation and your data points and you can really start to match that with the result that you desire. And then you can check on that throughout the year. And if the actions that you’re taking aren’t getting you closer to that, then you can reevaluate.
So that’s my advice to you. There’s a lot of balancing that happens.
Balancing your desires and vision. And your gut and intuition as a leader and where you wanna take the business with data and information. Balancing what you want as the owner and what your team desires and how to really make that work. It’s balancing, planning and having a map for the year, knowing that you have flexibility in going a different route. You know when that comes up. And again, to make that progress, what I have found is that the most important thing is having a clear map on what to do next and what to prioritize next, and that’s when having and doing this audit getting feedback, running ideas past other people, filtering it through your own filter, and then really determining what are those important things and how you can break them up and prioritize them. That’s what’s going to move the needle the most.
We want reflection, but that has to be paired with action in order to gain the momentum and really have the growth that you desire in 2023.
So with that, I would love for you to reach out to me on Instagram. You can send me a DM, I’m @nicolejacksonmiller, and tell me one of your plans for 2023. You can share with me any of these reflection questions. If there’s certain projects that you want to implement. I would love to just have a quick chat with you to see what’s come up for you during this.
All right everyone. That’s what I have for you today, and I will see you next week.