New Year

Prepare for 2018 Like a Pro

Year End.jpg

The last few weeks of the year are always interesting productivity and business growing monsters. It’s a balance between enjoying the holiday season, not giving up on your goals and trying to get a hold of people who may or may not be checked out already. What I love most about these few weeks though is that they are great for putting your head down and sprinting towards making good on your 2017. The close second to that is that they are also great times to reflect a bit in your business. 

It’s a great time to be a little honest and a little raw about the level of effort you put into your business this year. In this post I’m going to share with you an outline you can use to review your efforts this year or as an agenda for year end conversations you may be having with your team. 

Before jumping right into the outline I want to share with you a bit of a framework you should follow first if you really plan on getting anything useful out of this reflection exercise. 

Prepare 

This is a big one most businesses owners I talk to just gloss over. They gloss over it because they think that everything they need to think about in terms of what their business did over the course of the year is just floating around in their brain. Wrong. What’s floating around in your brain are the misremembered experiences and perspectives you’ve help through the year that your brain chose to hold on to. It’s your view of your business through either rose colored or excuse tinted lenses. If you’re going to take this reflection seriously you need to have an objective view of what you were or weren’t able to accomplish. So pull out those financials, bank statements, social media dashboards, etc. 

Set the tone 

Sounds simple but it’s important not to skip. You shouldn’t be going into this exercise looking for only the things you did wrong. You want to celebrate the things you did right too! This reflection process should be about identifying where you can continue to grow in your business and how your current capabilities and capacity map against the goals you want to set for yourself in the coming year. 

Review performance expectations

Whether you actively think about it or not as a business owner you have a job description. These are the task, responsibilities and actions towards outcomes you committed to when you started the business. Reviewing the expectations you set for yourself everyday will help to measure your performance against the reality of growing a business. This is where being honest is important because it’s easy to rationalize why something you committed to didn’t get done when you’re the one holding yourself accountable. The real test is being honest about the dedication or commitment you showed up to work everyday with. Again, don’t get bogged down if you had a spell or two of lacking enthusiasm every time you sat at your desk. The entrepreneurial journey is less of a check mark and more of a rollercoaster - it’s about the patterns of activity over time that really matter. 

Notes on goal setting 

There are a million and a half ways to set goals. Finding the one that works for you is important but regardless of what system you use I want to make sure that you are setting goals in targeted areas, that build on your strengths, that develop you as a professional and finally that are aligned with your values. If you’re setting goals that don’t matter to you or that you can’t commit to then it doesn’t matter what’s at the end of that rainbow because you’re never going to get there. They should stretch and challenge you but not be so far out of your abilities or habits that you just chalk them up as a loss subconsciously before you even start. #newyearnewyou

Make sure you schedule time to follow up

It’s unfair to expect that you can do this work now, file it away and just figure that you’re on the right path without checking in at this time next year. My recommendation is to break your goals and plans out by month so that you can check in along the way. It’s ok if your course changes over time because you’ll be actively assessing what’s important to you and your business and what’s not. Following up will help fight the self sabotage (something that I am super guilty of) and help you build momentum as you start to hit benchmarks and see real growth. Plus, you’re executing on one of my favorite sayings of all time - “What gets measured, gets managed”. 

So now that we’ve set the stage below here is some swipe copy you can use to run your year end review conversations. This works as a self reflection exercise as well as a conversation with your contractors, team members or employees. The headings should apply to most people and I’ve added some question primers to help you think through those headings but feel free to add or subject the reflection questions based on what feels right for the body of your work in 2017. 

Agenda for Annual Review

Planning/Teamwork

What did you accomplish? What worked well? What didn’t? 

Attitude Toward Assignments

Where there types of work that you enjoyed more than others? Types of customers? Where your employees or team on board with what was asked of them? Did the work you do feel authentic to you? 

Knowledge of Duties

Did you feel like an expert in your job? Did you have the technical skills to deliver the value you promised to your customers? 

Your Community

How connected were you to the community you serve? What kind of connections did you create? Where did you add value to the networks that you are a part of? 

Working Relationships and Cooperation with Other Personnel

Did you play nice in your sandbox? Where their situations or relationships that could’ve gone better? Did you (and your team) create an experience or environment that encouraged people to do their best work? Do you feel like you managed your time, team or expectations appropriately? 

Operations 

Did you have a system for moving your business forward every week? How did you measure success or growth? Is that a fair way to measure it going forward? If you breakdown your work process are there places where you might be able to delegate or create efficiencies? How much time did you spend working in your business vs. on your business. 

Response to Assignments or Body of Work

Were their projects or works delivered that you weren’t proud of? Were proud of? What went well? What didn’t? 

Conformance to Work Schedules, Assignments and Instructions

Did you deliver on time every time? Were you honest about the time you put into your business this year? Do you plan on working more? Less? How can you work smarter? Did you manage your customers expectations of your work deliverables and timing? 

By the Numbers

What did this years quantitative data look like compared to last years? Are there any patterns of note? How are you going to use what you learned this year for next year’s: budgets, calendars, sales activities, inventory management, content planning, engagement, and other trackable metrics?

Goals for Next Year

What is important to you? What do you care about? What value are you going to deliver to people? How are you going to measure success? How are you going to get people to pay attention to you? 

That's it! 

Keep the notes before the agenda and the agenda in mind when you're thinking about how you're going to prepare for 2018 and you'll be setting yourself up for success because you're doing it from an honest place. There's no worse feeling then looking at the New Year all bright eyed and bushy tailed only to set goals that will doom you from the start. Don't forget to make this process your own. What I've outlined for you here really is the bones of a process. Some of it may not apply to you or your team and that's ok. Just take some time, mentally prepare to be honest and set good goals to help launch you to your next levels of success in 2018!

5 Tools I Use To Grow My Business

Welcome to 2017!

I know that today is the observed holiday but I couldn’t help myself, I had to get to my desk and get started. I had a little extra spring in my step as I made my way to the office this morning because I was excited to answer a question that I get all the time from entrepreneurs and business builders. That question:

How do you keep your business going and get everything you need to do done when you’re a small team or even just a team of one?

I know a lot of you out there have set goals, resolutions or even just intentions for your businesses this year and I want to continue to support you in reaching those goals in any way that I can. So, I’m going to peel the curtain back a bit on my business and talk about the five resources I use to keep me moving forward in my business that you can use too.

Again to be super clear, these are tools that I use everyday and that I tell people about when they ask. None of the links I’m sharing are affiliate or paid  for in any way, just pointing you to where you can learn more.

1. Evernote -  https://evernote.com/

There are a ton of posts and articles on the internet that talk about the greatness of Evernote. I don’t want to bore you with another review. What I want to do is talk about how practical and essential this app is for me, and could be for you, every week. One of the necessary evils of growing a business is that you’re going to take and host meetings. Some of them will be amazing like, meeting with clients if you are a coach or consultant and some of them will be less amazing like, meeting someone for a “networking” coffee only to have them try to pitch you the whole time on a service you don’t need. Recording your thoughts, conversations and follow up actions in a way that’s easily organizable, time stamped and searchable is huge. For me this app is more than just a place to write ideas to go back to at a later date they are repositories for business development information I use everyday. I track client conversations, write my blog posts and use them as a home base for the projects I need to keep track of in my business. Plus with the premium you can make documents, pictures you take, scans, etc searchable - how cool is that!

2. Hubspot Sales - https://www.hubspot.com/products/sales

Building a business probably means that you are sending a ton of emails out everyday. I know it can be really frustrating to send them out and then just wait. Not really sure if your emails landed where they were intended or if they were read at all. With Hubspot Sales you can send your emails out and actually see if/when they get opened and even track click throughs. It’s a little sneaky but I love it and I think you will too. Hubspot also has a decent CRM to help keep your prospects and sales pipeline organized. It’s also got a really neat Google Chrome and GMail extensions that will push you notifications so you don’t have to keep checking in on the app/site. The free version gets you up to 250 open notifications per month and then you can upgrade from there. If you rely on email for the bulk of your business development then something like this can be really helpful because you can better time and position your follow up emails or the other steps in your sales pipeline.

3. Buffer - https://buffer.com/

There are a lot of social media aggregators and planners out there today. Buffer is one that I started using when they were pretty young and have grown with them. Buffer is a huge resource for me because it helps me plan my social content for the day or week. You can set the share frequencies, choose how you want links to show up and it gives you decent analytics. If you are a small team or a team of one then you know how tough it can be to prioritize being active in social and balancing everything else you need to get done in a day. While there is NO SUBSTITUTE for real interactions you can plan the things you want to share and then carve out smaller chunks of time to go out into the web and be a real person. Social moves fast and is still a really relevant place to be. Buffer makes it easy to keep your face showing up in people’s feeds. The free version lets you plan 10 social posts I believe and then you pay up from there.

4. Any.do/Cal - http://www.any.do/

Any.do and Cal are sister apps that live on your phone and the web. It’s a to-do and calendar duo that helps extend the functionality of what a calendar app like Google Calendar can do when you’re trying to fit in all the little stuff that needs to get done in a day that doesn't really need a full on calendar entry. I love Any.do because you can create all kinds of categories and reminders that will integrate well with the calendar. You can save files, set location based  reminders and all kinds of other neat customizations. Cal also pulls the data from your Google Calendar in so you can keep everything really organized and in one place. It’s really intuitive which is important for me because it means it’s easy to edit, check off and adjust on the fly. There is a free version but for $26.99 for the year you get all kinds of goodies including one of my favorites is a prompt everyday to plan my day.

5. Trello - https://trello.com/

I love Trello because it can be whatever you need it to be. It can be a project manager, an extension of your to-do list or even a place to host processes that you create for your business. In Trello you create “boards” and within the board you can break them out into actions, sub-actions, leave notes, assign people and even store documents. Because I use Any.do for my main to-do list and planning I use Trello more for creating project management timelines and benchmarks. It’s great for taking big ideas and them breaking them down so that you can actually get work done. I use it as a place to keep my vanilla processes too. I can create step by step outlines for things like New Client On-boarding and even Blog Posts. Trello saves time and creates consistency for my workflow because all that information is in one place and contains processes that I use all the time. It’s also really good for small teams that need a place to collaborate and communicate through the work process. It also integrates with a TON of stuff like all-things-Google, Dropbox, Slack and all the Evernote. (I’m big on stuff that plays nicely together.)

That it!

Those are the five tools or resources that I use everyday in my business. They help me stay organized, keep track of what I have going on and keep me doing work that is pushing my business forward. I believe they can do the same thing for you. There’s a catch though, these resources are not silver bullets. They aren't going to do your work for you but they will help keep you organized and help you set finish lines up for yourself. That’s really important because in order to make progress in your business you have to be able to start something, finish it and move on to the next thing. So often I see people stuck in this quagmire of tasks they are always working on and never create the momentum they need to really grow because they are stuck always working in their business.

Take some time, set them up and then get to work trusting that your systems will support you along the way. Your business at the end of 2017 will thank you for it.

4 Ways To Start The New Year Off Right

For the last post of 2016 on the Disruptive Strategy Co. Blog I’m shooting for a callback to the blogs of yesteryear. (For those that don’t remember yesteryear, it was a Wednesday and I mean the cool thing blogs did from 2000’s to about 2013.) Today’s post is a round-up of posts/articles that I think are really useful in helping you kick 2017 off right. There’s a ton of great stuff out there about business development, goal setting and entrepreneurship so rather than adding more to the pile I thought I would help you spend less time searching for what to do next and more time taking action.

Plus, I mean, there are only so many articles you can read about planning before you are essentially numb to all things New Year Resolutions so hopefully this list mixes it up for you.

Below are four posts/articles from across the web that I believe are worth your time and that if executed on will help you get farther than anyone else inspired by the New Year. (The links to the articles are in the sub-headings.)

1. 7 Steps to Achieving Any Goal in Life - Entrepreneur

This is a great article because creating SMART goals get’s a lot of lip service but not in a really useful way. Let me explain. SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals are easy enough to understand conceptually for people. That’s usually as far as most people get in trying to set goals. They understand that this is an important framework but often overestimate their own abilities and set expectations so high that the goals they set get abandoned. This article makes SMART goals SMARTER by adding a few extra letters to help keep you on track and actually achieving your goals. The E gives you the opportunity to evaluate your progress along the way, acknowledging that goal setting is more than just a two step process - set and achieve. The R gives you permission to re-adjust because life isn’t always as easy or predictable as you think it’s going to be. If you’re setting goals this week this post is a great way to help frame what you’re working towards.

2. 6 Ways Work Environment Shapes Your Productivity - Fizzle

In this podcast the folks at Fizzle talk about how where you work impacts the quality of that work. You might not think about it but, your environment plays a big part in the amount of stuff you get done in a day. If you’re looking to start the New Year off with a productivity sprint then you should definitely give this a listen. (I think they are the perfect blend of entertaining, engaging and instructive.) They talk about the importance of separation, making changes, organizing your browsers, ergonomics, clutter and lighting. Take control of your space to get better results with this podcast.

3. Forget the Resolutions - Write Your Personal Manifesto - Strategy + Business

This one is for those of you that have plans of continuing to take action long after the January New Year Resolution Honeymoon phase passes. It’s also not a “quick” exercise. Going through this process if going to take time but it’s going to help you find the warm squishy core of what’s important to you and bring it up to the surface so that you can keep it top of mind. This manifesto that you build for yourself is going to help you stay motivated and fuel you when it feels like the hits from 2016 are continuing to push their way into 2017. (RIP George Michael)

4. How to Create a Social Media Content Calendar for a Year - Social Media Examiner

Whether you’re a small business, a corporate ninja, a weekend warrior or a person with an internet connection you need a social media planning tool to help you avoid being “that” person that shares a little too much in their feeds. If building a brand is important for you in 2017 then you’ll want to make sure that you’re giving your audiences the quality and consistency that will keep them coming back every day/week/month. This post will walk you through creating an excel calendar that works in holidays and lets you see how your content maps out thematically throughout the year. If you’re serious about going pro in the New Year you have to stop winging it. Winging it takes time and attention that you need to be investing in the value you are delivering.

Bonus (Video) Post

5. Shia LaBeouf “Just Do It” - YouTube

“If you’re tired of starting over, stop giving up.” That is my favorite quote from this one minute video. I know that this was one of the biggest memes of 2016 but at it’s core he’s right about a few things when it comes to motivation and getting stuff done. Everyone needs a little jumpstart now and then and while there’s no direct takeaways from this maybe Shia’s message will give you the boost you need to take massive action.

I hope that you make the most out of this “dead week”. 2017 is essentially here and I hope that I’ve saved you some search time so that you can start to dig into the work that matters. See you in 2017!

Oh and...

JUST DO IT!

(Sorry couldn’t help myself.)