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Friday, December 15, 2017
Article written by Sandra Martini

Are You Where You Want To Be? 5 Steps To Help You Get There

Do you spend so much time working in your business that you never work on your business?

The corporate world knows the value of taking time out for a step back, taking time to assess what is going right, what is going wrong and what just plain isn’t going anywhere. As a business owner (or as one who dreams of owning a business), it is critical to take time out to plan for the upcoming time period, be it a year, or even a long-term goal. Otherwise, how can you get where you want to be if you don’t know where that is?

I usually plan my retreat in late summer – it’s late enough in the current year to have a good idea of how the year is progressing and yet still have enough time to make changes if necessary. I take a few critical tools and go somewhere alone for a few days where I can sit and reflect on my business as a business, it’s successes and opportunities. It is critical to build a roadmap of where you want to go...here are some of the steps I take:

1. Bring your financial records...in whatever form they exist. I use QuickBooks to track my finances – it allows me to track my income and expenses by any number of categories and dates. With the click of a few buttons, I can tell when my peak times of year are, what services bring in the most income (and how that changes seasonally) and what my expenses are.

I used to figure out how much money I had (or would have based on an estimate) and then what to do with it...until a few years ago when I attended an IVAA (International Association of Virtual Assistants) conference and realized it was okay to start at the bottom and work up. Now I start with all my expenses, including salary, income taxes, advertising, software, supplies, training, etc. and determine how much revenue I need to generate to cover all my expenses plus a profit. This calculation helps to determine the minimum number of profit generating days I need to figure in for estimating my time and efforts.

If your financial records are a mess, now is the time to straighten them out. If you can’t do it yourself, get help, this is one area that you can’t skip! You need to know where you are now in order to effectively plan for the future.

2. Bring a calendar. Personally, I use a large write-on/wipe off wall calendar so I can see the whole year at a glance. This allows me to easily see what I’ve planned. I also use colored stickers to label different types of days: profit generating, business building, vacation and holidays. This allows me to know what’s planned on any given day. It’s not easy...it takes time and effort to know where I want to be 12 months from now, so I start with some basics.

* Holidays...I take the major ones off.
* Vacation...I am taking a trip with a friend this year and so have those dates reserved and can work around that.
* Business Building...are there any conferences that I know I want to attend? I schedule my time to step back and review – it makes it easier to plan for.
* Profit generating...these are the days that I’m working on activities that make money for my business.

3. Bring all those scraps of paper or notebook in which you wrote down ideas for your business and things that you want to do. Record them in one central place; I call mine my “Dream Notebook” – it’s actually a sketching notebook with a gorgeous picture of the beach on the front cover. If you have a laptop, bring it...otherwise a notebook and calculator will do just fine. Use this list as the starting point of where you want to go, what you want to do and, equally important, what you don’t want to do in the upcoming year.

4. Break it down into small segments...after determining where I want my business to go over the next year (month, quarter, etc.), I break down the larger goals into quarterly objectives and then into monthly objectives, etc. This takes the “big picture” and makes it more manageable as I can get my arm around quarterly and monthly (and then weekly) objectives much easier than I can the entire year, and it won’t seem as daunting if you plan to take smaller steps toward a larger goal.

5. Relax and remember that you started your own business to do what you love, to focus on those things that bring you joy and also...to make money to allow you to continue to do the things you enjoy. Keep this in mind as you plan and remember to plan some time for yourself away from the business – we all need this to keep things fresh and exciting!

It is critical that you take the time to plan what you want your business to be like. You don’t need to do something just because “you always do it” or because “you’re good at it” – focus on those things that you enjoy doing! You’ll be much happier and productive – after all, you didn’t go into business for yourself to feel pressured or dislike what you’re doing!
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