Have you mapped out a strategy for your business in 2013? If not, take a cue from Larah Ritchie: Turn the task into a party.
Ritchie (pictured), a business adviser and e-learning designer based in Knoxville, Tenn., has made planning an annual ritual for the past 10 years. Every November, she sits down with a pot of coffee, a pile of colorful markers, sticky notes, and a stack of oversized sheets of paper to map out her strategy for the next 12 months.
This year, Ritchie invited friends and clients to join her for a virtual group planning session she called the “Year-End Strategic Rumble.” Eight participants devoted five hours to working on their strategies for 2013, first brainstorming via a conference call and then posting their progress and encouragement for one another on a private Facebook page.
Whether you’re working by yourself or in a group, here are Ritchie’s recommendations for crafting a strategic business plan for 2013:
- Clear your head. The day before the Rumble, Ritchie asked participants to write a list of everything that was on their minds: goals, unfinished tasks, to-do’s, whatever. “It’s essentially a brain dump,” she says. “You need to clear space in your head” before you can think clearly about your plan.
- Picture the end of 2013. Define, in your mind, where you want to be on Dec. 31, 2013. Ritchie recommends taking on everything at once: business, family, personal development, health, and financial goals. “It’s impossible to build only one aspect of your life,” especially when you’re self-employed or the owner of a small business, she says.
- Define strategies for reaching each goal. Write down what has to happen and when, month by month or quarter by quarter, to get your business and yourself where you want to be by the end of the year.
- Create a detailed task list. Breaking down big goals into individual weekly and daily tasks is the secret to success, Ritchie believes. “Waking up every morning to ‘I want to make $100,000 this year’ is overwhelming and feels impossible,” she said. Ideally, the planning process “allows you to break that down, all the way down to, ‘I know if I make these calls and send this email today, I’m on track to make $100,000 this year.’”
- Make your plan visual. The Rumble’s participants created colorful posters and project sheets and took photos to share them on Facebook. Appealing visual “maps” help to clarify your plans and keep them at top of mind. (Ritchie offers project planning and idea generating tools that you can download here for free.)
Investing a few hours now to map out your strategy for 2013 will pay off, Ritchie says, because “it keeps you from wasting time on the things that aren’t going to help you reach your goals.”