It’s a new year, and like every January, I am excited about all of the possibilities for the 12 months that lies ahead.
2020 was undoubtedly a challenging year and, to be honest, I am ready to leave it behind. But, as many age-old cliches go, it was a year that provided unexpected growth in many ways I could have never imagined.
One of those unexpected surprises was the creation of Avenue Equestrian. A true quarantine baby, Avenue Equestrian combines my lifelong passion for horses with my professional marketing experience to help equestrian small businesses grow and thrive by determining what their goals are and the avenues to get there.
In this monthly series, I’ll be sharing my expertise on key areas of business and performance planning through the lens of the equestrian industry. As we know, the global pandemic has greatly impacted the equestrian world, and while I am optimistic that this new year will bring new opportunities, it is important that business owners have a full set of tools to rely on for continued business success. If 2020 has taught us one thing, it’s that we need to be prepared—for anything.
Growing a business requires planning ahead. But equally as important is understanding where you are coming from. A simple reflection exercise can help you take inventory of where you’ve been and chart a path to where you want to go. I’ve created a set of questions that will help guide you.
If you’re creating goals for the first time this year, this list will help you define those goal and show how you to make them happen. If you’ve already set your goals for the year, it will help validate the path you’re on and confirm that it aligns with your ultimate destination.
First things first: Review what went well!
Unpacking your accomplishments will unlock the themes of your biggest successes. By reflecting on your proudest moments, you’ll uncover your values, successful strategies to replicate in the future and those positive, feel good moments that simply made you happy and proud. This critical first step helps put you in the positive mindset. Start here!
Questions to ask:
- What are you most proud of in 2020?
- What was most successful in 2020?
- What goals did you achieve/surpass?
Next, explore your opportunities.
Instead of thinking of these as “failures” or “weaknesses,” it is important to recognize that every thing that did not go right in the past is an opportunity to make an adjustment for the future. Taking the time to think about things you wished went differently allows to be thoughtful about how you will avoid making the same missteps again.
Questions to ask:
- What was the least successful part of your business in 2020?
- Where are you most frustrated in the business?
- What is one thing you’d go back and do differently?
Understand how you spend your time.
The energy spent on the things that excite you are the areas where you will see the most success. Thinking about what you want to do more of is equally as important as thinking about what you want to do less of. When you walk away from things that you aren’t passionate about, you open up room to dive into the things you love—and your results will benefit from it.
Questions to ask:
- What are your favorite things to do?
- What are your least favorite things to do?
- What are the tasks that you find most challenging/boring/frustrating/annoying?
- What would you like to outsource?
Objectively look at your performance.
Now that you know your successes and opportunities, compare your initial goals in 2020 to your final outcome. How did you do? Being very realistic about where you over or under performed will help balance your goals for the coming year and enable you to create realistic expectations for growth.
Questions to ask:
- What were your total sales?
- What were your best selling products or services?
- What were your least successful products or services?
Based on what you’ve learned, where do you want to go?
Taking your successes, opportunities, time investments and performance into consideration, adjust your goals to fit within what you have learned.
- Where do you want to be at the end of 2021?
- What do you want to be most proud of by the end of the year?
Once you’ve completed the exercise, it’s time to set or update your goals!
Maybe you set a goal to increase sales by 30% but last year, you only grew your sales 2%. This doesn’t mean you need to abandon your original goal—it’s important to have big, scary goals in your business. But you’ll need to be very intentional about how to get there.
It means you will have to employ very different strategies to grow your business in the way you want. This is where it’s critical to have seen what went well (do more of this!) and what may have limited growth in the past (do less of this!).
It also means you may need to dedicate more time to see such a big increase in sales. If you’re already maxed out, where will the additional time and resources come from?
It can be hard to carve out planning time when you’re busy running a business. Completing this exercise now will help set you up for continued success throughout the year. When you know when and why and HOW to make your goals happen along with the end result, you’re likely to follow through even when things get hard.