This time of year is very special for me. I love my challenges and I am constantly pushing myself forward, but before I look forward, I needed to spend a bit of time looking at what worked, and probably more importantly, what didn't work.
Reflection, what worked well last year?
- Taking two weeks out of the business whilst I walked the Camino. I have never taken that amount of time out of the business in the history of Green Umbrella. You know what? The world did not stop! The business survived without me! In fact, we had a record month in October, so perhaps I should do this more often!
Our new processes. We introduced Capsule CRM system into our business which made our processes more streamlined. I didn't realise how important this step was until Christina had to take 6 weeks off work due to having a back operation (she is now fighting fit). The systems that she implemented meant that everyone was paid on time, and that the month end process for invoicing went without hitch during her absence. We on-boarded two new staff in that time and also 6 new clients – the new processes worked a treat!
- Awards and tenders – one of my 2016 goals was to focus on awards and tenders. We did not win any awards (as you need to enter them!), but we did win numerous tenders. Tender successes included: Chamber of Commerce (Email Marketing & LinkedIn workshops), Vauxhall tender – which was the most challenging of all contracts, but I love every minute of this contract! The Vauxhall contract has been extended throughout 2017, so I am chuffed! The week before Christmas we were informed that we have won the tender for Velocity / SEMLEP, delivering digital workshops to local businesses in 2017. What a great way to start the year!
- Customer Service Levels will increase – I had a vision when I wrote my goals last year about increasing customer service levels. The lovely Paul Beesley from Beyond Theory ran a workshop for the GU team and we took a lot from this. It's the small things that make a big difference.
- We now send actual birthday cards in the post to clients and prospects which has been hugely successful.
- We implemented a customer care reminder system on our CRM
- We realised that we used a lot of in-house lingo, which we needed to simplify.
- Live chat is open longer and more often.
- We have implemented a better internal communication system (Slack) for our mediators.
It's not perfect, but it is certainly much better than 12 months ago.
- Increase numbers – In 2016 my goal was to increase numbers in many aspects of the business. Not just turnover and profit, but I wanted to secure 10k sessions on my website every 28 days, and 10k email subscriptions.
- Turnover & profit has exceeded last year's figures by 12%.
- We hit 10k sessions on the website by September. We are now averaging around 17k sessions every 28 days, so I am extremely happy with that.
- Email subscriptions was the only figure that we did not quite reach, so I will be focusing on this for 2017. Subscriptions for our monthly magazine, the Social Snippet has increased in size by 50%. We are looking to treble our current distribution numbers in 2017.
- Launch an online book club – tick! Join here
- To not introduce any new products and to dump products or services that didn't work – tick!
What didn't work?
- Not to drink coffee after 2pm – fail!
- Commit to walking 6k steps every day without fail! – Fail!
- Networking – to increase my networking activities. I found that I was networking in the wrong places. Once I switched my focus to a specific industry then the networking has worked like a dream.
- To employ a further two new sales people – fail! (But I have no regrets, I really do not want more staff – what was I thinking?).
- To introduce a referral scheme – half a tick! We have a written referral scheme, but we found that people were referring us naturally without even knowing that we had a scheme. It's still there, as many marketing agencies are now using the services and send us regular clients, but it is not something that we push.
- To work three days a week – fail! In fact, I have ended up working 6 days a week! How on earth did that happen? Time to refocus!
So what are my goals and dreams for 2017?
Stage two of setting your goals and objectives is to decide on a theme for the year. Last year my theme was “focus and energy”. This year my focus is
This year my focus is “Be Julia, be your authentic self”. I know that sounds a bit crazy, but I am going to continue to do things my way. Winning large contracts such as Vauxhall showed me that I can still be “Julia”. I turn up in my converse trainers and jeans. I can say funny things whilst presenting and people continue to learn from my teachings. If I try to be something that I am not, I am not as effective and I attract the wrong clients. I will only work with nice people. We will not work with people who do not have similar values to us.
- Live streaming is going to be huge in 2017. Just look at the money that Facebook is pouring into it! It's time to embrace Live Streaming properly. 6th January will see the launch of our weekly coaching show. I'm excited as we will be showcasing a real live coaching session, which will include critiquing a social media platform, a website or blog. If you would like to be added to the waiting list then please complete this form.
- Turnover & profit will increase by 15% – targets have been set for all areas of the business.
- Monetise the website – all the gurus tell you that once you hit 10k sessions then it is time to monetize your website. We have regularly hit 17k sessions, so this is a big focus for us in 2017. How am I going to achieve this? A mix of eBooks, assessments, webinars, and affiliate links. We have the traffic to justify the time it takes to write the content, and I have already allocated blocked time throughout 2017. (A great technique that I learned in 2016 by a brilliant book called Deep Work by Cal Newport). My goal is to secure a min of £5k a month purely from the website by the end of the year.
- Swap my focus – I analyzed where we make money. The biggest slice of the pie for turnover is our social media management services and this will never go away as it is highly scaleable. However, to my surprise, we actually make more profit on our coaching and training services. In the past, I have avoided corporate work for management services, but I feel that there is a need for my style of training for digital marketing for the larger companies. With contracts such as Vauxhall behind us, we know that we can really make a dent and an impact in the training sphere. I know exactly how I am going to achieve this, so watch this space!
- Take a step back – it is time to give my team their wings. Mark was more than capable to run the business whilst Christina and I were out of the business, and I need to recognize that Green Umbrella can cope without me. Christina has now combat her traveling fears and is more than capable of running workshops on her own, it does not always need to be me. We have additional admin support in the office so the infrastructure is there to take the business to the next level.
- Look after the pennies – we have always been careful, and never greedy when it comes to the finances, but we have incurred some bad debt in 2016. In the last year, I noticed that I was seeing names on the sales report and in my customer service calls, and I had no idea who these people were! We are taking on an average of 10-15 new clients a month which does not sound like a lot, but it sure adds up. With each new client, there is an element of risk. Previously we have worked on a “trust” basis, but with immediate effect, we will introduce a credit check system for all clients.
- Hit it with the simple stick – during 2016 we realized that we use a lot of our lingo in our marketing speak. I often talk about “using customer language” during my workshops, but I never really stopped to think about the way that we use language at GU. We talk about buckets, platforms, tracks, and use abbreviations constantly. We need to work on a process that makes it easier for the client. This is a work in progress, but Mark came up with a genius idea that we will roll out in quarter one.
- Take time out – It is important to take time out to not just recharge the batteries, but also make room for new, fresh ideas. I developed a new technique called “productive meditation” in November 2016 and I intend to use this technique more often in 2017 to resolve issues within the business. I will not be working in the office on a Friday from January. This will be my time for catching up, going for long walks, recharging the batteries and doing the work that I currently do at the weekends – leaving me time to enjoy the weekends with my family.
How am I going to achieve these goals?
I have written a daily checklist process for both work and personal goals. I will be focusing on different areas of the business and my personal life for each month of the year. I will be producing a personal weekly blog on The Modern Day Pilgrim website. Here I am working on my Happiness Project for 2017, and I will be blogging about my wins and failures.
Have you set any goals or resolutions for 2017 yet? I would love to hear all about them. What inspires you to achieve the things you want for your business? Do you have any books that have inspired you in the last year that you wish to share?