“Set your year up to be the best year ever”

I love January 1st!

Each year I look forward to it.

It’s like a new beginning and fresh chapter.  What went on last year is now resigned to history. Nothing that happened can be changed and only the lessons learnt will shape our future.

About 5 years ago my business partner and I decided to ramp it up a notch and use the first week of January to power up and shape the year.

A strategy meeting – on steroids!

I’m not talking the namby pamby New Year resolutions rubbish – everyone forgets them by the second week of January.

We decided to take ourselves out of the business, I mean totally out of the business.

We hired a boardroom at a hotel about 10 miles away from the office, we banished all technology so we couldn’t get emails or telephone calls, and we immersed ourselves in working on the business and not in the business.

To give you some context, I’ve always used the first few days back to set myself up but I wanted this to be special.

So, I planned it out.

The first thing that happened was my business partner had a total panic attack. She said, “What are we going to do for the next 3 days?”

It was the longest she had ever been out of contact with the office since we started the business.

“How are we going to fill these days?”, “Surely we’ll be done by midday tomorrow?”

These were all the statements and assumptions she was making and what followed was the best three days our business has ever had!

All we had in the board room was a table and chairs, coffee and water, and a flip chart with marker pens.

We set about by taking some time to reflect on the previous year.

We made a list of what was good and what was bad.

We talked into our learns and what we may have done differently should history repeat itself.

Then we simply took a blank piece of paper and spent some time writing everything that needed to be done in the business that year.

From very easy and minor, to huge aspirations.

Once we did that, we then spent the rest of day one numbering them in order of importance… 1 for the most pressing, down to, if I recall correctly, 14 on that first list.

That took some back and forth before we settled on the final list, all numbered in order.

We adjourned for the day, buzzing with collective and private thoughts. We promised each other that we would give the list some extra thought and sleep on it.

Day 2 started with an hour set aside to revisit the list and ensure we had it right and nothing had changed overnight.

As it happens, we both had a lightning bolt about the same points, number 1 became number 3, number 4 was promoted – you get the drift, things had changed once we’d given it some time to settle.

Now it was time to concentrate on the top 3 to 5 points.

I’m sure you’ll be thinking, concentrate on all 14, but that’s just impossible.

Let’s be honest here, if you could crack the top 2 things effecting your business in the next 90 days, how good would that be?

So, we looked at Number One – the big kahuna, numero uno. It was the biggest and most important thing we needed to do in the business this YEAR! Not in the next week but this was the biggest thing we needed to crack this year.

I asked Siri “Hey Siri – what’s the date 90 days away from today?”

“Your nearest superstore that sells kale is”

I jest, we’ve all been there, I’m sure!!!

“4th April” was the deadline.

We had until the 4th April to complete Number One.

We were going to nail the most important thing we needed to do in our business, pretty much, in the first quarter of the year.

We then set about itemising every tiny detail that had to be completed to ensure Number One could be closed off.

On a blank piece of paper, we wrote down every single step.

We went into minute detail and each time asked ourselves, “is there a step before this one”?

We spent hours going over it, making sure we had it squared away.

Then the genius bit.

We placed this in order, like a flow chart or critical path analysis, and then we put names and dates of who was responsible for each tiny step and by when it needed to be done.

We worked that list from top to bottom and then we reverse engineered it and worked back from the 4th April.

We made sure we were realistic on timescales and if the people responsible had the skills.

I make it sound like we were a massive organisation with hundreds of staff to call upon.

Wrong – there was 6 of us.

This process is apt whether you are 6 or 600, even if you are an army of one.

It prioritises what needs to get done and organises you into action with ACCOUNTABILITIES!!

After Number One, we did number 2, 3 and half way through 4 before our three days came to an end.

My business partner said we should have booked 5.

Over the next 90 days we executed our plan, after all, without action the best plan would just have stayed on paper and the three days would have been a waste of money but most importantly time.

By April 4th that year we had cracked 3 of the biggest things we needed to do.

Our business, grew from 6 to 9 staff and our turnover and profit that year pushed us to another level of professionalism.

We were able to refer to our plan, every day.

We stuck our sheets of flip chart paper up on the walls of the office for everyone to see.

Importantly we took a day to communicate our plans with our staff so they could hold us accountable and knew what was expected of them also.

It was a truly great exercise.

But there was an additional bonus, at the end of each 90 days we could then reassess the remaining points on the list, add new ones, move priorities and then embark on the next 90-day plan. Each quarter we took a day to do this and our business reaped the rewards.

This 90-day planning strategy is a crucial and much-loved part of our return to work in January.

It has grown from just my business partner and I, now we include the department heads in the days.

Take some time in January to set your year up to be the best year ever.

Good luck and Happy New Year everyone!