This year I am starting a new practice of reflecting back on important things that happened each month. I tried to look back at what happened in 2017 and it was a blur of events, work, and conversations. I decided that it would be wise to look back at the end of each month when the information is still fresh in my mind. So here we go…
The Theme for January was Future
The overarching theme of the month seemed to be thinking about and planning for the future – both my business and personal life. My energy was not spent on making up goals that are pie in the sky or ridiculously easy. Instead, I took several moments throughout the month to look at my thoughts, my wants, and my needs.
A big question showed up: Does your business feed your life plan? Or does it just keep you busy and prevent you from truly achieving what you ultimately want out of life?
Thinking About the Future of My Business
It became very clear to me that dipping my toe into the training and online course world was not going to work. I need to be all in or move on. So I began taking action. First I wrote down what consulting services I offered in the past, I considered which ones I enjoyed doing verses the work I disliked and wanted to remove from my work. Then I updated the list of my consulting service offerings. This quickly flipped into what I can train others in – the content I already have experience with that I can easily share.
A simple list of what I want to offer quickly turned into thoughts about how I will achieve all of it. My business needs to be able to run without me in the long-term, so documenting all of the work I do and have virtual assistants do for me became the next priority. I wrote up process documents for the virtual assistants who support my clients. It was pain staking work that I’ve been putting off for a while, but now it’s nearly finished. Though I’m sure I’ll stumble across more and more processes as I go along.
When I returned to my list of course ideas and training workshops I realized that I’m not completely tuned in to the corporate training world. I don’t fully know what people are looking for training in, what is most valuable to individuals or companies. This meant switching into research mode. Over this past month I’ve done a ton of reading and research about the corporate training industry – looking closely at the skills gap and the impact it is making on the millennial generation.
All of the planning, researching, and thinking is very important, but I know that it takes strategic actions to make things happen. On my list of priorities were 3 specific things: Review my existing course, Host a training, and Identify future affiliate partners.
While it is not 100% complete, I have thoroughly reviewed my existing online course on market research and identifying your ideal customers. I’ve made some improvements and identified a few more I’d like to add – including videos and imagery that is missing.
Back in November I decided that I need to dip my toe in the training workshop waters, so I came up with the idea that had been brought to my attention multiple times. Earlier this month, I hosted my first public workshop in 3 separate sessions to a total of 15 people. Considering how low-budget and the insignificant amount of marketing I did for it, I thought it was a pretty good turn out. Feedback has been very good so far, and I learned many lessons along the way.
At the beginning of the month, I wrote an email to my most active strategic partners to tell them about the new direction I’m heading in with my business. The reactions have been excellent. This new development lead me to reconnect with these strategic partners and discuss the future of my business, the future of their businesses, and how we can continue to work together. Out of these conversations, I got some great ideas as well as introductions to new strategic partners.
One additional important action began to roll out – my new approach to consulting. It is still very slow moving and progressing, but I took action on it in January. In December, I began scheduling quarterly planning meetings with my current clients. The goal of these meetings is to discuss the future of their business as well as our working relationship, because I want to make it clear that I will not be as actively consulting as they may have previously been used to. It will take me at least 6 months to a year before my current clients are leaning on their virtual assistants more and me a little less, but these meetings were an important first step.
Unexpected Actions and Outcomes
While thinking about the future of my business, another big epiphany occurred. It is so simple and logical, so I don’t know why I’ve put it off for so long. I cannot build this business alone. I need support. Instead of leaning on my husband alone, I wrote a job description by imagining my ideal first person. The position was posted online and so far I’ve had a little less than 50 people apply. It further supported my earlier research about the skills gap when about 85% of all candidates failed to apply according to the requirements I put into the posting. None the less, a few people rose to the top, and I have setup interviews with 4 individuals for February. I’m curious to see how those will go.
The creation of the job post and getting applications led me to another big task that I had not yet thought about – a centralized system for on-boarding new team members. If I’m serious about growing the business and hiring people, then it is not something I can ignore. I began defining some new processes in my business such as how we communicate internally, how we discuss what we do, and what each role will be accountable for doing. This has now been drafted into an internal website for the company. I’d like to get a little more of it completed before the interviews with candidates.
In a completely separate arena, I received an email at the beginning of the month from the folks who invited me to take notes for them at a marketing conference last year. It was a random gig and I assumed that I would never hear from them again. None the less, I kept them in my CRM strategy and send a holiday card. I like letting clients (current and past) know that I appreciate them. This card led them to quickly email me and ask me to be their note-taker once again. Though I could not physically attend the conference this time, I still managed to accomplish the task virtually with audio recordings and PowerPoints. All of it happened because I showed a little gratitude and thoughtfulness.
Personal Things Happening
Midway through the month I decided that I needed a new personal challenge – something to get me thinking about stuff other than work. So I began a new online course on the topic of critical thinking in the information age. It’s a mixture of statistics class, the scientific method, psychology, and philosophy. It’s pretty interesting so far.
I celebrated my sweetheart’s 29th birthday with him. He doesn’t enjoy all of the attention during his birthday, so I tried to keep in low key. His parents came to town to celebrate by taking us all out to dinner (and lunch and breakfast the next day). It makes him feel overwhelmed with all of the attention and expectations put on him, but I’m not yet sure how to adjust this experience for him in the future – maybe we just need to make plans ourselves.
Singing is back in my life and I’m still adjusting to being back on the risers and syncing my brain to harmonies. I’ve sang in the chorus every Monday, even when I wasn’t feeling well. It took some courage, but I accepted my imperfections and the space I have to improve when I sent in the recording of me singing to my section leader. She gave me, what I hope is, honest feedback. It feels like I’ve forgotten the 10 years of training and practicing music, so my learning curve is rough because my ego keeps trying to convince me that I’m so great while reality tells me that I’ve got some work to do.
In February, much more is to come…
We’re going to Florida for a few days to see my parents and celebrate my mom’s birthday. As always, family time will be an adventure. I’m never quite sure what to expect other than a percentage of arguments and annoyance. However, I plan to go into it with an open heart and willingness to accept my parents for who they are.
Interviews with the first round of candidates begin in February, so I’m looking forward to those conversations. I’ll need to be very well prepared for these interviews. There’s a lot of thinking and planning I must do before they begin.
In the efforts to continue my education, I’m signed up for several webinars to expand my understanding of the corporate training world. There is a good amount of information that I’ve already gained by reading, but I am sure there is plenty more for me to absorb.
My last mastermind meeting is in February, so this will be a change to the flow of my months. I’d like to find something similar to what this group provided me over the past year, but I’m not sure what it is just yet.
More adventures to come…