If you’ve not done it already, now is the time to take stock of what 2023 brought business-wise, and what you’d like 2024 to bring…
…and prepare how you’re going make those dreams become reality!
As a successful dog trainer, you know that the best way to move forward with something is to be meticulous in your planning and execution process. You’re probably no stranger to this:
It’s an iterative cycle where your review stage feeds back into your thinking and planning and so on. As dog trainers we do it all the time – it’s almost second nature!
Growing a successful business is no different.
“That’s great in theory, but how do I do it?”
REVIEW: Look over your business outcomes from 2023
No matter what your goals for your business are, you need two pieces of information: where you are now, and where you want to go.
It also helps to know when you want to reach certain milestones… But to do that, you need to have an idea of what those milestones might be. That’s getting ahead of myself – I’ll talk about that a bit later.
Ideally, you’ve already built some check-in time into your schedule, so you have a good idea of the results you achieved in 2023.
If not, now is the time to check the following areas and find out what’s working well and what you think could be better. Take a long hard look at your business finances, marketing, sales process, and delivery – the efficiency of how you actually work with your clients.
- How much money (gross) did my business make in the last year?
- How many people came to my website?
- How many people filled out my contact form in the last year?
- How many clients did I work with in the last year?
- Do I still love what I’m offering as packages and services?
From that you can calculate whether:
- You made enough money to cover all your business expenses and pay yourself a living wage.
- Your marketing efforts were effective (how many people visited your website?).
- Your website is working for you (number of website visitors vs number of times the contact form was filled in).
- Your sales process success rate (number of contacts vs number of sign-ups).
That will give you a good baseline for any changes you make in the coming year.
THINK: What needs to change?
Once you have your 2023 numbers you can ask yourself some harder questions…
- Do you need to meet with your accountant to sort out where you should be going financially?
- Do you know how much you need to be bringing in to make the gross revenue you need to thrive, not just survive?
- Do you need more clients? If so, how many?
- How’s your time management?
- Is your marketing haphazard?
- Perhaps closing sales isn’t your strong point?
All these areas can be examined and refined – if you know what you want to achieve.
While you’re taking stock of how your business is functioning, don’t forget to include how YOU feel about working in your business. Are you happy with the hours you’re putting in? Too many? Too few?
PLAN: How to get where you want to go
Before you reach for the stars, I just want to give a caveat – be realistic with your goals. Nothing is more disheartening than setting super high expectations and then not reaching them – because they were impossible to hit. Sure, set the bar high, but think of ‘stretch goals’ – targets that will make you work a bit but that you can achieve if you put in the effort.
For example, if you made $100,000 in 2023 but your goal is to bring $500,000, that’s probably not achievable in one year. Not without some hefty changes!
Remember you only have so many hours in a week and at least a third of those should be spent sleeping. And another third should be spent doing stuff that’s NOT business-related! Like relaxing, spending time with family, friends, your own dogs, and maybe indulging in some hobbies or other interests. Work/life balance shouldn’t be a unicorn! You’ll be no good to your business if you burn yourself out.
Create a ‘roadmap’
First, if you haven’t already done it, build some sort of check-in process into your weekly and monthly schedule. Without it you won’t know if you’re on track, or when you hit key milestones within your goals.
Next, look at the areas you want to improve – where you want to be this time next year. List your overall goals and then look for progress milestones. How can you break those big, audacious targets into manageable chunks and set ‘mini goals’ with doable deadlines? (Think splitting, not lumping!)
Deadlines are critical if you actually want to achieve stuff! Without them, ‘optional tasks,’ like ‘research hiring an assistant to take the admin load’ will continually be put on the back burner. (Don’t ask me how I know this…)
No idea where to start? Here are some suggestions to get you planning:
- Do you need to increase sales, but you hate selling? Consider how you can become more comfortable with it. Take a course? Hire someone to do the sales pitches for you?
- Would you like to streamline your onboarding and admin process? Research options for doing that. New software? Organize your processes better?
- Want to be able to take a new or more lucrative type of client? What, exactly do you need to do to be comfortable taking them? Up-skill yourself? Or hire another trainer who already has the appropriate skill set? How long will it take and what’s the financial investment? The time investment?
While you’re brainstorming your goals, be specific – how many more sales would you like to get in 2024? How long is your onboarding/admin taking you now – and how much time would you like it to take you? How, exactly, do you want to improve your marketing? How will you measure it?
Build it into your calendar
Once you have your goals and mini targets set, you need to outline how you’re going to achieve them. Try breaking your weekly schedule into time chunks to improve your efficiency and allow you to allocate time for the changes you plan to make. As you probably already know, “fail to plan, plan to fail” is an unfortunate truism.
If you don’t build some time into your weekly schedule, anything outside of your normal tasks will fall off the bottom of the to-do list faster than a dog can drop the dumbbell when you’re trying to shape a ‘hold!’
Stuff will happen no matter how carefully you’ve planned and strategized. The only defense is to account for setbacks and detours within your business roadmap. Make a list of possible road bumps and plan for how you can overcome them.
- How can I mitigate problems before they happen?
- How can I put a safety net in place for when things go wrong or don’t go as expected?
On the subject of setbacks, don’t be too hard on yourself if you have the occasional bad day where nothing happens as you intended. Life is going to throw curveballs at you. Be prepared by building in some slack – so when you get sick, a family member needs you, or some kind of domestic disaster happens, you won’t find yourself unable to make up the time.
It’s also a good idea to prioritize your goals. Which goals are the ‘absolutely must do…’ compared to the ‘would be great to…’ targets? If you run out of time, money, or just plain energy, which of your goals can you put on the back burner without jeopardizing your business or sanity?
Plan your rewards!
To help you stay motivated, plan for how you will reward yourself when you hit your target goals – and the smaller steps that get you there. For some people, just hitting a goal is enough to keep them motivated. If that’s you, fabulous! If it’s not (and I’m definitely in this camp!) you need to decide how you’d like to mark your successes.
Maybe treat yourself to a little something luxurious? Or splurge on some personal pampering? Maybe allowing an extra day off if you’ve cleared your admin early for the month? Whatever it is you choose, it’s got to be something you value and enjoy. If you can make it relevant to the goal you’ve achieved, so much the better.
DO: Implement the plan!
You now have all you need to make 2024 your best business year ever. It might not take you all the way to your ultimate dreams but, by the end, you should be well on the way to your version of success.
Happy New Year!