Planning for the New Year

As we head to the New Year, I wanted to share a few ideas with you to make sure that you start the new year in your agency or your freelance business on the right foot and with a robust plan.

So in today’s episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I dig into what you should be doing with your business's long-term vision and how to break it down from a year to quarter, quarter to monthly, and then weekly set of goals.

Time Stamp


Am I a believer in having New Year’s resolutions?


The importance of having a plan


Tips to creating your vision


Why it’s vital to connect personal aspirations and goals with your business vision


Understanding finance, people and external factors in your planning


The importance of creating a dynamic business plan


How changing your environment can help you create an inspired business plan


“You need to have a plan because you need to have a sense of where your business is headed.” - Rob Da Costa

“Be in control rather than letting external factors dictate your direction.” - Rob Da Costa

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 Full Episode Transcription

Hey everyone, I hope you are having a fantastic week. Now, before we jump into this week's episode of the podcast, I just want to share with you some really exciting news as we head towards episode 100. Can you believe that we are now nearly at 100 episodes? That's something I'm really proud of. When I started my podcasting journey, I'd read that the average number of episodes of podcasts recorded before they give up is seven (7). I was absolutely determined that if I was going to go on this journey with you guys, I was going to keep doing it.

And here we are, nearly two years later, and we are approaching Episode 100. I have something really exciting in store for you to kick off the New Year, which is when we'll be releasing Episode 100. Then, you don't want to miss out on that. It's taken us a tonne of work to put this episode together, and I'm super excited about it.

I know it's going to be really valuable for you, so make sure you have hit the subscribe button so you don't miss out on that. Also, talking of as we head into the new year, I wanted to share with you on this episode a few ideas to make sure that you start your new year in your agency or your freelance business on the right foot and ensure that you have a robust plan. That's what today's episode of the podcast is all about, and let's get on with the show. 

I'm not a big believer in New Year's resolutions. It strikes me that they are things that we create to fail out. But I am really keen that we have a clear plan for our business and that we have some really clear goals that we can measure. Also, we can celebrate our successes along the journey.

Then, I wanted to talk a little bit about that today in the podcast. Now every business, it doesn't matter whether you are a one-person business like myself, who works with a few freelance people or you run a twenty (20) person agency. You need to have a plan because you need to have a sense of where your business is headed. I always like a vision of a journey. We need to make sure that we all agree on where the destination is.

Let's imagine that we want to go to South France. That is our vision. Then, our strategy is how we're gonna get there. Are we going to take a boat and a train and so on? And then our plan is exactly which boat we're gonna catch. Have we put the tickets where we're going to stay overnight? Where do we need to eat and so on? 

But if you don't have clarity on where you're trying to get to. In other words, in this case, the South of France. That destination, which is the longer-term vision for your business, then you're just gonna go round and round in circles. Maybe you'll get to the South of France, but maybe you'll end up in Skegness instead. 

Not everybody in your business will be aligned with you to get to the South of France. If you haven't clearly explained that that's where we're headed and sold it to them, get them excited about that journey as well. Then, you really want to make sure that you start with a longer-term vision, which is South France, and then you break it down into your year plan, and then you're quarterly plan, and then you break that down into your monthly plan, and then you take your monthly plan and you put it into your diary.

That is exactly the way a vision gets delivered rather than creating something that looks great and sounds exciting, but no one's got any idea of how you're going to get there. If you want to turn that vision into practical actions that mean that you actually get to the South of France. Then you have to take this concept of big vision, break it down into years, break those years into quarters, break the quarters into months and then take the monthly goals and translate them into your diary to make sure that you have achieved this.

Now, as I said, you should be doing this whether you're a one-person business like me, or you run a twenty (20) or two hundred (200) person agency. Kind of what spurred me on to record this episode is that I'm knee-deep in doing this for myself so that I've got some sense of where I'm headed and some excitement about that direction. On that note, you want to make sure that the goals that you're setting for yourself or your business, our goals that you want to achieve rather than kind of judging a business like yours, this is the next step it should take. Also, you're sort of judging that 

I've done this work several times with private clients where they've gone away, and they reflected on what they said they wanted for the longer term. Then, they've come back to me in the next coaching session and said, “Hey, Rob, look, I'm really sorry we wasted our time last time because I said, I want to go to A but in fact, I thought about it and actually want to go to B,” And I say, “No, of course, we didn't waste our time because sometimes you have to say you want to go to A to realise that you want to go to B if that makes sense.” 

Make sure that your vision is something that really excites you. Also, make sure that you connect your personal aspirations and your personal goals into your business vision because we are entrepreneurs. We run our business, and that's one aspect of our life, but we need to tie in all of our personal aspirations as well. 

I'll give you an example of that. One of my goals this year was to start working four (4) days a week. Now if all I did was have that as a kind of a dream that I'd like to work four (4) days a week, it was never going to happen. Then, I needed to have a strategy to get there, which meant getting more efficient. Focusing on the things that move the needle for me and stopping doing other things. Most importantly, know why I only want to work four (4) days a week. 

The reason why is because I've got a kind of a side project, which is all to do with my camper van and creating a YouTube channel on a new website. Also, I wanted to have a day a week to focus on that. That's what I've managed to do, but it was only because I put a plan in place. That gives you an example of how I've tied my aspirations and my vision into my business vision.

Now, when you create your plan for next year, which hopefully you're thinking about doing at the moment. Remember that a plan is much more than just a finance plan or a people plan. I think most of us get used to doing that because our accountants tell us to do that. Banks tell us to do that, so we might be quite good at creating financial forecasts for the next year, estimating our costs, looking at our profitability and working on margin percentages of twenty (20), thirty (30), forty (40) and whatever.

Great, that's good but it's not the only thing that goes into making up a business plan. Then, yes, you want to have a financial plan and you want to have a people plan, but actually, you need some things before that. You need to have clarity on what your core products and services are going to be for next year. How are they evolving? You want to have clarity on who your target market is and who your ideal client is. 

Again, is that evolving? You want to get your pricing right for those products and services. Then you want to have a sales and marketing plan in place so that you understand how you're going to win that business. 

Then you can take all of that and only turn that into a finance plan. Start considering what kind of resources I need to serve this level of client, product, revenue. Also, you're thinking about your team. Will that be an in-house team, a remote team or a virtual team? Once you've done this work, you can start to figure all of that out. Now that sounds overly complicated, isn't it? 

I would really encourage you to keep it simple. When I do the vision work with my private clients, we get the whole project done within probably two (2) to three (3) coaching sessions. We create a thing called a three (3) page plan: page one captures that longer-term vision which might be five years and three years, page two captures the one year vision and the quarterly plan, and then the third page is the monthly plan. You want to work on keeping it simple. You don't want to make this a massive list.

I'm going to give you one tip here that you should never have more than seven (7) projects. Seven (7) projects for the year, seven (7) projects for the quarter or seven (7) projects for the month. Seven (7) of your magic number, you might only have two (2) or three (3), but you certainly can't have more than seven. If you're finding that, you're creating a massive to-do list. Then you have to start grading these tasks in deciding which are the seven (7) that are going to move the needle forward. Make sure you adopt a keep it simple strategy and approach to doing all of your planning for the year.

I would encourage you to sit down and kind of visualise yourself in a year and say, “Where do I want to be personally? Where do I want to be with my business? What would success look like for me? What do I want?” You want to do that because you want to make sure that you are in control of the direction that your business is heading rather than letting external factors dictate your course of travel. Trust me if you don't create a plan, if you don't have a vision for the year and if you're not constantly reviewing that plan, then you will be letting external factors dictate your direction.

Of course, sometimes those external factors are massive, such as a pandemic or a recession. But most of the time they're smaller external factors that if we don't have a plan, will have a bigger impact on the direction that we had. It might be simply that you take on completely the wrong client because you don't have clarity of who your ideal target client is, and that client takes your business in a different direction. 

They're really difficult to service. You have to invest an inordinate amount of time managing them, so have a plan. On the note of external factors, you want to make sure that your plan is dynamic so that you can look at it every month and say, “What do we know today that we didn't know last month?”

Also, you should be willing to change your plan accordingly. That doesn't mean you're failing, it just means that your plan is reflecting the reality of now. As opposed to creating this beautiful plan, a three-day away day with audio of your senior team casting it in stone and then using it to beat yourself up as it becomes more and more out of date because you're not willing to keep it up today. Make sure that you get into the rhythm of allocating some time every month to spend in the strategy space, which is looking at your plan and saying, “How do we need to amend it?”

If you have a team, then that's great. Your senior leadership team meeting. You should be using this plan as the basis of your conversations. But if it's just you, then just simply allocate an hour in your diary once a month where you're getting all of your kind of tactical distractions away and you're just looking at your plan and saying, “Where are we? What do I know today that I didn't know last month? How did I do with the goals I set for last month? And what goals do I need to set for this month?”

If you keep finding the fact that the tasks and goals that you set for last month keep getting transferred into this month, then you are overestimating how much you can get done. You need to be much more practical, honest and realistic with yourself and say, “Based on my kind of client service, day to day workload, how much of these working on the business projects can I do this month?”

 As I said, it could just be one or two projects, but it definitely can't be more than seven (7) projects. Then, use the number seven (7) as a way to filter what you should do and what you shouldn't do. What sits on your waiting list until you've got those other seven (7) projects completed. 

Now it often helps to do this work, both in terms of actually setting the vision for the year but also reviewing the vision by getting away from your desk. Try either if you work at home, find a different room to work in, or even go to a coffee shop or a hotel. Or if you're in the office, try and get out of the office and be somewhere inspirational so that you can literally remove yourself from the day to day as well as mentally.

Removing yourself from the day to day and gives you the sort of space to think longer-term and put yourself in the position of where will we be in a year? What would great look like? What do I want to achieve? And how does that tie into all of my other personal stuff that's happening outside of my work as well? 

So that's just a few tips and reminders of what you should be doing as you head into the New Year. If you want any help with this or you have any questions, please do reach out to me. I always get back to people who do reach out. 

My email address is in the show notes today, and if you have any questions about your vision or the process, then do reach out to me. I'm also going to share a link to one of my free guides called “Creating a Sustainable and Profitable Agency”. This digs into what we've talked about today in more detail. Again, I'll put the links to that in the show notes and go take a look. Download that and use that to help you guide your planning for the next year.

Other than that, I hope you have a brilliant rest of the week. As ever, if you've enjoyed this episode, please consider leaving a review on an Apple podcast. That helps the algorithms show more people just like you this podcast and that helps me reach and help more people. Other than that, have a brilliant weekend, and I will see you next week as we head towards episode 100 of The Agency Accelerator Podcast.

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