Hopefully, your calendar for the upcoming weeks reflects a full day (or close to it) devoted to reflecting on how your business did in 2015. And if not, go ahead and schedule time now! Then, make sure you've gathered the five important pieces of information we suggested previously, so that you're prepared to make the most of the time you're investing.
Taking an honest look at this year - the good, the bad and the ugly - gives you the very best chance of having an even better year in 2016. (And who doesn't want that?) This kind of reflection can be a little uncomfortable, because it means facing where your business - and you, as its leader - fell short. However, it can also be a cause for celebration, because I guarantee there are plenty of things you did right this year. Sometimes, just treading water and surviving a tough period without going under can be an accomplishment in itself.
Ready to jump in and take inventory of your 2015? Here are six specific areas on which I suggest you focus as you look back.
Dollars and cents. This isn't fun for many of us - I know very few wedding pros who adore crunching numbers. However, it's absolutely essential for being able to help you make informed decisions about your upcoming year. Using the financial information you gathered last week, ask yourself the following questions:
- ow did my sales totals compare with any goals I may have set for myself? Did I book an acceptable percentage of the clients who inquired with me?
- How did my operating expenses compare with my budget? Were there any areas I significantly overspent on? Were there expenditures that turned out not to have benefited my business? Are there costs I could potentially cut next year?
- Did I put away (or pay quarterly) enough money to cover my tax liability for 2015? What changes might I need to make for 2016?
- Ultimately, was this year a profitable one for me?
Reaching the right people. Closing sales is important, but so is ensuring the sales you close are for the right kinds of clients for you. (And if you're not clear who the right clients are, keep reading - this will be covered in the next section!) Take a look at your marketing efforts for 2015 and ask yourself:
- How did the print ads, online ads and listings, wedding shows, and other forms of advertising perform for me in terms of attracting qualified, appealing clients to my business?
- Were my paid advertising and marketing efforts worth the financial investment, as well as the time I put into creating them? Would I have received the same amount of inquiries using less expensive or time-consuming methods?
- Were there any forms of advertising or marketing that I utilized by default - simply because I'd already done them, or couldn't think of anything better?
- Are there marketing tactics I wish I'd tried this year, that I know I'd like to plan for in 2016?
The all-important "feels." How did you feel about your business this year? Did you generally enjoy the process of operating your business? Did you like the clients who hired you? Did you get along well with your team? How was your motivation and mindset over the course of the year? A few thought prompts to consider:
- Who were my favorite clients in 2015? What was it that made them special? How did they find me? How might similar clients find me in the future?
- Who did I really dislike working with in 2015? Were there red flags I ignored that might have kept me from issuing them a contract? Were there things I could have handled differently during their planning or the event itself to make it less painful for everyone?
- How committed and cohesive was my team this year? Does any additional training or team-building need to take place to keep everyone on track for a great 2016? Do any changes need to be made?
- Which of my responsibilities did I really enjoy this year? Which would I love to delegate or outsource? What are my favorite parts of running my business, and how could I focus more on those next year?
- How did external factors (such as those from my personal life) affect my business and mindset this year? Could I do anything to shield my business in 2016 when I get distracted or unmotivated?
Using time wisely. Looking back at your 2015 calendar, what patterns can you detect in how you used your time? What were your general working hours? How much time did you spend on client meetings, producing your work, networking events, or other tasks? Here are some questions to ask yourself about your use of time:
- Did my business' overall performance seem to match up with the amount of time I invested? In other words, did I get out of it what I put in?
- How do I feel about my work schedule, generally speaking? Are there changes I'd like to make to my business' working hours (such as limiting my evening/weekend availability, or not opening my office/studio until after noon)?
- For meetings and events that weren't directly related to clients - such as networking functions - did I feel that the time I spent was worth it? Did I see a return?
- Did I use my time strategically to get all my "have-to's" accomplished? Are there ways I could streamline better in 2016?
Referrals and relationships. Most of us in the wedding industry get a ton of business in the form of referrals from other wedding pros. Take a look at where your business came from in 2015, and think about the following:
- Which of my colleagues sent me the most referrals this year? Were they qualified clients who were likely to book me, or are my business and my colleague's business a mismatch?
- What did I do in 2015 that was successful in cultivating and maintaining relationships with my referral sources? Did I spend time socializing with these people? Did I seek them out at networking events? Did I give them gifts? What worked and what didn't, in terms of keeping the referrals coming in?
- How have my referral sources evolved over time? If I'm getting business from different vendors than I did a few years ago, have I also changed my marketing and outreach strategies to reflect the change?
- Generally speaking, which pros in my industry are people I want to spend more time interacting with next year? Whose presence might I want to minimize in my life?
Investing in yourself. Looking at your calendar and expenses from 2015, ask yourself these questions:
- What priority did I place on my own education and self-improvement this year? (This could be in the form of conventions or workshops attended, courses taken, books read, or coaches hired.)
- What new skills or areas of knowledge did I acquire, or strengthen, as a result of my efforts?
- What might I want to focus on learning or understanding in 2016?
- What funds might be available to me to cover the costs of education and skills-building next year?
Once you've done the hard work of really scrutinizing your year, you can set your 2016 goals and strategies with intention - meaning next December's reflection session will be even more enjoyable, with more celebration.
We'll be sharing some strategies for goal-setting and business planning later this month - and we'd love to hear your experiences with self-reflection!