What are your key dates for the next year?

One of my earliest recollections from childhood was my mother talking to another Irish woman after we had settled in Australia. Amongst the "would you believe?"  the "no, she didn't really?", the "Jeezus, Mary and Joseph" and "don't be daft!"s, one of them said the phrase "a stitch in time saves nine". I remember being so curious about what this actually meant and would grow up later to find out it relates to the idea that if something is a problem it's better to fix it now while it's still small, than to let it get bigger (i.e. stitch up the small hole in the sock now before the whole thing has to be mended or replaced).

Now, I get that fixing your business or even trying to plan things out so it's less stressful in the future isn't the same as mending a hole in a sock, but the same idea applies. By focusing on small acts now, you save time and energy down the track.

So, what's one small thing you can do now to make the next year even better for your business?

Understand the key dates that will have an impact on you.

Say what? Yes, it may seem so small it's not even worth doing, but believe me after working with hundreds of business owners, this is a crucial part of building out a successful plan for the year ahead. In fact, it's one of the first things I ask people to do when we're building out their Weekly Business Review (core document for staying on track with goals).

So, what's involved?

1. The first thing you want to do is identify the industries relevant to your business. If you're an interior designer it might be architecture, homewares, design and art. If you're selling products to new parents, it could be education, health & wellness, parenting and family. Think about what industry you're in and then those closest to it and write these down.

2. Once you have these worked out you want to spend some time (and it doesn't need to be long #ThankstoSearch) to find the actual dates that are relevant to your audience from these industries. With the interior designer example it could be something like this:

  • architecture: awards, grants, trade shows, expos, key talks / events, birthdays of influential architects (dead or alive)

  • homewares: trade shows, season changes, key talks / events

  • design: key talks, key exhibitions, trade shows, events, birthdays of influential designers (dead or alive)

  • art: exhibitions, grants, awards, expos, birthdays of influential artists (dead or alive)

You want to then plug the dates for these (found via a quick Google search) into an annual calendar, or use something as simple as my At-A-Glance 12-month planner to jot these down.

3. Next is to map out the key dates (read: deadlines) for your business. These are the dates (and they can be rough at this stage) for things like new collection launches, workshops, speaking gigs, website audits and updates, migration to a new eCommerce platform, blog launches, professional development, end-of-financial-year revenue goals, staff hires (i.e. in July we will hire another product developer), campaigns (i.e. Mother's Day will start early April, Festive Gifting usually starts late October / early November).

4. Now, we all know people buy from people, so you want to look at humanising your brand by ensuring your values and beliefs are mapped into your plan. If you're a business that's all about female empowerment, it could be that you need to add in dates like International Women's Day (8 March) as you'll run an event or special FB Live with an influencer then, or perhaps you're all about sustainability and being eco-conscious so you'll add in key dates like World Environment Day (5 June) and maybe even create a competition or award around this. Consider what's important for your brand to be discussing in the public arena and ensure those dates are captured.

5. The final step is to get personal. This means adding in things like holidays, school holidays, public holidays, staff birthdays and even the birthdays of people who help you succeed in your business (such as the key buyer at a major stockist who will be oh-so excited to get a cupcake delivered on her birthday or even a lovely handwritten card from you (as you mapped this into your plan!)). It might also include religious/spiritual dates that are important to you, or things like a family member's surgery or your child starting school. I don't believe in a 100% work-life "balance",  but I do believe that by mapping this stuff into your plan for the next year you're less likely to overload yourself with work at these important personal times.

I hope this exercise helps you get a little more structure to your plans for the next year. Remember, the more (small) steps you can take now, the less headaches you'll have in the future.

Fiona Killackey