rustic red target on wooden wall worn off

Although I have never been a huge follower of the Chinese zodiac signs, I think naming a year after an animal is pretty neat.  I was born in the year of the rooster.  Mr. Mountaineer was the year of the sheep/goat.  Supposedly we aren’t compatible.  Glad I don’t put much thought into the Chinese zodiac calendar.

I do like to know what the coming year’s animal is.  2019 will be the Year of the Pig.  Even though I think pigs are kind of cute, it’s what it stands for that’s important.  The animal suggests a theme and feel for the year ahead.  Supposedly, this year, all will be quiet and the pigs will be sleeping.  Sounds like a relaxing year.

Although I pay a little attention to Chinese zodiac signs (I pay more attention to the new Pantone colors), I read about a wonderful business focus strategy recently in John Maxwell’s The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth.  He suggests giving a name to the upcoming year to help focus your business goals.  Basically you select a business theme or area of your business that you want to work in and name the upcoming year with that theme.

When I thought about it, the idea of making a year all about one concept wasn’t entirely new.  Early in my business development, I declared that it was the year of customer service.  I worked extra hard on my customer service goals and getting 5 star reviews.  I kept a good attitude, created tools to help my customers (such as tutorial pages) and answered questions in less than 24 hours.

At first providing stellar customer service was exhausting, but then I saw the wonderful reviews that came in.  I realized that my business was growing with repeat customers.

I also started having customers that told me they were referred by another customer.  The organic growth was fantastic since I didn’t have an advertising budget at the time.  And this was all because I focused on customer service.

Wooden arrow trail market on mountain side with the text overlay "How to focus your business with a theme in the year ahead"

Choosing a business theme for the year based around a business goal wouldn’t be that much different.  The key would be to name it ahead of time during my year end planning session and plan my actions around it.  My year of customer service happened without planning.  Naming this year would be a lot more strategic.

Brainstorm Themes

When brainstorming what you want your next year to be about, think about your business goals.  What areas do you want your business to grow in?  How would you like to see your business transform in the next year?

We all have the same 365 days to accomplish our goals each year.  When thinking about the name of this year, if you could accomplish anything with your business what would it be.  Think about the one thing that would make you happy.

Now make a list with some of your ideas.  Write down everything you would like to work towards this year.  When writing, consider varying the size of your writing based on how important the goal is to you.  If it is something that you really want to work towards, then write it really big.  If it is an idea that isn’t that important, make it small.  This way your list will become more visual and the most important item will just pop right out.

Decide your Name

After creating your list of business goals, read it over.  Highlight or circle the items that were most important to you.  Which of these items can you focus an entire year around?

This year, I chose marketing.  Particularly email marketing.  I keep reading about how important an email list is.  Although Katarina’s Paperie has a list started, I never email it consistently.  So, I want this year’s focus to be about crafting newsletters, designing exclusive printables and promoting new products to the customers who are truly interested in our designs.  These are the people that will be coming back for more.

I need to finally market directly too them.  I have been pretty nervous about this in the past, but this is the year I am starting a successful email marketing program.  So, I named my year The Year of Email Marketing.

Quick note… I could have just said marketing.  But marketing would have encompassed social media, Etsy, email and many more kinds of marketing.  Although I would love to focus on all of these types of marketing, being specific about your year’s name is important when writing your goals and benchmarks.  Come up with as specific of a name as possible.  I really want to focus on the email angle of marketing.  I might use social media and Etsy as tools to work towards the year’s goals, but it is truly the year of email marketing.

After you select the name for your year, write it places you will remember it.  Make an art print, write it down in your planner, have it scroll across your computer screen.  Just make sure you see it multiple times and internalize it.  This will help you remember what you are working towards.

Camera lens focusing with the text overlay "Need more focus in your business? Choose a business theme for the year to come"

Write Down your Goals

Once you figure out the name for your year, it’s time to start writing the goals to center your year around.  These goals should be focused on making your business better at your theme.

For example, our year is the Year of Email Marketing.  My goals include the following:

  1. Build the list – Triple our newsletter subscribers
  2. Create exclusive content – printables, ideas and shop sales
  3. Being consistent – write weekly newsletters and emails
  4. Learn – Get to know our email marketing service, take classes, become an expert

After you write down each goal, create a list of ways that you can accomplish this goal.  It might be as simple as setting aside time each week to write the newsletter.  Or there might be a multi-step process involved.

When goal writing, many recommend the method of writing S.M.A.R.T. goals.  Never heard of them?  That’s okay.  Each letter stands for something your goal should be.

S – Specific, M – Measurable, A – Achievable, R – Relevant, T – Timebound.

I’ll be honest, although it might be a successful goal writing process for some, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  I used to have to write a number of S.M.A.R.T, goals yearly when I taught. The worst part was measuring through documentation my success in these goals.  There were just too many steps.  Especially for an overworked teacher.

In the end, I took the easy way out and wrote really simple goals that could be completed quickly.  I guess you could say that I always made my goals extra achievable.  Sadly, though, they were never the goals that I really wanted to try and accomplish in the classroom.

I do agree with one item of a S.M.A.R.T. goal, though.  Making sure the goal is measurable.  When writing the goal, keep in mind how you want to know you attained it.  This will prevent you from writing lofty goals that have no way of figuring out if they were achieved.

By making your goal measurable, you will be able to see your success and progress.  So, when writing your goal, decide how you will measure your success.  The goal could be measured in numbers, knowledge or just by doing it.  (For example, are you really sending those emails weekly or did you fizzle out in month three?).  However you plan on measuring your goal, write down how you will know that you’ve accomplished it.

I might put a specific number of newsletter subscribers that I want to have, how much exclusive content I want to create and how many classes I want to take.  No matter how you want to measure your accomplishment (remember, less is more), make sure you know when you reach success.

Take Action

Once you have the year’s name, goals to get there and steps to accomplishing your goals written down, it’s time to take action.  Just writing down what you want to accomplish isn’t enough.  You need to start on the road to getting there.

Set aside some time every week to work on this year’s theme.  Schedule it in so you actually do it.  Write down specifically what you want to work on at each work session into your planner.  Strive towards things that you need to get done to achieve the year’s goals.

Each quarter, step back and look at what you’ve accomplished.  Write down the measurable pieces of each goal and make sure you are marching towards the finish line.

You should see progress each quarter.  (If a quarter is too long, try reviewing your goals monthly.)  If you don’t see steps forward, then you need to change the things you’re doing to get there.  Adjust an action step or create a new activity.  If you don’t know what to do to fix it, go back to learning.  Read, take a class or find a mentor.  Just don’t wait.  Make the change as soon as you need to.

It’s important to identify failures early on and make changes as necessary.  You’d hate to get to the end of the year only to discover that the 365.25 days were wasted.  Make sure you spend your time doing things that are bring you success.  Otherwise, it’s a waste of time.

Record what You’ve Learned

Hooray!  The year is over.  You now have accomplished four goals that helped focus your business.  As a result, your business has grown. Congratulations!

I’m sure this process didn’t come easy.  You probably learned a lot along the way and maybe even stumbled a bit.  That’s okay.  Actually, that’s fantastic.  Stumbling is the only way we learn new things.  Just like a baby learning to walk.

The important thing is that you don’t forget these lessons.  Write them down.  Record the things you’ve learned, your successes and, most importantly, your failures.  Analyze your thoughts on your goal steps.  Think about what you liked doing and what you weren’t so crazy about.  These might be elements of your business that you hire out in the future.

This is how we learn.  By writing and processing the things we did.  If you just accomplish your goals without any reflection, you won’t have any idea on how you got there.  It will be harder to replicate what worked in the future and adjust what didn’t.

Move Forward to Next Year

After you have accomplished your first theme year, you probably won’t want to stop there.  Think about where you want to take your business the following year and start again.

A year theme is a good idea no matter where you are in your business growth.  It’s a great way to continue growing.

Final Thoughts…

It’s time to make this next year the most successful yet for your business.  Having had years where I had trouble focusing, I recommend trying this method.  Picking one theme to dedicate your year to will help you succeed.  The years that have been the most turbulent are the ones when I didn’t have one central goal.

Choose your theme wisely.  Make sure it is what you really want to work towards and something that will let your business grow.  The worst thing is looking back over the year only to discover that you worked towards something that didn’t really matter.  Or wasn’t achievable.

This year, Katarina’s Paperie’s theme will be the year of email marketing.  You can follow along on our progress through our monthly reflection and I will also write goal specific blog posts monthly.  Hopefully, we can all learn a little bit about how to use email marketing to build our business.  And you never know, maybe I really will be an expert by the end of the day.

Recently, our family finished reading The Eve of the Emperor Penguin from The Magic Treehouse series.  It discussed that one of the secrets of happiness was always learning.  I couldn’t agree more.

Your yearly theme is one way to focus your learning even when you are busy.  Pick webinars, online classes, books and other learning tools that will help you achieve your goal.  Block out everything else.  Not only will your business grow, but you might find some more happiness along the way too.



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