27th January, 2017

I'm not sure whether this is the time or the place to admit it, but I have a minor addiction to high quality stationery. I can take or leave a pack of novelty post-it notes, but when it comes to beautifully bound diaries, notepads and planners, I just can't resist. I got 3 for Christmas!

I think it goes back to my time at school and the first day of every Autumn Term when we were handed crisp and fresh exercise books. These books represented a new beginning, a fresh start and the promise of a new year - admittedly, not so thrilling in reality when they were only destined to be filled with diagrams of ox-bow lakes and the water cycle, but some of that magic still remains with me to this day. For me, a new diary or work planner represents the promise of a new year; a year that has the potential to bring me new positive challenges to face and overcome, as well as the opportunity for increased success and contentment.

What better way to finally 'break in' that lovely new notepad you got for Christmas than put together a Business Plan specifically for 2017? It's a great way to get yourself focused now you are back into work mode, and it can really help you to identify (and hopefully act on) ways that your business can move forward and find increased success in 2017. Sound like a plan? Well crack out your notepad and have a think about some of these questions:

Where are you now? How is your business doing? Are you working with the businesses/customers that you had wanted to work with when you started out? Are you offering the products and services that you had envisioned yourself providing? If the answer to any of these questions is no, it's not necessarily a bad thing; it might be time to re-evaluate your whole business plan, focusing instead on what has been proven to work efficiently for you. However, if you aren't happy with any elements of your business, now is the time to introduce a framework that puts you 'back on track' - for example, introducing new stricter guidelines for existing customers who have previously overstepped working boundaries, etc.

What are potential opportunities in 2017? Are there any conferences in your field you'd like to attend? Any courses you'd like to undertake? Any new products or services you'd like to offer? When you are self-employed or running your own small business, the ultimate control over the direction and success of the business lies with you, so why not take the bull by the horns this year and take your business one step closer to the ideal you started out with? Tailor a new product or service that harnesses your passion AND new or enhanced skills, and see where it takes you!

What tools will you need to achieve your goals? These aren't just physical tools - i.e. new Office equipment, more money, etc. It could also be that you need more time to dedicate to these new goals and opportunities. Why not consider outsourcing some of your work to free up more time this year?

Timeline - Set yourself some definite (but realistic) goals for the new year. Put a target date on achievements - i.e. I want my new website up by March, I want to be offering product X by July, I want 3 new long term customers by October, etc. By writing these dates down, you are taking responsibility for accomplishing them. Don't quite reach your targets? That's fine, but carefully consider why you didn't reach them, and use these lessons to put together new, challenging but attainable goals.

Contingency - Unfortunately, life doesn't always go to plan, even if we've written everything down on high quality paper and colour coded it with many beautiful pointy pencils. So make plans for a 'worst case scenario'; establish what products and services you have found the most success with (even if you didn't particularly enjoy them) and make sure that you continue to have the tools available to carry out this work again - for example, a piece of paid-for software or piece of equipment that allows you to carry out certain tasks. The likelihood is that if you have previously found success with a particular role, you are more likely to have a network of people who can already recommend you for that work. Hopefully, these contacts and your proven skills should see you through times of hardship until you have had time to re-group and re-focus and get your business back on the road to your ideal business destination.

Personally Virtual

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