3 Things I Did that Changed my Business Last Year (and 3 I'm Doing This Year)
Nope, I didn't set resolutions. But, does anyone really do that anymore? It's all about small, realistic goals right?
As I was thinking more about my goals for the next few months, I started to think about what I did last year and how that has effected me this year. I came up with a few big points and thought that they might be helpful to those of you out there in the same spot as me. The cool part is though, you can implement all six of these now if you want... rather than waiting another year to figure them out like I did.
3 Things I changed in 2017
Hired a (good) team
Well, technically, some of them were hired towards the end of 2016. But last year is when our team had been there long enough and really started to grow into their positions, using their strengths and caring about what went on within the company. I'd say that it typically takes 3-4 months for new team members to get in their groove. They start understanding how the processes work, are very clear on their responsibilities and are confident to take charge and make important decisions.
As a business owner, there are 3 main things I look at now when bringing someone new onto the team; first (and most importantly), are they good at the things that I am NOT? Second, will they be a good person to spend the majority of your day with. There is absolutely nothing worse than spending your days with people you don't click with. And at this point, with such a small team, it's super important that we all get along. And third, are they committed to growing with our team, long term. We all handle a lot in this business every day, so if we had to take time every 6 months to bring on a new intern, it would kill our productivity. For this reason, I make sure that these positions are a place that our team knows they can grow in, both in terms of responsibilities and $$$.
Hiring a team has allowed me to focus on what I am good at and have downtime again to get inspired. I got to a point where I was a machine. I was pushing orders through to get them done rather than focusing on really getting inspired for each of our clients and projects. I was constantly in a state of panic/stress... wondering if I took care of everyone, if I hit my deadlines for that day (which most of the time I did NOT), and usually not being able to answer even a quarter of my emails. It was not good for me, my business or the people around me. I will NEVER. GO. BACK. This is the number one thing I'd recommend to anyone out there in the same place. Take the leap, find someone to help you, even if it's just a few hours a week.
Raised our prices
Even after I hired someone to help with inquiries, we were still pretty slammed with getting out proofs, working on revisions and ordering final stationery for clients. We decided (after a little research as well) that we could raise our prices slightly to help with a few things. By raising our costs, I was able to focus more on each client individually, creating a better experience for them as well as better work. We were able to find and offer higher quality printing and materials. Before the increase, we would send to our local printer to have items printed on a GOOD, but inexpensive stock. This was not helping us find our ideal client, it was just creating a stream of orders that weren't that profitable. After the increase, we started to book clients that understood the value in our service. They looked deeper into our company and really understood what they were paying for; unique hand lettering, quality printing processes and an enjoyable + personal experience that left them feeling confident in the services they hired us for.
(mostly) kicked the habit of negative conversations, with myself and others
I think it was 2 or 3 years ago. I visited another wedding planners office for a project we were working on, and while I sat there, they proceeded to bash one of their clients. Talking about the clients and their parents, how much they hated having calls with them, etc. I was SHOCKED that they would say all of this in front of me, let alone say these things at all about people that had hired them. After this, I vowed to never be like this. Rather, I would take what was bothering me, learn from it, and figure out how I could avoid this feeling or problem next time. Last year (probably during a really busy time), I found myself saying things out loud, annoyed with emails, how projects were progressing, etc. I was projecting this negative vibe in our office. Luckily, I quickly recognized it and worked to fix how I was talking and reacting to problems. Not only did I try to change this in my business, I worked to eliminate this in my personal life. Whether that was avoiding being with a negative person, or guiding a conversation away from shit talking people... I mean, gossip is always there, but making sure that it isn't ALL you are doing is key. I've found that the more time I make for positive people in my life (that I have positive and productive convos with) the better and happier I feel. And I will be honest, occasionally we just get pissed about something and go on a rant, it's natural. But being mindful of doing it LESS and learning from it is what matters to me at this point.
3 things I’m doing in 2018
I didn't set huge goals or resolustions for 2018. I am working on quarterly "projects" instead that will help me grown my business, help me meet personal goals and inspire me to help others. So rather than sharing resolutions I won't follow, I wanted to share some small changes that I've already seen making a difference in all areas of my life. Yes, just after a few weeks.
Getting an actual office
Ok, this one isn't small. It's actually been a huge (EXPENSIVE) project. BUT, it has been 100% worth it. When we worked from home, I was easily distracted by many things... having to clean it so that our team didn't see dirty laundry, dishes, etc. (ie. life!) everywhere, mail and packages that had nothing to do with work (hello fun Zara packages I want to open right away), home tasks like laundry, trash, etc. that I could easily stop and do at lunch, neighbors coming over, solicitors at the door, and so many other things. So now that we are all responsible for the office, it's helped me let go of all of that and just GO to work. Not to mention I want to be there at a decent hour so I'm getting more out of my work day now.
I feel like it's just better for our team overall to feel like they have their own space. They can make it their own, decorate it and keep their things there without feeling awkward that they're leaving stuff in my house. We also have a space now to really meet. It's odd how much a conference table (not really but I call it that) makes a difference in scheduling a quick review of our week or a project.
Overall, I feel far more productive and professional having an office. When you are in your home, it's easy to let yourself feel like you just have a hobby and not take things seriously. I am also excited to start hosting workshops again here! I think this will be a great way to build a community again in real life, OFF of the internet.
Planning my day, the night before
I've tried this so many times, and it honestly came down to finding a great planner. Since I've started using this one, my days have changed. I think that because I don't have to open it, and it's huge, it keeps me on track.
At the end of each day, I figure out what my TOP priorities are. I space those out throughout the next day, in actual time slots, thinking about what times I am most productive at those specific tasks. For example, I don't like lettering in the morning. I can get lost in it very easily, so I save it for the end of the day. I like to get the tasks I hate most out of the way early too. Having blah tasks hanging over your head all day is the WORST. After I have those scheduled, I decide how much time I will commit to each, and fill in smaller tasks around those big ones. I also love having this big pad because throughout the day, you can write your "to-do's" down as they come to mind. Usually I use that to save tasks I want to complete the next day. At the end of the day, I schedule them in on my next sheet.
Not having to think about what you HAVE to do in the morning when you get to work is the best. You have your day ready to go and can jump right in! It also helps the night before. Writing down what you have to get done helps get it off of your chest for the night. You won't lie in bed worrying that you won't remember those tasks in your head the next day.
Travel. Collaborations. New Projects. I'm jumping right in. I'm booking the flight, emailing new people, and scheduling mini tasks to kick off the projects I've been putting off for months. If we wait for the perfect time, it will never come.
I used to be nuts about picking the perfect time to schedule things into my calendar. For example, if someone wanted to collaborate in the past, I would look at my calendar and be like, um... well in February it's my husbands birthday and we have a trip, then it's my birthday so I will def be doing something in March, but then April, we will probably be busy with new clients... So June it is! And then it never. happens. So I have stopped trying to make my life easy and perfect and am fitting things in that are important to me. In just a few weeks, I already feel like I am closer than I was to making these important changes than I was in all 12 months of 2017 when I would just hope they would happen at some point. FYI, thinking and hoping things will happen aren't actionable steps towards getting anything done. What's that quote... "dreams don't work unless you do"
If you guys want to share changes you are making this year or what helped you last year, I'd love to hear those below in the comments!
Image by Kimi Domino