Planning for next year, are we thinking far enough ahead?

Like most small business owners I know, the Christmas limbo between the big day and new year is often filled with this years reflections and next years exciting ideas, but is it the right way forwards?

Article Info

December 20, 2023 4 mins

What we will cover

December is a very reflective time of the year for me, I approach my work life with “a let’s get shit done attitude”, I try to keep my head in the right areas and move things forward as thoughtfully and well as I can given that time is always a sparse commodity in a small business. 

I am also reminded by that magical time of year when everyone just stops, that it is time for me to do so too. And much like my commitment to progress, I go big on the downtime front too. Vu has always offered a generous Christmas shutdown on top of our usual leave allocation, and I spend that time looking back.

Christmas reflections

For those who have any suspicions about just how mad I might be, this will confirm it, I interview myself every year. Creating two separate internal voices for a kind of self-appraisal, then I find a quiet space for a reflective internal conversation. 

When the person appraising you knows exactly the issue you are skirting around, and can ask the driving questions it’s an incredibly enlightening experience. It can also be quite hard, it challenges self-made blockers, picks at my weaknesses and shines a light on constructed distractions.

Having done this for a number of years, it’s around now I begin to get an inkling of the topics that my self-appointed boss will want to drive at, and I can even sense some positive feedback for a job well done in 2023, however, there’s always new ground trodden when you create a dialogue. 

I don’t know if it’s for everyone or just the blindingly mad, but do let me know if you do this so I can feel slightly more self-assured!

Another cycle that has become as common as the leaves falling around me at this time of year is that we are always busy, pushing for digital projects to get over the line before the Christmas break, with little lined up in the new year, as the communal feel for business planning hasn’t quite stretched into the first quarter of 2024.

However, experience also tells me that in January, we will have a whole new set of business owners and marketers who have reflected over their year, come back having re-energised the batteries and are scheming their next product launch or growth challenge in the business.

Next years workshops will be different

Most of these conversations will be greeted by a marketing planning workshop, the most enlightening way to get everyone on the same page with a strategy, and my favourite way to spend time at work nowadays. 

Next year, I intend to bring some different ideas to this thinking, our service range will put sustainability at its core, asking businesses to align themselves with purpose, encouraging them to contribute back to the planet that has enabled them to do their work and help them communicate their impact to the world with pride.  

This isn’t just my agenda to drive. It is how a forward-thinking business must operate in order to survive. Research from Edelman shows two thirds of customers buy on “belief”, I am not looking after my clients effectively if I am not expressing how important it is in the current and future marketplace to stand for something.

Are we measuring the right things?

Of course, the challenges I get tasked with are often around better results, an increase in profit is the normal metric, and the tribe is an excellent tonic for that ailment. The normal approach is also to set these targets annually, with the perception that incremental change is the key to growth. 

Except it isn’t is it?

It is the key to layering on something that has previously worked, designed for an ecosystem that has since evolved, in short it is rooted in bolting something onto the past. 

My business partner will tell you, the future is already here, we need to rip up the script, bravely move into uncharted territory, not be threatened by AI, not just do what we have done before. And with all this change, we will see the previous solutions become a thing of the past even quicker than we have before.

We need to think about the bigger issues we are trying to solve, understand what the negative impacts are from us doing our work, and get creative to counter these issues and embrace the uncertainty of change. 

Uneasy isn’t it? A bit like opening yourself up to questioning from your harshest critic, but change can be liberating as well as uncertain, and questioning can enlighten the positive steps as well as the missed opportunities.

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