Transcript 088 – Andrea Miller on Conducting an Annual Review
Transcript: Episode 088 – Andrea Miller on Conducting an Annual Review
Transcript for Episode 088 — Andrea Miller on Conducting an Annual Review
Today’s episode is a slightly updated rebroadcast of an episode I released last year around this time. In it, I explained my process for reviewing the past year and setting goals for the year ahead.
This has been a year of leveling up for me. I’ve had some incredible professional opportunities come my way that have prompted a lot of personal growth. It’s been challenging in all the ways that make my entrepreneurial heart happy and it’s been a really fun year.
My goal-setting has leveled up this year, too. The process hasn’t changed substantially, but another year of practice has helped me become more honest with myself about what, realistically, will and will not get done.
I’ve also had to be more disciplined about what opportunities I do pursue in my studio and especially with Music Studio Startup, so spending time on the higher level visioning has been really important.
This episode is more about the nitty gritty details of quarterly and annual goal-setting and doesn’t get into the higher level stuff as much, but my free Vision & Values course does, so I’ll link to that in the show notes.
Speaking of show notes, there are a bunch of resources to accompany this episode. There’s a set of printable reflection questions to help you take stock of last year and also info about the upcoming cohort of Business Building 101 that will be starting the week of January 24. You can find all of that at musicstudiostartup.com
My Goal-Setting Process
OK, enough chit chat, on to the goal-setting process:
I start by scheduling time to set goals.
I find the holidays too hectic for setting realistic goals, so I quit trying to cram it in. Instead, I use January for review and reflection and then set my goals to start in February.
I also use the system laid out in a book called the 12 Week Year. The premise of this book is that when people and organizations set annual goals, they tend to make the most progress when the goal is first set and motivation is high and then a lot of progress at the end when that deadline is looming, but not a lot gets done in the middle.
The authors propose just chopping out the middle weeks and focusing on shorter 12-week stints to have more consistent progress through the entire year. This system is nimble and flexible, in a way that makes sense for a small business and it just seems to work well for me, so I’ve adopted it. The goals I set in January are only for Feb, Mar, and April.
Review & Reflect
The first part of my process is to review and reflect on the previous goal period. I do give myself a dedicated time to do this. Usually an hour. Not more than two hours.
The free-form thinkers in the audience might journal about this. I find blank pages a little daunting, so I put together a list of questions to reflect on and I will share this list as a downloadable pdf in the show notes.
I think about what worked and didn’t work in my business generally. So, this might be a program I ran, a promotion I experimented with, a process I’ve been using. I think pretty broadly here.
Then I review the numbers. Students numbers, revenue, expenses, key ratios. Depending on your business, you might also be looking at the number of leads you brought in, how well you converted those leads, or other metrics.
I’ve also been trying to be better about noticing personal growth and celebrating wins that probably won’t me on any Forbes list of accomplished business leaders, but have had a significant impact on my business. This could be recognizing a positive mindset shift or a way I stepped outside my comfort zone.
You might be celebrating something like overcoming a tech phobia to move your studio online or getting over the fear of losing students in order to make an important change in your studio. I’d really love to hear these celebrations!
That’s it for the reflection stage. I try to make this stage just about collecting. Collecting data, collecting thoughts, collecting observations.
It’s hard, but I *try* to hold off on actually evaluating or processing my thoughts at this stage. The time for that will come, but not yet.
My brain is usually on fire with ideas during this entire process, which can be super distracting and not all that helpful. Often the ideas are cool or sound fun, but aren’t necessarily what I need to be doing to move my business along, so I don’t want these shiny thoughts to hijack my goal-setting process. Now I keep a separate piece of paper nearby just to capture these ideas so I can review them later. I’ll give them a fair shot when I’m setting goals and projects for the year, but I want to make sure I’m letting my review inform my goal setting, not just chasing the first fun idea that pops into my head.
Now I’ve got a few pages of written reflections and probably a few financial reports from my accounting system. At this point, I usually step away from my notes and come back a day or two later to process.
With my thoughts captured and reports gathered, I’m ready to evaluate my previous year.
This is when I try to find meaningful insights and themes from my reflections. I pay attention to things like…
Which parts of my business were the most profitable and which parts cost the most to run
Which parts I most enjoy and which parts cause the most stress or frustration
And I look at where I’m spending the most time and which areas of my business could benefit from more attention
I’m trying to find areas where my business is being held back by something I need to face or where my business is thriving and I might want to focus on more.
Sometimes even subtle things become glaringly obvious once we’ve taken the time to put them on paper.
The last time I did this reflection and processing, I noticed that I was getting stuck at the same point on several big goals. It wasn’t a matter of not having the right tools or enough information. I was just reaching the edge of my comfort zone and then kind of stopping.
When I noticed this happening consistently across several projects, I knew one of my goals for the upcoming quarter needed to be around my personal growth in that area.
You might also notice themes around persistent points of stress that aren’t going away.
Maybe your studio is growing, but the overall financial picture doesn’t seem to be improving.
Or you’re constantly feeling pressure to reschedule lessons and it’s driving your crazy.
Data and metrics can speak volumes, but I also take note of these stresses and nagging feelings because they are often the first clue that something is off.
On the more positive side, I also consider new opportunities and ideas that I might want to incorporate into my business! This is when I pull out that list of ideas I had been trying to not get sidetracked by before.
At this stage, I’m looking for the challenges or areas of growth that are likely to have the greatest impact on my business. Sometimes the idea of facing these things makes me a little uncomfortable. I consider that to be a good indication that I’m on the right track.
Now I’m in the actual goal-setting step. I review those areas that stood out to me from the last step and select just two or three to tackle in the coming quarter. Then I write very specific goals around them.
If you’re familiar with writing “SMART” goals, or goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound, that can be helpful here.
If my studio was growing but still struggling financially, my goal might be to draft a realistic financial plan for the next year in order to identify what steps I need to take to get the business on a healthier course.
Under that primary goal, I might have a bunch of tasks, like compare the last two years of financial statements, read a book or take a course on business finance, meet with a coach or financial advisor, identify changes to implement in the next quarter, make a plan for introducing changes to students, etc.
One important part to this is that the goals have a purposeful outcome. I wouldn’t make a goal to post on Instagram everyday just for the sake of posting on Instagram, for instance.
But if I have a goal to grow my studio by 10 students and I know that Instagram has helped me get students in the past, my goal may be to create and implement an Instagram plan based on what previously worked and will produce the results I’m looking for.
OR, maybe I’m not even at that point yet and I just want to experiment with Instagram to see if it could potentially be a part of my ongoing marketing strategy, I might have a goal to design and run an Instagram experiment where I systematically post and review the results and measure the costs (both in dollars and time) to determine if Instagram should be a marketing channel I rely on.
I want my goals to actually move the needle for my business, so it’s important that they have measurable and meaningful outcomes and that I’m not just doing tasks because they seem like good things to do.
Finally, with meaningful goals established, it’s time to get to work!
The 12-Week Year authors go into a lot of detail about how to track goals. I’ve found their process kind of cumbersome for the kind of work I do, so I do my own thing here.
I’ve been using David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology for task management for about a decade, and if you’re familiar with that system, you know about the weekly review. If you’re not familiar with this system, the weekly review is pretty much what it sounds like.
Basically, I have a weekly check-in with myself where I review my goals and determine the next actions to take towards those goals. That’s it.
I’m also trying to do a better job celebrating goals when they’ve been accomplished, but that’s a growth area for me.
There you have it. That’s my process.
As I described the process here, it probably sounds more clean cut and organized than it actually is. I try to be systematic, but I regularly find myself going down a rabbit trail and getting way too far into the weeds, mapping out some program that may never come to fruition, and then reigning myself back in for the task at hand, trying to keep the 3-month horizon at the forefront of my mind since this process is all about big picture planning.
As per the 12-Week Year, I repeat this process every three months. If you do some mental math, you know that four 12-week quarters only gets you 48 weeks and there are 52 weeks in a year. The 12-Week Year also builds in a buffer week between each quarter, which is really helpful for resetting and establishing new goals for the upcoming quarter.
As you set your goals for the new year, I hope you’ll share them on social media and tag me so I can see what you’re up to!
That’s all from the rebroadcast, now a reminder if you’re listening to this in January 2022 – If one of your goals is to build a thriving studio, consider joining the next Business Building 101 live cohort that will be starting the week of January 24.
I’ll take you through all the foundational decisions of setting up a business – we’ll talk about how to attract great students, setting rates, legal structures, financial sustainability, and more.
If you’re on the fence about whether or not to join, feel free to reach out – I’m always happy to answer your questions and I’ll probably ask a few of my own to see if the course will help you reach your goals.
As always the transcript for this episode can be found at musicstudiostartup.com/episode088, where you’ll also find the printable reflection questions and registration details for Business Building 101.
That’s all for today. Thanks for listening! I’ll be back next week.