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Do you have a business plan for 2016? Here are some basic strategies.

Because It IS Up to You: Creating Your Business Plan for 2016

jennifer cox

Jennifer Cox operated a family embroidery business beginning in 1990. She is one of the founders of the National Network of Embroidery Professionals (NNEP), a national organization that supports embroidery and apparel decoration professionals with programs and services designed to increase profitability and production. Cox is currently the president of NNEP.

Happy New Year! Now that 2015 is behind us, how pleased are you with your personal and professional performance? Are you thinking about doing more, better, bigger in 2016? Now is an excellent time to take an honest look at what you accomplished in 2015, and then create a plan for 2016 to move closer to your goals.

Wait, you do have goals, right? You may not have identified them as such yet, but that’s OK. It is time to commit to at least one specific goal, right this very moment.

Set your goal

Step 1: Grab a permanent marker and a piece of paper.

Step 2: Imagine “the number,” the dollar amount you secretly dream about in your innermost thoughts. Maybe this number is $10 million, maybe it is $10,000. There is NO wrong answer because this is about your dream, your goal, your secret wish of what you imagine your business can do.

Step 3: Write your number on that paper, in that big fat marker. Believe it or not, just the simple act of writing it down has done something for you; it has made that goal realer. Now you have a defined target.

Step 4: Post that paper where you will see it when you are working on your business. If you are the only one that ever sees it, that’s fine. If you share what that paper means with anyone, that is even better.

A year from now, I hope you still have that paper posted somewhere, and that you look at it and think, “Yes, I did move closer to that goal in 2016.” What do you have to lose?

Making it happen

Next up is the, “how you make it happen,” part of the process. If you work full-time in your business, on average (I know, we are far from average in this industry), adults spend 2,000 hours at work each year, based on 40 hours per week, 50 weeks a year. That is a very finite number of hours. You can muddle your way through 2016, or you can take control of those 2,000 hours and maximize them by deciding how many of these hours you spend growing your business.

If you have never dedicated time each week or each month to actively growing your business, imagine the impact you can have by dedicating even 5–10 percent of these work hours to the specific effort of growing your business. Five percent of those 2,000 hours is 100 hours, which breaks down to two hours per week. While two hours a week does not sound like much, you can make significant progress with that amount of time.

Take a look back at 2015. Review the jobs you did and find the orders that were the most profitable for you. Find the customers that you liked working with the best. Find the designs that sewed the most efficiently. Imagine your business flooded with more orders, customers, and designs like these. Getting more of your favorite types of work is easier once you identify them and discover what made them so desirable. Was it the order size, the stitch count, or the products involved? Was it the fact they were nice people or paid up front? Was the design digitized flawlessly? Why not go after more jobs with qualities such as these that meet these high standards?

Instead of chasing any customer, go after customers that share similar characteristics with your ideal customer. If the orders that were profitable come in around 24–48 pieces, bump your order minimums to 24 pieces, and for orders that are smaller than that, implement a small “less than minimum charge.” If even 25 percent the orders that come in bump up to hit that minimum, you have gained quite a lot. And for the people that walk away, you still win because you don’t waste time on orders that don’t meet your profit needs. Instead, take that time and spend it finding more ideal orders and customers. If you love orders with designs digitized by a certain digitizer, use them exclusively from now on. If a customer brings you a design, let them know that if their design does not sew like it would if created by your digitizer, that you reserve the right to have the design digitized to run optimally, and that there will be a charge for this.

After you have identified your targets, the next step is to take the time to look at your business through the eyes of your customers. What does your website look like? Is it mobile-friendly? Are your samples fresh and current, or tired and bedraggled? Do you need updated business cards? Are you and your staff wearing current products from your preferred suppliers or the same shirts you made as your first attempts to run the machine? Take stock of what you and your business look like from the public’s point of view and take the time to put your business in order both visually and online.

Once you and your business are all spiffed up, the next step is to engage your community with your best foot forward. Host an open house, turn on the machine, or merchandise the heck out of your samples in a community setting. This is your chance to remind your community that you are here to serve their needs for custom and brand building apparel and products. Send an article to your local weekly paper about the power of branding, and at the end of the article, offer a free 15 minute “branding” consultation where you look at what companies are doing and offer suggestions of ways they could increase the awareness of their brand through the use of logoed apparel and products.

The secret to spending time to build the business you want and hit your secret goal, is to do things every single week and month that move you and your business forward towards that goal. If you are always responding, and reacting to whatever walks in the door, you are passively running your business. You may not even realize it. You go to work, you run orders, you create invoices, and you respond to the emails, calls, or people that walk in the door. Yet at the end of the day, month and year, it is likely that you will not be that much closer to achieving your goal because you were reacting to customers instead of generating new opportunities.

Generating new opportunities is hard, no way around it. Yet, it is completely possible when you have a clear idea of what kinds of new opportunities are best for you. If you spend even just those two hours a week looking for and connecting with businesses and customers that fit the profile of your ideal orders, customers, and designs, you will be that much more ahead at the end of the year.

This is not to say that you should turn away the business that comes your way. Take whatever walks in and rock those orders. When one of these jobs happens to align with your “ideal” profiles, ask them if they can think of anyone that they know that might benefit from working with you. It is likely that they have the kinds of connections that would also fit the profile of the customers you are trying to develop.

I realize that everything I am talking about here may seem abstract and not that specific for you. Only you can take a look at your business and decide what is the ideal order, customer, or design. Taking the time to look at your business from this big picture perspective is one of the secrets of successful business owners. They step back from the day to day process of their businesses so they can identify patterns, situations, and opportunities that put them in the right place at the right time to make the most of what life puts in front of them.

Creating a specific plan of what steps you will take for at least two hours per week to work on your business is one of the best ways to keep focused on achieving on your goal. Some people actually schedule this time on their calendar each week as an appointment they keep with themselves and their business. These people are committed to doing things to make their dreams come true. In 2016, you could be one of them if you take the time to look at your business over the past year, look at where you want to be at the end of next year, and then come up with the ways you want to make it happen.

If you spend your time doing exactly what you did in 2015, how do you expect to have different results in 2016? If you have a goal that you have not yet realized, now is the time to get crystal clear about it. This is the time to pull together a plan to move in the direction you want to bring you closer to that goal because you can make it happen. It will not happen by accident. It can happen if you spend even just a few hours a week identifying your targets and then trying to connect with them.