But if you don’t want to find yourself facing the ghosts of interior design past, present, and future, it’s time to add an annual business review to that list of resolutions.
If you haven’t been doing one, now is the perfect time to start. January 1, 2020, marks not only a new year but also an entirely new decade. (P.S. How’d that happen so fast? Wasn’t it just 2011 a few years ago?!?!)
I’m sharing this amazing review and planning guide that will help you sleigh your way (see what I did there) into 2020 with a plan that will guide your business through all the fog — just like Rudolph’s red nose.
This document will help you work through not only your business fundamentals but how you’re feeling about what you’re doing, what challenges you and what you want in the future. And as those things change, just return to this guide each year for a new set of plans.
Let me break down a little bit of what this guide offers and how to use it:
First off, just because we’re heading into a new year doesn’t mean you have to time your annual review for right around the holidays. I normally complete mine sometime between November and February. It just depends on my schedule.
The review is essentially a list of questions that helps you assess your business and plan for the future. Everything from what are your favorite elements or tasks associated with what you do as an interior designer to what you draw inspiration from. This helps you identify what you are doing now that you love and want to keep doing in the future.
You’ll likely see a theme recurring as you jot these answers down. For me, I found my favorite tasks revolved around not just building the business but also teaching others. I get so excited to share my knowledge and watch someone else’s lightbulb go off when they realize, “yes, I can totally do it.”
Going through my annual review a few years ago helped me determine the right path for me was creating the business course I finally launched this past year. And because my designers are kickass and no longer need me teaching them the ins and outs of running the business, I know I can embark on this adventure and let them handle a bit more of the day-to-day work.
I also examine what projects I found the most creatively draining. It doesn’t have to be working with clients or specific design projects, either. As much as I loved it, creating my course and launching it was quite exhausting, but that’s exactly why I made sure to enlist help and offload some of my business tasks to my team.
So don’t just look at what you love but what’s been difficult — and why. How can you adjust next time around whether it’s not taking on a specific project or finding ways to spread out tasks among your team so you can focus on the projects that need your individual attention or touch the most.
It’s not all about how you feel — your business has to make financial sense as well.
Did you have a $$$ goal this year? If you didn’t, why not? If you did have a goal, did you meet it? And what are you going to set as your financial goal for the upcoming year?
It’s important to make sure you’re paying yourself what you deserve, and if you discover you’re underpaying for your hard work, you need to examine the reasons behind that and make adjustments ASAP.
Also take a look at your financial and time investments that didn’t give you a measurable return. For example, I joined a business council that overpromised and underdelivered, and I won’t be doing that again.
Then look at potential new investments. You do have to spend money to make money but you have to be strategic about it and not get carried away with I’m going to do all the things and it will definitely, magically pay off in the end. If a magazine approaches you, make sure you really look into how much time it will entail to put things together and what exposure to new clients you might before you dive in out of unbridled excitement.
Finally, don’t forget taxes. Just don’t. They’re going to sneak up on you quickly. It’s already past time to gather that shoebox of receipts that is hopefully somewhat organized and hand it over to your tax prep person. Better yet, you should be doing tax prep year-round and setting money aside to plan ahead so you’re not shocked with a large tax bill once April rolls around.
This is a question I’m really working on myself: “Would you consider yourself a business owner or business operator?”
Personally, I’m trying to get out of the COO role and into the CEO role because that’s where I excel. As interior designers, it’s a challenge because you have to be in the trenches while also taking a wide view to be strategic in how you spend your time.
Think of it this way: The military leader figures out strategy at the CEO level while the soldier and lower level officers deploy at the COO level.
My annual review guide is not a lot of work and will help you answer all these questions and more. It’s very thought-provoking and will help you figure out what needs to be done to have more ideal workdays over the entire year.
And don’t throw out last year’s review as you get ready to fill out a new one, either. I keep all my completed reviews in a folder so I can look back.
We don’t often give ourselves credit for how far we’ve come and by looking at not only the past year but the past few — or several — years, you can be surprised at what you’ll find.