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The Clarity Journal

Tactics, Tools, and Truth for Creative Entrepreneurs

Inside My Quarterly Planning Retreat

Toward the end of March, I was feeling worn out, frazzled, and unfocused. An unusual amount of travel, a lot of client work, plus the demands of my personal life formed a perfect storm that left me in desperate need of a reset. I know that many of you can relate to feeling like you are drifting and in need of a jolt of inspiration and motivation.

Here’s the good news: I think it’s completely normal to feel like this. So normal, that a quarterly planning retreat has become rhythm for me as well as all of my Thrive Program clients.

In today’s post, I’m giving you a behind the scenes look at my most recent quarterly planning retreat, as well as my own business goals for 2019. I follow the exact same planning process as my clients, so this post will also give you a flavor of how the Thrive Program helps clients stay on track and accountable with their plans and goals.

What to Do on Your Quarterly Planning Retreat

My typical planning retreat is around six hours (the length of my average work day). However, if you are in a crunch, you can accomplish everything in about four hours. But, keep in mind that planning is self-care, so I encourage you to take the time you need.

My normal routine for a planning day is to begin the morning by doing something fun, inspiring, or refreshing. In times past, I have gone to museums, gone on long walks, or sat in a coffee shop to read. After that, I’ll go out to lunch and treat myself to something that feels luxurious but also won’t send me into a food coma. Then, after lunch I’ll get to the business planning. I can normally accomplish the business planning in two to three hours. Here are the steps I go through.

Part 1: Reflect on the Last Quarter

The first step is some big-picture reflection. I answer questions like what went well, what didn’t go well, and what lessons have you learned in the past three months. I had a lot of good insights from my reflection time this quarter, but my major takeaways are as follows.

  • I’m thankful that a lot of things are going well right now. Specifically, one of the biggest things I needed to fix from last year was my client experience. The Thrive Program content itself was solid, but I wasn’t providing the high-touch experience I really wanted to give my clients. I was grateful upon reflection that I’ve had a complete 180% turnaround in this area. My client surveys are coming back with great feedback, and more importantly, clients are getting results in their businesses.

  • I’ve always been hesitant to put too much of myself in my business and brand. Part of that comes from a good place, but, if I’m honest, a big part of it is fear. Going forward, I don’t want fear to hold me back from putting more of myself and my own story into the brand. It’s time to live up to my 2019 word of the year (vulnerable).

  • There are a lot of things I have been overthinking. It’s good to want to do things “right” the first time. But, it’s not good to let the perfect become the enemy of the good. There are a few things that I’m going to start this quarter that might not be perfect the first time around, and I’m going to try my best to be ok with that!

Part 2: Review Financial Performance

The second step in the process is reviewing your financial results. I pulled my P&L and compared it to my pro-forma from the beginning of the year. My goal revenue for the quarter was $12,750, and I brought in $9,700 (about $3,000 short). It always stings when I fall short of a goal. However, the purpose of this exercise isn’t to berate myself. The purpose is to understand why and learn from what happened.

A major reason I didn’t hit my goal is because as the Thrive Program grows, custom consulting work (financial planning, strategic planning, and team health consulting) becomes less and less of a factor in my business. In the long-term this will mean I can focus more on growing and scaling my core business. So, even though my short term numbers fall short, things are trending in the right direction in the long term.

Part 3: Check Goal Progress

After checking in on the financials, the next step is to review my 2019 goals. The purpose of the check-in is to assess whether I am on track and also whether any of the goals need to be revised to reflect current realities.

I started the year with eight goals. The following goals are on-track.

  • Speak on a stage. (Completed! Thanks Alt Summit.)

  • Get 50% of my Thrive Program clients from referrals. 

  • Be on a first-name basis with a high-level industry contact. 

  • Prepare the Thrive Program to release as an online course. 

  • Earn $50,000 in revenue. This is going to be a slight stretch, but it’s still doable if I execute my plan. So I’m still considering it to be “on-track” even though Q1 didn’t go as-planned.

Here are some goals that need to be revised.

  • Develop and launch Thrive for Teams. I want to expand my product offerings, and the idea I had at the beginning of the year was to create a goal-setting protocol for creative agencies and teams. I still want to do this, but I had a different idea for an expansion that I want to pursue first. I revised this goal to read “Develop and launch a new product” to allow for that flexibility.

  • Work with 4 Thrive Program clients per quarter. The idea of this is still valid, but I realized I need to account for seasonality as well as the diminishing role of custom consulting. I revised this to read “Work with 19 Thrive Program clients this year.” Again, this is going to be a challenge, but doable.

Here are some goals that are not on track and that need some extra love this quarter.

  • 1,000 subscribers on my e-mail list. Full-disclosure: this has been on my goals list since 2017, and I’m still not there, mostly because I haven’t been giving it enough attention. I’m excited about some things I have planned for this quarter that should (fingers crossed) result in some list growth.

Part 4: Make a 90-Day Plan

After going through big picture reflection, a financial review, and a goal review, it normally becomes really clear what I need to focus on in the next 90 days. 

The final product of the planning day is a 90-day plan that identifies progress I want to make in the next quarter on each goal as well as key tasks and projects that will help me get there.  

Here is a photo of my plan for Q2 of 2019. I try and keep it simple enough to fit on a single page that I carry with me in my work bag at all times. Hence, the bent and crumpled pages.

Here is a photo of my plan for Q2 of 2019. I try and keep it simple enough to fit on a single page that I carry with me in my work bag at all times. Hence, the bent and crumpled pages.

You Can Grow Your Business with Confidence and Clarity

I’m going into the quarter feeling refreshed, energized, and crystal clear on what I am trying to accomplish. Will my execution be perfect? No way. Will I get to everything on my list? Probably not. Will I hit every milestone? Nope. But, I can confidently move forward knowing that the things I am focusing on are important, strategic, and going to get me the results that I want to see in my business.

If you want to have this kind of clarity in your business, I’d encourage you to look into the Thrive Program. I’m currently booking clients for May.