Somehow, it’s already December.
I know, I can’t believe it either. But it’s true. And you know what that means – it’s time to review 2014 and prepare for 2015. A lot of people have already started this process, but I like to leave it until after our last conference of the year, so that I can incorporate as much feedback from my clients as possible.
For me, December is a time of reflection. I take out my marketing/business development plan (which I have been reviewing throughout the year, not just this month) and take a good look at it. So in the shuffle to get through all of our year-end activities, try these two tips to have an even more productive 2015.
Tip One: Review
While each new calendar year is a fresh start, there’s no better way to begin your planning than by taking some time to look back first. Hopefully, you’ve been regularly reviewing your marketing/business development plans, so you have an idea of where you stand in terms of accomplishments.
If not, now is a good time to set yourself up to do so next year. However you handle your to-do list, give yourself a quarterly reminder to check in and see how things are progressing.
Even if you have been checking in with your plan regularly, I like to do a full review at the end of the year. I ask myself:
- Which of my goals and activities really worked this year?
- Which of my goals and activities weren’t as successful?
- What do I continue doing, what do I adjust or tweak, and what do I get rid of?
When you set up measurable goals for yourself, some of these answers will be easily seen.
Note here too which activities you weren’t able to get to, and ask yourself why that was.
- Were you not motivated to do them?
- Did you try them and decide they really weren’t for you?
- Was it the activity, or you, that didn’t work out?
David Ackert spoke recently (we recapped that here) about choosing the types of activities that you’re more comfortable with – and I agree with him. While it’s good to stretch yourself out of your comfort zone, and to test whether you may like a certain type of business development activity, there will come a point at which you know yourself well enough to identify what won’t work for you.
For example, was your plan for the year filled with grand ideas of speaking engagements and big networking events, but you’re an introvert who just could not force yourself to do those things? That’s okay – it just means you have to rework your plan for next year to include things that will set you up for success.
The keys here are to be honest with yourself, and review your plan with a fresh set of eyes. Ask yourself the tough questions in the review stage to make the planning and execution of your plan much more smooth! You may even want to review last year’s plan with a colleague, mentor or coach who can offer you a different perspective.
Tip Two: Plan, Plan, Plan
Once you’re done reviewing, it’s time to dive into planning for next year. I like to use the previous year’s plan as the starting point, which is why the review process is also so important to me. I’ll take out anything that didn’t serve me well the previous year, and revisit the action items and goals that did work well to update them accordingly.
The new plan will be a mix of:
- Previously used tactics that worked well, updated for the coming year.
- Previously used tactics that need serious re-working either to make them work better for me, or because parts of my responsibilities have changed.
- Entirely new ideas.
For me, it’s important to incorporate new ideas each year. It keeps me from getting too stagnant in my efforts, it helps me to refine a sense of who I am as a business developer and marketer, and it shows my clients that I’m always trying to find the best ways to be of service to them.
Finding new ideas can be tough, so there are a few things I use:
- Client feedback: My clients are pretty good about telling me what they want. Sometimes, they have actual tactics that they suggest, which will work well for me or the Network, while other times, they’re voicing an issue that I need to be creative about solving. I keep notes throughout the year to adjust my existing plan, or to incorporate in the following year’s plan, so that it’s an ever-evolving document.
- Trusted colleagues: Take a look at what works for other people. Perhaps there is someone at your firm that acts as your mentor, or is someone who is a very successful rainmaker. This person should be someone who has a similar personality to yours, so that the activities that they engage in are things that you would feel comfortable doing as well. Talk to them about what works for them, what they’re incorporating into their plan, etc. and see if you get some new ideas! Also, consider setting up meetings with them on a monthly basis to check in about your plans.
- Everyone else: I’m being a bit facetious there, but I look outside of my inner circle for ideas a lot. I’ll read blog posts from business development experts, both in and out of the legal industry, google "business development best practices" and other key phrases, etc. While law is a specialized field, it’s immensely helpful to look at what other industries are doing as well, and adopt some of the habits of people I consider to be successful. So I read blogs, books, articles, anything I can find that may inspire me, or inspire my work.
Again, these are things I do on an ongoing basis throughout the year, not just when I’m writing my plan.
What are your best practices for reviewing and planning? Share them with us in the comments, and in the meantime, I’ll be working on my plan for 2015!