Tips on how to plan for the year ahead — Lionesses of Africa

by Lizl Naude

2021 is underway and it couldn’t have arrived sooner and come as a lifeline for most, as we all struggled to make sense of 2020. Just imagine we didn’t have TIME. Or imagine that we didn’t measure time in years and it just kept on going – an on-going year that never ended!!!

This is why seasons are so important as we all need a starting point and an ending point, or a break. A new year always signals new birth, renewed hope, and fresh beginnings. I regularly chat with my fellow lionesses and entrepreneurs and I have noticed that just like me, they also struggle with switching off during the holidays. We all wish to rest, but our minds are working overtime making plans for the new season. And when January comes, we hit the ground running, sometimes to our own detriment. 

Now this brings me to the question, when should you actually start with your business planning? Usually most of us experience a surge in business from September onwards as we speed up to the end of the year and the start of the holidays. Great anticipation rules the atmosphere, and this actually leaves little time for planning and before you know it, Christmas has come and gone, and we are in January.

I have realized, through trial and error, that the best time for me to strategize and do planning is in January. And this year I decided to take the whole month of January to get my mind right and properly plan for the business year ahead. This might come as a shocker as most of us are convinced we should be hustling hard at this time to start generating sales and gaining new clients. But this year I decided to do it differently. Robin Sharma says: “Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.” The more famous quote from Albert Einstein says: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” 

I think you get where I’m going with this. This year I am taking the “work smarter not harder”, approach. Let’s look at a few tips on how to achieve this discipline:

  1. Before you start planning, review your past season/year. There is a saying by Joyce Meyer that: “We live life forward, but only understand it backwards”, and it is true for this exact point in illustration. You have to find closure of the past year and review it with objectivity.

  2. Check if you are still on course with your original vision and mission statement. Have you achieved your original vision, or does it have to be adjusted to reflect the truth of where you find yourself now?

  3. Make a list of all your success and failures for the past year, no matter how trivial or traumatic. Consider the ones that stand out and maybe note the learnings.

  4. Don’t be emotional when you do planning. Put on your business hat and make cut-throat decisions. Cancel what is not working and stick to what does.

  5. Appoint an expert. You are an expert in your field of work, and I know you wear many hats, but sometimes there are areas that are above you. I’ve realized that digital marketing is so dynamic and I cannot keep up with the trends, that is why I am in the process of recruiting the services of an on-line marketing specialist as we speak.

  6. Find your “WHY”! If you know why you are doing what you are doing, it will be easier to plan. Don’t just run a business for the sake of profit but seek the purpose behind it. This will help keep you motivated on the tough days.

  7. Study your competitors and customers. When you understand the industry, you find yourself in and know who your ideal customer is, you’ve hit the gold! (paired with the right strategy off course!)

  8. Research funding/investing opportunities. I must be honest, I used to be traumatized by applying for funding in the past. All the red tape and time it took, totally overwhelmed me. Because of lockdown I had more time last year and with some convincing from a friend, I started researching the opportunities for SMME’s. I’m happy to announce I have had a few successful outcomes!

  9. Get your financials in order. Most of us hate this side of running a company, but it is actually the spine of any successful business. By not having a healthy understanding of our financials, we risk the chance of losing our businesses. Someone told me once, “If you’re not making profit, you’re running a charity!” Ouch, that hurt! So, I could be making sales but my business could still not be profitable. The only way to know is to understand the numbers and make the necessary adjustments.

  10. Always have something to look forward to. This is the personal motto of my dear friend, Anthea Ngubane! She is the social event planner in my group of friends and is always busy planning either a party, or a trip! She says this makes life interesting and gives her hope for the future! I think we can apply this to our businesses! Whether it is a new product launch, a PR stint, a business trip, a new stockist or a promotion, always have something to look forward to! This creates anticipation and makes business exciting and dynamic!

  11. Take your time. Don’t be rushed by what everyone else is doing. If you haven’t penned down your plan for the year, don’t start trading. Yes, really! Eish! I’m doing it as we speak! I’m not really posting or marketing yet as I do not want to follow a hap hazard approach as previous years.

  12. Work according to the seasons or terms. Once again, TIME comes to our aid. Work out your plan in segments of 90 days. But make sure that the parts flow in synergy so your year flows nicely. Three-month plans allow you to review easier and make adjustments quicker.

  13. This tip is more of a marketing related one, but I will throw it in any way! 😊 Do the PR. I have found much value in sending out press releases and connecting with the media towards the end of the year. This has worked well for me in the last two years. TV programs and Magazines have a minimum of two months lead time, so if they adopt your story, it will be aired or published in the new year. This is a great way to start the year with positive PR and exposure. If you didn’t do this last year, do it now! It’s never too late!

Many of us can relay stories of how our precious plans were thrown off course during the pandemic, and how it is still continuing to affect us today. Most of us ran huge losses, but through it all, others have been given the opportunity to pivot and innovate.  If 2020 taught me anything, it is not to plan in too much detail otherwise you run the risk of great disappointment. It also taught me that no matter how hard I try, there are many things that I cannot control. But DO PLAN! Without a plan, failure is inevitable!

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