The Accomplished Solopreneur

Issue 22.42

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Spend 1 day working on your business (to get a year’s value)

Three to four times a year I take a day out to work exclusively on my business (as opposed to working in the business).

I call these strategy days, and here’s how I do it.

What is a strategy day (and why do it)?

A strategy day is one day where you work exclusively on your business. No phones, no work, no interruptions. You spend the whole day just strategizing and planning.

If you’re wondering if a strategy day is going to be valuable for you, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I know exactly where I’m going?
  • Do I know how I’m going to get there?
  • What have I been doing in the recent past, and has it worked?
  • Do I know exactly where I need to focus over the next 3-6 months?

If you can answer these questions clearly and succinctly, you know what your strategy and your plan is. If not, read on.

Start with a plan

Just going out and having a strategy day is not going to work. You have to have a plan for the day. Fortunately, the plan is relatively simple, but you have to start with the rules.

Rules for a strategy day

Be very clear on the rules for the day. If you don’t follow these rules, you will probably not get value from your strategy day. Here are my rules:

  • Schedule it at least three months in advance.
  • Do it away from your usual place of work.
  • Don’t allow any interruptions. No phones, no email, no meetings.

I find it best to plan my strategy days around holidays when things are relatively quiet.

The plan for the day

I divide my day into six parts:

  1. Get really clear (again) on where I’m going, and why (goals)
  2. Review how I’m going to get there (strategy)
  3. Recent past review (have I been doing the right stuff?)
  4. Financial review
  5. Business review
  6. Planning and prioritization

This is intellectually and emotionally challenging stuff, so I try to fit this into no more than 6 hours (with decent breaks between sections). More than that and your brain just starts spinning.

Running the strategy day

I use 7 large, self-stick Post-It sheets all around the room. The first contains the six things I want to cover, the others one for each part. (More sheets are added as I need them.)

Then I work through each part.

1. Goals

I write out what I want my business to look like, and why.

This is the most important part of the whole strategy day. Everything else flows from this, and knowing exactly where you’re going (and why) will make it very clear if you’re doing the right stuff or not.

This part is exciting and energizing. You’re painting a picture of what you want your business (and your life) to look like. Make sure it gets you excited (otherwise why do it at all?).

2. Strategy

Now I find the 5 to 10 major milestones I need to hit to reach my goals (I use large Post-It notes so I can move stuff around).

There’s a logical sequence to these milestones. You have to reach the first before you can start working on the second, and so on. Most often, I work backwards from my goals to determine what I need to do to each each goal.

At the end of this part, I usually take a break and come back to review what I’ve done. This forms the basis for the rest of the day.

3. Recent past review

I look at the past 3-6 months and put Post-It Notes up to answer the following two questions:

  • What have I accomplished?
  • Where did I spend most of my time?

It’s easy to forget the things we’ve accomplished. Getting them up there reminds me that it hasn’t just been struggle.

Where I spent my time (roughly) tells me if I need to change how I work.

4. Financial review

Depending on the stage of your business this may be more or less relevant. I usually look at the last 12 months financial performance, specifically looking at gross revenue, where it came from, overheads and a few other key numbers.

This also helps me understand if there are products or services I may have to stop offering.

5. Business review

I use the Tornado Method as a framework for reviewing the 11 parts of my business.

I start with the Building Blocks. Business Model, Brand and Product Ladder each get a rating, and I make notes of things I need to change, improve or stop.

Then I tackle the Revenue Engine. The Revenue Engine Worksheet (in the Beginner’s Guide to the Tornado Method) tells me what’s working, what needs to be improved, capture any ideas for new stuff and finally, stuff I’m going to stop doing.

Here’s a screenshot of the Revenue Engine Worksheet from the Beginner’s Guide to the Tornado Method:

In my strategy day, I make a hand-drawn version of the Revenue Engine Worksheet on one of the large Post-It sheets and use smaller Post-It Notes to capture each item.

6. Planning and prioritization

Finally, I use all the work I’ve done so far to create a high-level plan for the next 3 to 12 months. The closer I get in time (the next 3 months), the more detail I have.

This is where you get the next big chunk of value from the strategy day:

By the end of the planning and prioritization part, you should know exactly where you’re going to focus for the next 3-6 months, and the key projects you need to complete or make progress on.

Be careful not to get into too much detail. You just need to know what the most important goals or milestones are for the next 3-6 months. You can sort out the detail later.

And be conservative with what you think you can achieve. Life is going to happen.

Wrapping up your day

Now it’s time to wrap up your day.

  • First, ask yourself “if I do the things in my plan, will I be making progress to where I want to be?”
  • Then take pictures of everything.
  • Celebrate in style. You’ve done some really hard work, and you should take the time to relax and enjoy what you’ve done.

Do this three to four times a year. It gets easier every time, and the one day of investment of your time pays off for a long time.