Sunday, January 26, 2014

The New Business Plan: Selecting a Theme

"A Goal Without A Plan Is Just A Wish."
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Take time the beginning of this year to read or re-read The Little Prince. This charming story is full of whimsy, sadness, heart, and universal truths. Plus.....
he knew what the fox said decades ago.

So why am I referencing a beautiful but seemingly random book?  Well, this year I've had many conversations and correspondence with artists (and some other professionals). And the stories are surprisingly similar. Maybe it is our age, the economy, the changing realities of work, or the fast pace noisy world we live in, but these are the shared themes:

How do I keep doing what I love when my body is tired and I am worried about future finances?

I know how my career started but how will it end?

I can't sleep at night because I have so many ideas but nothing is really getting done?

Am I too old to reinvent myself? And what would it look like if I did?

How can I be successful and still find joy in what I do?

And that is where The Little Prince comes in. The story's message is to look beyond the surface of things to find the truth. The meaning can be found in your heart and not your eyes.  Now this is not just some lame Successories poster saying-that won't solve anything- any more then putting a bumper sticker on your car makes you deep. Remember this is the same guy that said, "A goal without a  plan is just a wish."  What if you could create a real working plan based on the things you see in your heart?
Now let me say right away I don't really know what that this looks like and if it works. If I had a proven answer I would be on the NY Times Best Seller List and sipping a Mai Tai at my private Maui home. But I do know these things:
1.  Daydreaming is beneficial but eventually it is time to stop pinning hopes and fantasies to a virtual board and develop a real plan that will help you make your desires a reality.
2.  You don't need an MBA to create a business plan.
3. Use your strength as an Artist and start with a visual map.  Visualization boards are a great way for creative types to put ideas into a tangible format.
4.  Many people have good ideas they just lack the time/discipline to organize them.  For any idea to become reality you have to sets a goal, action steps, and a measurement method-this doesn't have to be done in a boring way.

5.  You need an honest critic as much as a supportive friend. 
I've had these discussions privately for years with my friends and family.  So this year I thought I would invite others on this journey and hope you become inspired whether you just follow me or decide to try it yourself!  Are you game? Let's go!
First, forget what you have heard about having a Mission Statement. 
A Mission Statement seems too narrow and formal.  Years ago I read about why people fail at New Year's resolutions-Nobody likes a TO DO LIST for their lives! The same can be said of a mission statement.  You are an artist so you need something inspirational to motivate your business (and your life). 
Start with a theme-it gives you more options and helps you decide how you want to FEEL this year. Once you know how you want to FEEL, you can decide on what you want to DO.  Many people do this in reverse and are then disappointed when their actions don't make them feel like they anticipated.
Don't get stuck on details at this point.  You are looking for an emotional touchstone.  Ask yourself some questions:
"What made me happy last year?"                                  "What made me unhappy?"
"What was my biggest accomplishment?'         "What was my biggest disappointment?"
"What would I change about myself (no limits)?"  "What do I like about myself?"
"What do I want more of?"                                    "What do I want less of?"
You don't have to tell this to anyone else.  And keep it personal. For example:  Instead of, "Other people make me mad" it should be "I allow other people to make me mad."  This is about how your plan will help You.  Here are my own answers to get you started:

"I was happy last year because I made time to pursue activities outside of Faux Finishing and Surfaces."  "I was unhappy last year when I compared myself to what others were posting on Facebook."

"My biggest accomplishment was running my first Half Marathon in a great time 3 months after hernia surgery."  "My biggest disappointment was working out so hard that it lead to my injury and chronic pain for 7 months."

"I do the right things for the wrong reasons.  I am motivated by winning over someone else. I would change my attitude that everything evolves into a competition."  "I like that I am very dedicated to a goal.  I set my mind to something and work very hard to achieve it."

"I want more peace of mind."  "I want less anxiety."

You should notice a pattern.The Ying & Yang of your answers.  Based on this, we are going to select a word or words for our theme.  There are many blog posts about this technique including My 3 Words by Chris Brogan.  Here are a few for you to consider:

Happiness                         Joy                              Play                         Peace
Abundance                       Compassion                Achievement           Mindful
Bravery                            Serenity                       Gratitude                 Clarity

When I "reviewed" my last year, I found that my greatest accomplishments and satisfied feelings came when I decided on a specific goal and worked toward it.  My frustrations came from being all over the place with actions, ideas and feelings (a common occurrence for creative types).  So, my first word for 2014 is:


I paired this will a qualifier-what kind of Focus did I need?  Here are few qualifiers to consider:

Simple                     Determined                        Quality                       Thoughtful
Positive                   New                                    Inner                           Outer
Assertive                 Create                                 Confident                   Courageous

I am a active and my nature is to build things, therefore my qualifier for 2014 is:

Maybe yours is Positive Serenity. Or Assertive Clarity.  Inner Happiness.  Thoughtful Play.
You get the idea.

Armed with my two word theme, I purchased a simple cardboard notebook. These can be found in the scrap booking section of most hobby stores.  This one came with a small album and then a larger one-this proved helpful later on.  Gather art supplies, magazines, etc... and don't let this be stressful.  You are not making a family heirloom!

I used the smaller album for this exercise.

First, I defined what my theme meant- yes I am a creative but systematic person.  Remember I need organization in my life! 

Then I divided My Big Theme book into areas:  Self, Family/Friends, Health, and Business.  Right now you are just thinking in general ideas about how your theme applies to these areas. But wait? This is suppose to be a business plan you say.  True.  But our lives are integrated, especially for the business owner.  One reason a business plan fails is that it doesn't take in the rests of your life.  How can you achieve financial success if you are unhealthy?  Meeting a job goal is much harder if you have relationship problems.

Start cutting up images that appeal to you. Find photographs that you love.  Doodle.  I like sparkly letters. Most of all be positive and have fun!
Once I cut up and pulled together a bunch of stuff, I started on each section.  I like that this book is small-it forced me to make choices for each area.  More then 3 ideas is really too many in my opinion  and sets you up for frustration later on.  Just remember to think about how your selections fit with your theme.

Constructive Focus On Self:
If you've followed any of my antics on Facebook, you know that I am good at going fast.  Being still? Not so much.  I am a worrier by nature so I really plan.  I am competitive so I really push hard.  And it has stressed my mind and body.  My big idea for this year is to learn Active Rest with the goal of being pain free. The black & white photo shows a woman happily posing on the beach dressed up in evening clothes and a feather boa with a sinking ship behind her.  

Constructive Focus on Family/Friends:
My big idea for family and friends is to schedule more visits and to keep up in-between, even it means just a brief text.  For my home, I have a few  a bunch of projects to get done.

Constructive Focus on Health:
I would like to start my Fitness Blog, Blond, Sweat & Cheers! I want to continue running with my Sister, Sally. It brought us closer together and was one of the happiest things that happened to me last year.  Bruce also wants to run more with us.  My other big idea is to eat more nutritional meals at home-heck, to just eat more at home.

Constructive Focus on Business:  
This page I am still working on but I know that I have to Focus on two areas. The First is keeping Current Clients.  The second focus is on attracting New Clients. This is the area that I will go more into depth for the blog.
You will notice that I have no specific goals, action steps, or measurements at this point. Just general ideas.  Next, I will take my bigger notebook and work on a visual plan for each area that is more specific.  Congratulations if you made it this far!  And double congrats if you decide to create your own theme book-we can build a plan together!
The Next Part is Personal more then Faux Related

And speaking of Constructive Focus:  I made it to Anaheim and the Tinker Bell Half Marathon!
This was my big fat personal goal for 2013. You have to sign up for Disney Races early because they sell out.  The Tinkerbell  Half sold out within 24 hours.  I rolled the dice when I signed up because the pain in my groin was getting worse. Even standing up teaching class was difficult. But,  I had faith that it would be resolved and put down my non-refundable deposit.
It took from July to September and several painful tests before someone (a dear sweet massage therapist, Tom) figured out I had a femoral hernia-my intestines were poking out under my inguinal ligament! Ouch!  I had surgery in October with the idea that my pain was over- I even ran in a Halloween Race 2 weeks after surgery. And got 2nd place.

Behind my smile is a lot of pain.  My surgery resulted in my femoral nerve becoming compressed and my ligaments and muscles were stressed from months of my leg compensating for the hernia.  So I began a very Focused journey to heal myself.  I think because I was so determined, Bruce booked our hotel, car, and plane tickets. 
My only training was one run a week with Sally and a 10K and/or5k in November & December. And because I am bull-headed, I ran those to win it. Placing 4th twice and 3rd once. They made for good Facebook pictures but my body was very angry with me.  
Every night I read medical journals and blogs on my problems.  I found the medical facility I wanted and was very assertive in getting seen.  With help from a physical therapist and my own research, I have changed the way I sleep, relax, stand, walk, and sit. And we went to Anaheim on a wing and prayer.
Two days before the race, I couldn't walk without pain. How was I going to run 13.1 miles? Especially since I had topped out at 8 miles in training.  We stopped in a booth selling Hokas, a very cushioned shoe and I tried on a pair. It was like clouds on my feet!  Bruce bought me a pair and I tested them Saturday morning on a treadmill-I felt really good!
The night before I had a vision of what my run would look like and went with my gut.  I changed my outfit and decided to wear my new shoes-something most people don't do before a race.  I said a prayer and went to bed at 9pm.
I woke up at 3am to get ready for the race feeling rested and mostly pain free.  Bruce dropped me off at 4am to walk to my race corral-Group B-the second fastest group.  And for the first time in my life of competitive sports, I was relaxed.  This was for fun!  Just enjoy it. And I did.
 I stopped for pictures. High fived the Red Hat Ladies and Cheerleaders on the route.  I congratulated other runners on the course. One guy I ran with for awhile had a sign on his back that said: "6 months ago I couldn't walk....this race is a big deal."  Amen brother, I know the feeling!  I got teary eyed at the 10 mile marker and dug deep for that final 5k.
And I did it-in a little over 2 hours even with my stopping to take pictures and post along the course.  I felt really good. Bruce, who had been sitting at the finish line in the dark & cold, was surprised that I came in strong and smiling. It was the race we both wanted. In fact, I walked around talking with other finishers and went all day relatively pain free.  The next day I was sore but not what I had anticipated.
This experience was one of the hardest things I have had to work through. There were days when I thought I was sinking.  It took a lot of determination and I am grateful to Bruce for his support.  I appreciate all the best wishes from friends-you kept me optimistic in more ways then you will ever know.  And I learned from it.
Who said, " A dream is a wish your heart makes"?
Oh yea...she did.

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