When Meghan told me that she and Matt were thinking they might want to do their engagement session in their new house that they just bought together BEFORE they moved in, I was all about it. What a great idea! I couldn’t help but get a little sentimental in the middle of the shoot as I took in the two of them together in this empty space that they would soon share and fill up with a million moments and memories. So many memories to make…so much life to happen.
Meghan and Matt – we SO enjoyed our time with y’all and truly can’t wait for September. See you soon! xoxo.
Goals, goals and more goals! I am a self-proclaimed goal junkie and I’m not ashamed of it. :) If you missed my preview goal setting posts for 2017, you can view them at the following links:
How We Make Our Family Goals Happen: The Sunday Night Reset (including a free set of the worksheets we use)
Today, I not only get to share some of our 2017 business initiatives and goals, but also to share all about our process for how we go about setting those goals and making a plan to grow our business year to year. I am a firm believer that to make progress, we need a plan! If I don’t take the time to assess, think, plan and dream for our future as a business, I’m left overwhelmed, unfocused and am not motivated. Carving out two work days in the off-season (either the end or beginning of a calendar year is a great time to do it if you can swing it) has proven itself invaluable year to year to the overall health and functioning of our business.
Let’s get to it! Here are six exercises that small business owners can incorporate into a business planning summit.
For us, we always kick off our planning with some prayer time. We pray for clarity, direction, provision and we thank God for all that He has done for us personally and for our business.
2. Review the Previous Year.
Time for the good old pen to paper approach to list out what went well and what didn’t go so well in the previous year. We call this exercise our “hits and misses”. This step does two great things:
- Shows us our wins and allow us to celebrate/be proud of what we have accomplished.
- Gives us a starting point for the areas we need improve in for the coming year.
From there, we pull out our goals from 2016 (that we’ve recorded in our Powersheets) to do a final review to see which were met and unmet, as well as determine if which of the unmet goals we might want to carry over to the new year.
3. Access Each Facet of the Business.
The assessment time is really the “meat” of the day. It’s where we spend most of our time as we focus on the main areas of our business that need most attention as we continue to maintain and grow. Potential areas can include:
- Client Experience (broken down into pre-client, client and post-client)
- Marketing (broken down into potential clients, past clients, vendors/venues, etc.)
- Studio Management/Administrative (topics include finances, project/task management, systems, workflow, editing, office organization, etc.)
- Creative/Technical Development
- Professional Development
- Team Development
- Industry Relationships
For each area, we spend about an hour discussing:
- What’s Working?
- What’s Not Working?
- Where Do We Go From Here?
4. Determine Initiatives, Goals and Priorities.
Now, the fun part…deciding what we want to see happen in the coming year! It is here that we refer back to the work we have just done in the assessment phase. Specifically, we look at the “where do we go from here?” sections of our chosen areas and begin to jot down ideas for the things we want and need to do. Because we end up having many goals, and don’t want to get overwhelmed by that list, we choose to develop a broader “initiative” for each facet of the business and then form our goals from there.
5. Make a Plan.
Once our initiatives and goals have been created, it’s time for us to make a plan for how we will go about accomplishing them. By this point, we have created a google doc listing each initiative and goal. We then go goal by goal and create and record the plan/steps for what to do, when to do it and who is going to do it.
6. Have Fun!
In my opinion, making this a fun experience is highly important…it should be enjoyable! It’s a great excuse to eat great food, go to inspiring environments (we like coffee shops with unique work spaces) and even stay the night somewhere besides home if we can swing it. Staycations FOR. THE. WIN. :)
Make no mistake about it – the steps that have been laid out take a lot of time, energy and mental power. We’ve found that cramming all of it into one day is too much…by the end of the goal setting time, we are usually spent and ready to eat dinner and relax. We’ve found it best to spread everything out over the course of two days. Typically we will review, assess and form goals on day one and then spend day two on the plan.
This year we had our business planning summit during the last week of December and walked away feeling like it was a major success. And so far, as we are one month and some change out from it, it has been. Yes, we’ve been resting from most shooting, but have really been leveraging this downtime in the off-season to make progress on our big goals for the year. If you are interested, you can view our 7 initiatives and some of our goals under each here:
Initiative #1 – Complete Re-Brand
- Finish website.
- Finish all collateral.
- Restructure Pricing.
Initiative #2 – Refine Client Experience
- Redecorate studio space.
- Refine client gifts.
- Create engagement plan for CSP Brides Facebook Group.
- Create new client manual/magazine/guide (haven’t quite decided what to name it yet :) )
Initiative #3 – Develop and Execute Marketing Plan
Initiative #4 – Launch Coaching Program
- Grow email list to 1000 subscribers.
- Develop brand and consider website.
- Develop client experience.
- Develop marketing plan.
- Plan and execute launch.
Initiative #5 – Further Develop Creative and Professional Skills
- Implement second shooter training program.
- Further develop off-camera lighting skills.
Initiative #6 – Establish and Streamline Administrative Systems
- Determine online file storage solution.
- Implement project management software.
- Implement duty days.
- Implement studio management software.
- Review/determine task distribution among team members.
- Overhaul studio manual.
- Streamline administrative systems.
- Complete administrative project list.
- Develop 2017 business budget.
Initiative #7 – Build a Fulfilling Team and Work Environment
If you are a business owner and haven’t yet made a plan for the current year, it’s not too late. As my friend Lara Casey says, “there’s nothing magical about January 1st.” Just start now…right where you are. Open your calendar and block out two days to make a plan for your the growth of your business in 2017…just take that first step!
If there are any questions about how to plan and execute a goal setting summit for business, please let me know how I can help!
If you’d like to receive more business planning resources and to stay up to date with current studio news, I’d love for you to subscribe to our email list HERE.
Hellllllo, February! It’s going to be another full month, but I really think a great month. Since I never posted my January goals, I’ll just note what was accomplished.
Personal/Family – January
- Celebrated our sweet Grey squirrel for his very first birthday.
- Signed Boone up tee-ball for this spring.
- Cleaned out and decorated guest room.
- Hosted our friends, Luke and Jane for the weekend (and took her maternity pictures!).
- Had family movie night…we watched Homeward Bound…it was a big hit!
- Completed yard preparations for playset install (we’ve had it for two days…kids are obsessed).
- Began new Wednesday and Sunday laundry schedule. So far, it’s working!
- Started and kept up with meal planning each week.
- Completed reading Emily Ley’s Grace Not Perfection.
- Had our pictures taken by my dear friend and very talented photographer Alicia White.
- Did “biometric screening” to have our cholesterol, etc. checked.
- Stopped eating all of the sugary things that I love. Some days have been harder than others.
Business – January
- Experimented with project management software (Trello and Asana…ultimately, chose Asana)
- Got featured on the Southern Weddings Blog! See the feature here.
- Implemented Duty Days. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for at least a year. Thank you, Katelyn James! Go to Katelyn’s blog to read about her duty day structure.
- Had my first coaching session with my business coach, Lauren with Elle & Company.
- Ordered new album samples – can’t wait to share.
- Hired and met with our new bookkeeper.
Things to look forward to in February:
- Savannah trip (to photograph an engagement session, but also for some time away with Geoff. Can’t. Wait.)
- Charleston trip (photographing Emily and Greg’s wedding, but also going to try to see the Angel Oak Tree!)
- Crew’s 4th birthday!
- Faith Retreat in Raleigh.
- Family movie night – happening this Friday…we are thinking Zootopia. Popcorn and a treat…the kids LOVE family movie night.
And my goals for the month:
Personal – February
- Make a decision for our anniversary trip and book the trip.
- House projects galore (fix fixture in our kitchen, clean out two closets, begin cleaning out garage, baby proof everything, organize file cabinet).
- Spend intentional time with my baby Grey on his mama day before he starts “school” next month. :(
- Celebrate Valentine’s Day with the kids (we usually do heart shaped breakfast, a new Valentine’s Day book and a small treat).
Business – February
- Make progress on updating our Studio Manual.
- Finalize 2017 client gifts and send out Valentine’s Day gifts (keep an eye out in the mail 2017 brides and grooms!).
- Complete second shooting training schedule for Erika.
- Set up my email list.
- Implement blogging calendar (hoping to blog regularly once/week with helpful content for photographers and other creatives).
- Make progress on client magazine.
Hope y’all have a great month!
Hello friends! As promised, here is part two of three of our 2017 goals. Last week I blogged about our process for how we go about setting yearly goals for our family. Today, I’m sharing how Geoff and I go about actually bringing those goals to life and making progress on achieving them.
Quite a few years ago I was reading an article in a parenting magazine written by a mom who described how she and her husband went about keeping their household organized and purposeful by doing one simple thing: a weekly family meeting. At the time, our life felt kind of out of control. We were paying late fees from not paying bills on time, overspending on eating out because we would wait until it was dinnertime to decide what we would eat each evening, going months without a date night out together, frustrated with each other for not communicating commitments happening outside of our house week to week and we would set goals at the beginning of the year and then haphazardly check in with them whenever we thought of it. Sometimes months would go by without revisiting those goals and making a plan for them to happen. We needed a change and the idea of a weekly meeting together seemed like something worth trying. And so, The Schultzes Sunday Night Meeting was born. Recently, we renamed it to be our Sunday Night Reset.
For me, if I can begin Monday with a tidy (or at least semi-tidy) home, groceries in my refrigerator, a plan for meals and on the same page with Geoff as far as our schedule goes, I feel like so much more of a normal, calm, capable and joyful person through the week. Our reset meetings have been SO helpful in the management of our home and business and allow us to live intentionally.
Geoff and I have a lot of things we want to do in our marriage and in our family. Especially since having kids, time has a way of flying by faster than we ever thought (it’s still hard to believe we will have a seven year old this summer!). We’ve found that without a little organization and intentional planning, the things we want to do together and the memories we want to make…they just don’t happen either at all or as often as we’d like. Trips and dates to take, traditions to make and carry on year to year, activities to do with the kids…all really fun stuff! Our Sunday night reset is a big reason that we are able to intentionally press on toward the life we desire to live with each other and for our children.
Let’s get to it!
The first Sunday of a new month, we follow an agenda that includes:
- Budget Review from the month prior.
- Calendar Review. We choose dates for our date night out, date night in and French Toast Friday (a morning that we have a set of friends over for french toast or another meal). We also look at the month ahead and make note of any trips or events, as well as which days we have sessions or weddings to photograph.
- Review prior month goals to see where we landed and strike-through those we accomplished on our list that we created at the beginning of the year.
- Determine monthly goals (again, pulling from our master list of goals for the year).
Week to week includes the following agenda items:
- Pay bills.
- Budget Check-In.
- Calendar Review (noting trips/events, as well as choosing which evenings to work and which days to exercise).
- Meal Plan (actually, I end up doing this on Saturday at some point, as I do my grocery shopping Sunday late afternoon).
- Plan for my Wednesday Mama Day (I pull from a note I keep in my phone of ideas for fun things to do with the kids).
- Weekend Plans and Projects (typically pulling items from our monthly goals). I understand that some people prefer to be spontaneous and let things happen as they would happen on the weekends…but for us, we need at least a loose plan. Otherwise, we find the whole weekend has gone by and we haven’t done anything that we wanted to do).
- Discussion (for anything that requires a more in depth conversation…a current discussion item for us is making plans for Crew’s 4th birthday).
- Individual To-Do’s for the week (Me – get a babysitter for date night; Geoff – install the new car seat, etc.).
- Prayer (answered prayers and prayer requests). We’re not the best at praying together and out loud throughout the week unless it is dinner time, so intentionally including focused prayer time at the end of our reset works for us.
If you are wanting to implement a Sunday Night Reset into your household/life, here are a few tips of things you can do to set yourself up for success:
- Time it right.
Sunday nights are ideal for us, as it doesn’t cut into our weekend. And for us, with three little kids, waiting until they are down to sleep for the night is imperative…especially if we want it to be enjoyable!
- Keep organized.
Keep a folder handy during the week that you can toss bills to be paid, paperwork to be completed, etc.
- Make it enjoyable.
For Geoff and I, we find enjoyment in our meetings with homemade lattes, a little bit of chocolate (I recommend those sea salt dark chocolate covered almonds from Trader Joe’s!) and some fun music. If you aren’t a natural lover of organization and goal setting, this tip will be really important for you to keep motivated to do it week to week! Try to make it something that you can look forward to and that won’t be a drag. If you don’t have children and can get out of the house, maybe you’d most enjoy doing your meeting at your favorite coffee shop. It might just become one of your favorite family traditions!
I hope this was helpful! If you have any questions about our Sunday Night Resets, please don’t hesitate to ask! Also, if you would like a free copy of the worksheets we created (changed to be more generic), you can sign up to receive them below!
I know we are already 26 days into January, but HELLO 2017! :) Who else is hopeful and excited for the new year and all that is to come?! After a year that felt heavy and hard, I am so ready for the fresh start.
I’m grateful that Geoff is as goal happy as I am and that he is always willing and excited to talk, dream and make plans for our businesses and family life. For us, life seems to be moving at the speed of light. We’ve found that if we don’t carve out time to have direct conversations and intentionally make plans for what matters and the things we want and feel called to do, they just don’t happen. In case it is helpful for someone else out there, I thought I would share a little bit about our process for determining our goals and priorities for our family (which can easily be translated for a single person), as well as what some of them are for this year. I’ll also be sharing how we go about bringing these to life AND all about our business goal setting process in separate blog posts.
For the past few years, Geoff and I will call a timeout and get away together either at the very end or very beginning of a year to talk about our family. In 2015, we skipped town and headed to Asheville, NC for a couple days to plan, pray and play. We even themed it and hashtagged it (if you want to see it on Instagram :) ) our #Schultzes2015CoffeeCrawlKickoff. In 2016, we had a brand new baby, but managed to get away to Savannah, GA (baby in tow) in February to have our annual meeting. This year, we simply went on a fun date to one of our favorite restaurants and then to our favorite local Starbucks to hash everything out. In our opinion, it’s important to make it fun! If you can swing a weekend getaway out of it if your circumstances and finances permit it, by all means…do it! If things are busy or money is tight, you can still do something that makes it a fun experience…even if that means a long afternoon at your favorite coffee shop (if it were me, I would bring chocolate).
We keep things pretty simple for this planning time, but some great conversations always come from the prompts we use to get things going. The main questions we ask ourselves (these are prompts found in Cultivate What Matters “Powersheets”):
- What were our wins/what worked well in the previous year?
- What didn’t work/where do we want to focus for the coming year?
- What do we want our life to look like when we are 80 years old? (This is a great one to talk about so we can cut out the fluff and focus on what is really important to us).
- What do we love/what fires us up? (With the intention to infuse more of this into our day to day).
From there, we have a pre-printed worksheet (super simple…created in Microsoft Word) broken into the following categories that we use to begin to list our ideas for the things we want to do in the coming year:
Relationships (includes our marriage, with our kids – individually and together – and our friends)
Individual (each of us – including our kids – have a section for personal goals)
And that’s basically it! Pretty simple process, but super important for the health and functioning of our family. Here are a few of our goals from each section if you are interested in seeing what is on the docket for The Schultzes this year. :)
Stop eating all of the sugary junk food (very special occasions are the exception).
Meal plan weekly to put good food in our bodies.
Exercise at least 4 days per week.
Have annual physical.
Take 10 year anniversary trip.
Take Boone skiing.
Summer beach trip with kids.
Annual Ray/Wheaton mountain trip.
Make 2017 seasonal family bucket lists.
Tee ball for Boone in the spring; Activity of Crew’s choosing in the fall.
Go see Angel Oak Park on John’s Island, SC.
Determine monthly budget.
Save 3 months of our salary.
Research opening education accounts for kids.
Create a warm, welcoming room for our guests.
Organize the garage to become a functional and useful space.
Simplify our possessions. Own fewer things/owner better things.
Create a backyard space for our family to enjoy.
Create a cozy breakfast nook area.
Hang family pictures in upstairs hallway.
Have our family values lettered and hung.
Us – Create new date night envelopes and do them.
Kids – Make monthly calendar of outings/activities from bucket lists.
Kids – Crew and daddy date.
Friends – Continue French Toast Fridays.
Friends – Host 4th of July party.
Have prayer time together on Sunday Night Re-sets.
Pray with kids out loud throughout days.
Have our yearly family pictures taken.
Create yearly family albums.
Complete Grey’s baby book.
Stay tuned for our process for how we go about making these plans happen, as well as how we go about determining the direction for our businesses in a coming blog post.
While I would have loved to get my 2016 Recap on the blog before 2017 was here, it just didn’t happen. And that’s okay. Because grace, my friends. Grace, is the name of the game.
Is it just me, or did it seem like 2016 was a doozy for a lot of people? Y’all. If I’m being honest…really, honest…last year about took me under. And it held me under. And at times, I felt like I wouldn’t ever resurface. Make no mistake about it – this business owner/family balance thing is hard. Really hard.
He is bigger. He is stronger. He is good. And time and time and time again through 2016, God brought me through the fire and made me better for it.
Family/Personal – Hits + Misses/ Highlights and Challenges
Last year was chock full of some really significant changes and events for our family and business. A new baby…making us a family of 5. Finding out that I am considered “pre-diabetic”. Geoff’s ACL surgery. Buying a new house. Unexpectedly preparing and selling our house with a 6 month old while Geoff was on crutches. Packing, moving to and unpacking our new home. Boone starting Kindergarten. Rebranding our business. Geoff’s surgery for his achilles heel.
It was a heavy year, indeed. Definitely in the top two hardest that we’ve had yet since we were married nearly 10 years ago. As a wife, mother, business owner, friend, etc., I’ve never felt more frantic, overcommitted, overworked, incapable and insecure as I did last year trying to manage all of the demands. And yet, when I went to write my notes for this recap and divided a blank piece of paper into quadrants to record our business and family successes and challenges, our challenges were few and our successes were spilling off every side. That alone reminds me that I have such a rich and wonderful life and I am truly grateful.
At the end of each year Geoff and I take some time to go on a date together and talk about our hits and misses for the year (we love using many of the exercises in Powersheets from Cultivate What Matters). From there, I like to record those highs and lows here on the blog….mostly so I can look back as time passes to remember all of the moments that made the year what it was and all of the ways God has blessed us and provided for us. Since I already covered the challenging parts of last year, here are some of our favorite memories (big and small) that brought us such joy and has us so thankful.
- Dance competitions in our bay window and our “dinner prep mix” on Spotify.
- Finding a new show for Geoff and I to share: This Is Us. Not quite our beloved Parenthood, but really good nonetheless.
- Watching Boone learn to read…he has come so far this year.
- Wearing Grey everywhere I could in my Solly (still going strong!).
- Making applesauce muffins (recipe HERE!) and peanut butter balls with the kids.
- Sweet Mary Jane and our fellow foster friend, Jen, for taking her in when we were at capacity with life.
- Third annual Grandview Vacay with great friends. I love these people to pieces.
- Grey scooting around the house (the child refuses to crawl..but scooting…he is a champ).
- Crew and I painting each other’s nails.
- Grey’s nanny, Bryce. So thankful for her.
- Finding a nest of baby bunnies in our yard.
- Erika and Jake stepping in to help me paint a million rooms in our old house to get it on the market.
- Boone and Crew “sledding” in the backyard (on full, sunny days).
- Our church that we love and co-leading a small group with my friend, Maria.
- Face swapping hysterics. (Below: Boone + Geoff on the left; Crew + Pa on the right).
- Photo Scavenger Hunt date with Boone.
- Chapel Hill weekend getaway to see our dear friends, The Sheedys. 6 kids under 6 years old…so crazy and so fun.
- A new latte machine (our old one died JUST before the warranty was up…score!).
- Boone pushing Grey around the house in his walker. These brothers already have a very sweet relationship.
- Three year old Crew taking her first ballet class. Her in a leotard, tutu and ballet flats was just too cute.
- Saturday morning Snoppy Pancake Waffles.
- Boone’s “Before Kindergarten Bucket List”
- My nursing issues that I normally have with a newborn were drastically easier this time around.
- Crew’s first roller coaster experience.
- Trips to Savannah, the beach, Brevard, Asheville, Greenville.
- Crew’s beaming face as she performed as an angel in her Christmas play at school.
- The snack stroller.
- Boone losing his first teeth and his visit from the Tooth Fairy.
- Visits from my dad, Geoff’s sister and my brother.
- Boone’s 6th birthday party. Highlights were me surprising him dressed as Kylo Ren and the look on his face in front of his cupcake as we all sang “Happy Birthday” to him.
- Middle of the night YouTube episodes of Dr. Phil and Shark Tank in Grey’s first couple months of Grey’s life. Ain’t no shame in my Dr. Phil game.
- Trick or treating with dear friends (and Grey dressed as a squirrel costume…the hour he wore it was SO worth that $30 costume).
Business – Highlights and Challenges
From a business perspective, 2016 was definitely one of our more challenging years that we’ve had, but it was to be expected. For me, running my business successfully is always a struggle for the first year after I have a baby. Having gone through that twice already before having our third child a year ago this month, I was well aware of what I was in for. But awareness alone just didn’t really make it any easier. For me, the first year is sweet, precious and enjoyable. I really do love loving and caring for my babies. And at the same time, it’s hard, full and stressful trying to do both business and baby well. As much as I knew that I should be cutting myself some slack and giving myself unconditional and consistent grace this past year, I still really struggled at feeling like I was failing at everything. I think I allowed myself to get caught up deeply in the comparison trap, which led me into a place of overwhelming insecurity.
With all of that said, we did some things in business this year that I am really proud of. I’ll get more into specific goals that were met/not met in another post, but for now, here are some of our highlights.
- Renamed and rebranded our business and launched our new website. Goodness gracious…what a process.
- Hired our studio manager, Erika. Such a big win for us.
- Photographed 12 really special weddings weddings, 8 portrait sessions, a styled shoot (our first ever, believe it or not!) and 24 mini sessions.
- Spoke to photographers about providing a great client experience at Asheville Folk and returned for a 4th time to speak to photography students at App State.
- Had fun shooting a bit of film. The jury is still out if I will be incorporating this more into our workflow this year or not. Big decision.
- Discovered that I love listening to business podcasts.
- Got published in various magazines and blogs.
- Developed new industry relationships.
- Launched our CSP Brides Facebook group.
- Sent promotional mailers to local venues and vendors to announce and celebrate our new brand.
- Had a mountain retreat with some of my favorite photography friends.
Lessons Learned and Priorities for 2017:
I truly believe that nothing is wasted when God is in the mess. He can and will use all of the hard stuff – especially the really hard stuff – for His good and for my good. Even though I couldn’t always see it when I was in it, He was growing me, strengthening me and preparing me for what was and is to come.
- My health must be a priority. I want to live a long and full life for my husband and my children.
- On that same note, I need to take care of myself and put my oxygen mask on first if I’m to be any good to anyone.
- My problems aren’t problems and we truly have been gifted a great life! Geoff’s being temporarily disabled this year from his surgeries made me develop a sincere appreciate for the things that we take for granted on a daily basis.
- I need to develop better systems in my business and really learn to let go and delegate more.
- Simplifying. I can’t do it all. As much as I might want to, I just can’t. For the sake of my health and the health of my family, I will make space in my schedule, in my home, in my business and in my heart and head for truly what matters most.
- Comparison is coveting. Thanks for that, Lara Casey.
- Trying to do it all on my own without accepting help from others in my life and from God will land me on my face. Every single time. I can’t tell you how many times in 2016 I cried actual tears coupled with the phrase, “I can’t do this!”. And the reality is, I can’t. I NEED God to intercede, fill me with His spirit and be my helper to accomplish the things He has called me to do.
- Take a risk. Do the things I feel led and that I’m excited to do. We get to live this life once…just once. I’m saying “no” to my fears and insecurities and “yes” to confidence and calling.
- Less of me. More of Him. His kingdom; not mine. All day, every day.
I am always eager to grow, learn and become a stronger woman and know that it’s in the mess and the hard stuff that that growth will happen. So, thank you, God. Thank you for 2016.
I’ve thought and prayed through what “my word” should be for the coming year. The word “confidence” has been sticking with me for the past few weeks and I thought that is what I would land on. However, I’ve decided to move forward with “renewal”. I’m ready to leave behind the worn out, the run down and the broken parts that I was in 2016 and am believing that I’m walking into a new season…a new year…and that God can and will fill me again. He will renew my spirit and set my feet on solid ground again. Even in just these past 10 days, He has been stirring up so much in me and it has me hopeful, excited, expectant and ready.
Here we go 2017. My hands are open and I’m ready.
- Image above by Allison Kuhn.