How to Execute a Business Planning Summit

For Photographers, Goals

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:

Our Process For Setting Annual Family/Personal Goals

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.)
  • Branding
  • Creative/Technical Development
  • Professional Development
  • Finances
  • 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.


Cheyenne Schultz

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  1. I love this Cheyenne! I’m a huge fan & have been following your beautiful for work for years. Thank you for the inspiring post. As we enter the new year, it is much needed! 🙂


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