Year In Review–Themes vs To Dos

If you haven’t read Chris Gillebeau’s ‘The Art of Non-Conformity” blog, look at a few of his posts and see if each one doesn’t cause you to pause and think about your life in a different light.  As I was reading his latest post, I decided to do my own year-end review and make it public, as Chris is doing with his “2011 Year in Review: Looking Back” series:×5/2011-annual-review-looking-back/

First off, I never make New Year’s Resolutions, but I do make Business and Marketing Plans and I’m in inveterate list-maker in all areas of my life: business and personal.  I find it easier to make “resolutions” as I go along during the year after I have some epiphany that guides me to writing down a new direction.

In 2011, I decided to try something different and frame my year around themes, rather than individual items on my “to do” lists.  My husband has previously themed his years around “having more fun” or “connecting more with nature,” so I thought I’d give it a try.

There were three themes I chose for my personal life: travel, creativity through fiber projects and moving from my long-time passion of gardening to working more with native plants.  I was more successful than I hoped on the first and third themes and did virtually nothing on the second.  Maybe three personal themes are too many with a nascent entrepreneurial business?

For my marketing consulting business, my two themes were to exceed and delight my current clients’ expectations and be more selective in taking on new clients–for their sakes and mine!  In assessing the outcomes, I would give both these themes mixed reviews.

After I took on new clients, I realized this year that I can’t take projects at face value.  What clients said they needed, most often was not the work they truly needed to be successful.  It has become a process to peel the layers of a brand’s current situation and discover what was missing, not what the proposal said that I was going to deliver.

In terms of evaluating what I could offer a client and agreeing to projects with those that I think I can help, I’ve become far more discerning, but still not batting a thousand.  Many startup entrepreneurs that I met with this year had focused on the product offering, then the operational aspects of their company.  As an afterthought, these new entrepreneurs believed that marketing could come in at the end of the process and fix any problems that they had overlooked.  It was painful to explain that when the customer and her/his needs are not the product focus from the inception, there may not be a market nor a target audience, no matter how great the visionary thinks the product might be.

All in all, I like the theme versus accomplishment list approach to a new year.  Specifics always change, but if the theme or goal is kept top-of-mind, I’ve found that success will follow.

What’s ahead for next year?  Chris mentions doing something that matters with his business and life.  I think we can all relate to this.  This will be a clear theme for me for the remainder of my career, as I decide how to guide my business and my talents.  I’d like to take all that I’ve learned over a long marketing career, combine it with personal interests and come up with a legacy job or focus in the next few years.  Any ideas out there?


Thanks, Chris Gillebeau, for your continuing inspiration!


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