One of the things that separates experienced business owners from newbies is the amount of time they spend planning, especially for busy seasons.
Yes, there is a lot of "doing" as a business owner, but those with more experience know the value of having a plan. They know that a plan ensures they stay focussed on the right things by putting their limited amount of energy in the most effective places.
My rule is this: spend 3 times as much time planning as you do "doing". This is true for any project you're working on but it's especially helpful when you apply it to date-dependant events.
This could be Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day or Christmas. It might be the pop-up stand or wedding show you're attending. And of course, it could be a wedding or workshop.
Literally, focussed upfront planning will work any time there is a deadline at play (which is kinda like every time in business).
Lessons on planning from the Advertising Industry
Back in my advertising agency days, we were required to put together a thing called a Workback Schedule. The way it works? Build your schedule by starting at the end and working forwards in time. It's an incredibly efficient way of planning a job around the one unchangeable fact — the event date.
Building a workback schedule early in your planning for busy seasons is one of the simplest things you can do to set yourself up for success. But most business owners don’t do it.
Instead, many blindly jump into the "doing" and hope that things work out. But invariably, as the event approaches, you run into 100 challenges you didn't expect. You panic. And you end up on a heap on the floor.
Putting together a workback schedule doesn’t need to be complicated or time-consuming. Plus, I guarantee you'll save yourself a million headaches if you take an hour NOW to think about what needs to happen LATER.
TIP #1 – Start at the end
Literally, open a Google Doc and list your event date as the first item. Then, working from that date backwards, start to list the key tasks that have to happen in reverse order from your event date. Voila, a workback schedule.
In fact, this approach works for projects of any size with a deadline. They can be simple, detailed or somewhere in between but they all start at the end.
TIP #2 – Do things early
When planning for a busy season, know that some jobs you can do right now, even if your event is six months out. Remember, as the event date gets closer, your stress level increases and the amount of work increases as well.
So, do yourself a favour and check off all of those things that aren't time sensitive as early as possible. For example:
- Valentine’s Day
- Stock your wrapping paper, ribbons, cards etc.
- Sort out your plans for dinner
- Get your staffing, uniforms and delivery drivers lined up
- Sort out how to block off your online orders / draft your Sold Out pop-up now
- Weddings + events (workshop, pop up etc.)
- Prep your hardgoods / sundries
- Reorganise your studio space for max efficiency
- Ribbons ordered, vases sorted etc.
- Ensure your vehicle is serviced + insured
TIP #3 – Assign Jobs
When you break down any event into individual steps, or "jobs", you'll see that YOU don't need to be the one doing them all.
Also, it's very likely you don't need a senior, experienced designer to do many of the jobs either: processing product, writing cards, sweeping the floor, answering the phone, deliveries, putting petrol in the van, loading / unloading at the venue ... you don't need to be a qualified florist to do any of these things.
So, think about the jobs you need done and what sort of resources could help out. Your bright and super-helpful niece, a local high school student or even your best friend may be the right solution. The key is to know what jobs you need done and make sure they're all assigned to someone.
TIP #4 – Reflect + Make Notes
I know you’re exhausted at the end of a big job. But do your future self a massive favour — take 10 minutes to write it all down while it's fresh in your mind.
Many times, Sloan and I would make our notes in the car ride home from the shop / wedding on the same day as the event. That's no more than about 15 minutes in most cases but would be so helpful in planning our next busy season.
So, immediately after every event, note the following at a minimum:
- Three things that worked well
- Three things to do differently next time
If a recipe needs to be adjusted and your prices changed because you want 5 more roses in each table arrangement next time, write it down NOW.
You’re going to tell yourself you'll remember, but you won't.
I was looking at my notes from Valentine's Day a few years ago and was surprised to read “natives are popular too so add these into the VDAY offering on the website”. There's no freakin' way I would have remembered that!
Even better, take a few minutes to gather ALL the pieces of your project together into one document. Which leads me to Tip #5...
TIP #5 – “Save as”
So, for your next big Superbowl event, simply pull out your document from the previous event and "save-as". If you took the time to create your document in Tip #4, you now have an amazing starting point for your next project:
- Staffing + roster
- Hardgoods / sundry checklist
- Actual wholesale order
- Planned sales vs. actual sales
- Workback schedule
- Marketing plan
- 3 worked well / 3 change for next time
Imagine how far ahead you'd be if you could start your next plan off the back of this gem?
Your plan for busy seasons is worth money
Hot tip for those of you who are thinking of selling your business in the future: a new owner will pay a premium if you have well documented plans.
In fact, someone buying your business isn't just paying for your existing customer base and relationships. They are paying for your processes. The more you can demonstrate that your business can run without you and everything isn't just in your head, the more you can sell it for.
More help planning for busy seasons
And finally, learning about business and marketing doesn't mean you need a university degree or fancy-pants corporate experience. I do have these things and am happy to share everything you need to know.
If you want to learn more about my Flower Boss Bootcamp and see if it's right for you, sign-up for a free 20 minute Mini-Session with me.
P.S. I've done a podcast on this topic which you may like. Find it on Spotify here or listen on the player below.