Dear Father Christmas,
This year my Christmas list is really short. I’m really just hoping for a fresh start in 2021, all nicely gift wrapped, if you can, please!
It’s the time of year when traditionally we start thinking about what we have achieved over the past year, what our highlights and triumphs have been and set some goals or resolutions for the year to come. Looking back, 2020 has been an extraordinary year and so many people feel like absolutely nothing positive has happened to them. We now want to move on as quickly as possible and lots of people I’ve spoken to aren’t really putting much thought into what they’re rushing into… they just want rid of 2020, as fast as they can. People aren’t making Christmas wishes or New Year’s resolutions just yet. They’re waiting with bated breath to see what else 2020 has in store before they put any hope and optimism into the new year!
As a business coach and as a business owner myself, I’m a big fan of setting goals but not so much a fan of resolutions. Resolutions somehow seem much harder to stick to - well they do for me anyway, so in this article I’m going to share with you some hints and tips to put 2020 to bed and look forwards to what you can achieve in 2021.
What have you achieved this year?
I know it seems a bit odd to be even thinking about achievement when we’ve had a year like 2020 to deal with, but when you take out the fact that you’re still here which is no mean feat, there will be something that’s gone really well. Many of you will have had unexpected opportunities come your way and some of you will have used the time you may have been closed due to Covid as time to really focus on your business or do some in depth CPD.
I’ve been really impressed by the resilience shown by the sector this year. I’ve seen business owners really dig deep and find creative solutions to overcome the barriers that have been in their way. I’ve worked with settings who have chosen to really focus on their practice to make sure that they’re doing their absolute best by the children in their care, even with all the pressure they’ve been facing as businesses. I’ve heard from business owners who are at absolute rock bottom and have been about to close their business, but who have pulled themselves out and transformed their business and, on the way, their own mindset and self-belief.
For some childcare businesses, the path through 2020 has been indescribably hard. Sadly, I’ve also heard too many times of settings who have closed their doors for the final time. Some have had to lose staff from their teams, many of whom have been part of the setting for a very long time. All too many have suffered losses, both on a business level and a personal one.
Reflection is not something unfamiliar to us in this sector. It’s an integral part of our day to day practice with the children but not always a well utilised tool in terms of our business practices. Reflecting specifically about the business side of your childcare business is well worth an hour or so of your time. You might be surprised that you have achieved more than you imagine, given the trials you’ve faced this year.
- What’s the one thing you are proud of achieving throughout 2020?
- What has actually gone better than you expected?
- What have you learned or discovered that you will carry with you and change how you do things forever?
If you’re feeling particularly low or like nothing has gone well, it’s especially important that you do this. You might need to think a bit harder and spend some time getting under the surface of what really happened, because on the surface this last year has been a rollercoaster of launching from one difficult decision to another. There will be something and once you’ve found one thing, I’m confident you’ll find more.
Goal setting for success
Once you’ve taken some time to celebrate even the little positive achievements of 2020, there is then the task of setting your goals for 2021!!
I imagine that you have got written down quite detailed plans on how to maximise your practice in your setting; how you resource, how you support children’s needs in their time after school, how you as adults support children playing in the most unobtrusive way, and so on. You have probably also got a similar plan for your staff team’s development and for the overall progress of your setting, perhaps built on your last inspection. So, it’s worth asking the question why don’t we apply the same level of attention and planning to our business’ development?
Just like the people in your setting, your business needs attention, nurturing and energy to grow. Without spending time focusing on what we want our business to look like in the future, and asking how we are going to get there, it’s no surprise that childcare businesses can start to feel like a burden for those who run them. Sometimes, the difficulty is that we simply do not know where to look and how to start this process off.
Actually sitting down and working out your goals can feel like a huge task though. It doesn’t have to be! Always keep it simple; work out what you want to achieve, what you’re going to work on or improve and what your end goals are. Simply spending some time jotting down ideas, thoughts, passions, dreams etc on a piece of paper and then look at how these all fit into what you want to be, what service you want to offer and where you can bring your own skillset and passions to the mix will set you on the right path.
There’s no point in just setting goals for the sake of it. You need to set meaningful goals that move you towards something. If you don’t, you’re less likely to achieve them and even if you do you won’t feel the same level of achievement. Your goals need to lead you towards something that you have an emotional connection to.
You might need to dig a bit deeper that you might be used to here. You’ll need to think about what you really want. This is going to be very personal and unique to you; how you want to live your life and what you want to achieve only you can say!
You need to think about the big picture of success. Why is this important to you?
Many business owners talk about financial success and even go as far as to name the figure that they want to earn that will mean that ‘they’ve made it’. I would like to you go further with your definition of success. If it’s financial, I want you to consider why you want to earn that much money. What does it allow to happen?
By digging down to this level of what success really means, it will help you when things get tough. By connecting with the emotional side of your success goal, you will be even more enthusiastic and motivated.
Strategy for success
Now comes the easy bit, right?
Now you need to break down how you’re going to get there. Lots of business goals have a financial cost to them so you will need to work out what it might cost to make it happen. This bit can be trickier so let me give you an example:
Your goal is to increase your profit in your business so you can employ a manager and reduce your hours. This might cost £15,000 a year. You want to achieve that in the next year. You work out that a £15,000 manager (including on costs) works out at £1,250 per month. You currently have a surplus each month of £500 so you need to make an extra £750 per month to meet that cost of your goal which is a manager.
How are you going to do that? Let’s say that in your setting one full time child is worth £200 a month. You need 4 new full-time children to exceed your new target. You’ve given yourself a year to make this happen, so now you need to work on your next goal which is to attract those four new full-time children to the setting.
Yes, this is a somewhat simplistic example, but can you see how breaking it down suddenly makes it feel more manageable? If I asked you to find an extra £15k in the next year you’d have laughed at me!
Attracting those new children becomes a new goal that you then start to break down. Where in your setting do you want to attract them to (which group)? What steps can you take to attract them? Do you need to make sure your marketing is targeting those people who usually take up a full-time place? How can you incentivise parents to take up a full-time place over a part time one?
Each of the answers to those questions become little things that you can do each day, week or month that move you closer to your goal. These monthly targets become smaller but no less important goals. Imagine signing up your 2nd new full-time family and knowing that you’re nearly there to achieving your big goal. How excited and inspired will you feel?
You might feel that you’ve now just got a really big list of things to do, but don’t worry. If you consistently break down your goals into manageable monthly achievements, you will have the best chance of achieving your big goal. You can even go so far as to break them down into weekly goals too.
Being consistent really is the key. I can’t stress this enough! Do this every month. Be honest and realistic about what things you can do to move you forwards. Be patient!
Remember that the detail (chunking down) gives you control and by feeling more in control of your business and the direction you’re going, you will be more in alignment with your ambition and values, and therefore you’ll be happier and more successful in your business.
Don’t forget that it does not have to be perfect and more than likely will evolve as you become better at this. Even if you don’t look at your goals every week, they will be in the back of your mind, driving you forwards.
It’s lovely though to write out your goals each month and pin them onto a noticeboard or a wall next to your desk. It’s more likely than not that when you go back and review them, you will see that you have achieved more than you thought you would. Go on… give it a try!
Posted by: Rebekah Jackson
Date: 4 November 2020
If you want to some help and support with working out a plan and strategy for your business for 2021, Rebekah Jackson from The Bold Type and host of The Childcare Collective free group, is holding a free exclusive workshop for OOSA members which focuses on Getting Sorted for Success in the coming year. The online workshop will be held on two dates:
- Monday 11 January 2021, from 7.00-8.30pm
- Thursday 14 January 2021, from 10.30am - 12.00pm
To book your place, email firstname.lastname@example.org stating which date you want to attend. Attendance is free for OOSA members but places are limited so make sure you book ahead to avoid disappointment. Joining instructions will be sent out shortly before each session.