Behind the Scenes at El's Cards-Starting 2017 off right

I love being my own boss.  Being a business owner presents many challenges that the artist in me often resists....it would be so much more fun to just paint and do calligraphy all day.  But alas, there are those business-y things that also need to be done for El's Cards to be successful.  It's taken a few years to figure out what works best for me to stay organized and on track during the year, but there are a few things I always do!

-1.  Make a list of goals- Back in 2000, I was waitressing at Legal Seafoods to "pay the bills" about a year after I had started El's Cards.  I had taken out a $5000 personal loan to buy a computer, get a website and get things started.  I think it is also worth mentioning that I was also in the process of clearing up major credit card debt and was running my business with cash from jobs that came in from day to day.  Things were very tight, and there were days that I was so discouraged and it felt like I would never be able to support myself fully doing watercolor and calligraphy.

This was the first time I made a list of goals for the future.  I then promptly put it in a drawer somewhere and forgot about it.  One of my goals was to leave the restaurant industry and be able to work my own business full time.  In June of 2002, after a lot of planning, scrimping, and faith that things would work out, I did leave that job. 

A few months later, I found that goals sheet...and the very first goal on the list was to be working El's Cards full time by June of 2002!  That was my first experience with goal setting, and it was encouraging.  I always think of that when Bob and I sit down to do the business goals sheet every year, because it made me realize the positive results of doing this exercise!  What kinds of goals do we set?  Some are harder and others are super attainable!  For example, I wanted to launch the new website with 100 wedding suites last May, and we launched with 67. We keep things reasonable but push ourselves a bit more every year.  (Unfortunately my goal to exercise 3x a week last year didn't come close to happening-so that's one that has rolled over to 2017!). :)

 -2. Getting calendars together-Being a visual person, it is important for me to have calendars that make sense to me.  I don't like having the calendar in my phone, so I have a few other calendars that work really well!  One LARGE calendar hangs on my wall. It's not pretty-but super functional.  All the jobs for the month  are written in pencil, then I highlight them when they are done.  The pencil means a project can move from one day to the next if something doesn't get done. And at the end of the month, there is a real sense of accomplishment when I see all the highlighted jobs!  

I also use a smaller planner and a fun pig calendar for my wall that my Mum gets for me every year (We both love "cute pigs".). The planner is where the wedding deadlines  are created when I sit down with couples.  It's much less awkward than bringing out my big wall calendar!

Bob created a wall calendar of the entire year for his work space, where we have our show schedule and mail dates for wedding couples and other invitations listed. It helps us to get an overview of how busy or slower certain times of year are for us.  It also has our vacations!  By setting our vacation days at the beginning of the year, we are truly committed to taking our time off.

Then of course I have a Fruits and Veggies calendar from of own designs and an occasions calendar! It could be a calendar obsession!

-3.  Doing a personal annual budget-Ahhh...don't grimace!  This does not sound fun, but it's really been one of the most valuable things we have done to stay organized. Every January, we list our monthly expenses (they always change a little bit).  We include food, entertainment, personal care-like hair and eyebrows :), and our monthly massages to name a few things.  This task is good for us to see that we are on track, or if we need to make some changes. There have been years when we realized that at times we needed to be more conservative in certain areas....but it's impossible to assess where to make cuts unless we know where the money is going!

 We also have a monthly business expenses budget because every month we have a lot of the same expenses.  Website housing, fees, quarterly taxes, etc. need to be put aside and earmarked so we know what we are spending to run our business.  

-4.  Visioning workbook exercise-This is a tradition that my friend Meg Simone introduced me to a few years ago.  It's a workbook by Susannah Conway that can be printed out from her website about unraveling the new year. We started to complete this workbook 3 years ago on our own, then a little group of friends meets to discuss our goals and visions for the year. It's a great way to stay focused and by meeting together to discuss, it helps me to be accountable to my friends.  Once I say it aloud, it's "out there"!  So I need to take action.

-5.  Something new-For the past 3 years, I have attended a workshop put on by Heather Robertson of Wide Awake by Design. I really missed doing that in December last year, because it has always given me one big thing on which to concentrate in my business!  But just after Christmas, at the recommendation of one of the blogs I like to read,  I read The One Thing by Gary Keller.  After reading it on my Kindle, I realized I would like to have a hard copy (thanks Mum!!) so I can go back and refer to different points to keep myself focused. This book was just what I needed to get me on track for 2017! Really easy to follow and sensible.

The new year brings all kinds of new challenges and possibilities.  I am so excited about the year to come.  Bob and I have been working together full time for almost 2 years now, and we are constantly learning new things and improving our systems.  Being teachable has been critical to building a good business.  There is always something new to learn and areas to improve.  Happy New Year everyone!  Wishing you great success in whatever you do!

xo
El