Saturday, January 14, 2012

PART 3 - My 2012 Business Plan

well what a week it's been!!

**warning - grab a cuppa. This is a pretty long blog**

This blog was always going to be about putting my 2012 business plan together. And it still is, it's just been pushed a bit further down the page. I just wanted to begin with a few words about the Cheeky Chat that happened this week over on my FB page.....................

I was thinking of taking a bit of a rest in the school holidays. Both to spend some much needed time with the kids and also to think about and plan the coming year. But typical me, I car bosh all that by putting an idea that has been roaming around my head for a while now, into action (not thinking it would take off) I didn't "think on" as my gran always said. Always whispering it to me every time I walked out the front door with a new beau in tow!

The result to my idea has been totally amazing and it has left me feeling both exhilarated and exhausted both at the same time. After my last blog about how I started Cheeky Pickle, I had an unbelievable response from lot's of new and newish FB page owners, asking my advice and thanking me for the honest blog that I had wrote.

I was rapidly realising that there was an obvious need for some sort of forum/catch up, where lot's of these page owners could get together, ask questions and basically help each other out. So I put it out there and got about 24 people saying they liked the idea. 24 was o.k. You could get a good chat going with 24 people couldn't you?. So I planned a date and time and really had no idea what was going to happen. I grabbed a glass of wine and settled in.

well it went off big style......................................

and there were so many posts that, with half a glass of wine down my neck and the adrenaline kicking in, I just couldn't keep up. It was manic and went on like that for about three hours. By that time I think we were all so worn out, we could hardly string two words together. It was like these ladies had all this pent up energy, enthusiasm, frustrations and questions to ask, and finally (and thankfully), they had found somewhere to vent all of these emotions. It was brilliant, and I feel like, not only have I made some lovely new friends, but also gained some invaluable advice to help take my business forward. My little dream had come true and the "Cheeky Chat" night had, totally by chance, been formed!

As you can well image, we will not be stopping there and we plan to have a Cheeky Chat night every month, Tuesday night at 8pm (Melbourne time) on tickle the imagination's FB page. Everyone is welcome, just jump on board.

Each week we will have a different topic to discuss and we will also have an EXPERT in that field, on hand, to answer any questions. That EXPERT will then write a guest blog on this page the following day, the Wednesday, about their subject, e.g websites/marketing e.t.c. If you need more info about the Cheeky Chats, please read here

finally, back to the original blog................

Part 3

Continuing on from my last two blogs, Part 1, where I looked at how I am personally preparing myself to leap into 2012, and the very popular Part 2,  where I talked about the early days of Cheeky Pickle and the journey it has taken me on. The ups and down of markets, getting into shops and all the in's and out's of setting up my FB business page and the daily struggle of getting "likers" and more importantly, keeping them!

Part 3 is about how I put my business plan for 2012 together.

I had to take a huge step away from my business.........

So with my Cheeky Pickle profit margins in hand (is that what you call them??), I  knew that without a shadow of a doubt, the next step for me was to take a massive step away from the sewing machine and write my business plan for 2012. Mmmm....sounds positive, pro active, like I know what I'm talking about. Well, I don't! I haven't got a clue about how to formulate some sort of structured plan that will take my business to the next level.

But there was no way that this measly fact was going to stop me when I was in such a positive frame of mind. I had to strike while the iron was hot. And I was determined to put one of my new years resolutions to the test............................

the only way to do things differently, is to open my eyes wide and start seeing things differently..............

So off I trotted back to my little safe haven Build a Little Biz, where I knew Karen would have a link to some fabulous site or other, where I could find all the info I needed about business plans. And of course, there it was, how to write your Business Plan 2012 by Method and Madness.

brilliant!! I'm on my way..................................
So the next day, I (thankfully) came down with my once yearly dose of man flu. Like most women, if I'm ill I just get up and get on with it. But once or maybe twice a year I do allow myself a little pampering. I put that really throaty sick voice on and "called in sick". Most of the time when I'm sick, hubby is up and down the stairs like a blue arsed fly, asking me where this and that goes, who has what toothbrush e.t.c, that eventually I give up, get out of bed, coughing and spluttering and just get on with my motherly duties. But like I said, once or twice a year, when I do feel particularly bad, I give my hubby the look that says "leave me alone, or else I will erupt like a volcano!" it usually does the trick and I don't see hide nor hair of any of them for about three hours. If I'm lucky.

brainstorming ideas...................................................

So I had a few hours to myself, in bed. Luxury. However, even when us ladies are sick, we do still feel the need to multi task don't we? So out came my drawing pad and I began the process of scrutinizing myself and my business from every angle. I didn't think it would take that long, but once I started scribbling notes, brainstorming ideas (alone!!) and formulating plans, it probably ended up taking me about 5 hours for me to come up with the finished product.

To be honest, it's actually not much different to what I've had roaming around in my head for the past few months, but when you actually physically see your thoughts, ideas and dreams written down in black and white, with little meandering pathways, telling the story as to how you are going to achieve this. Then it feels like a real accomplishment in itself.

my business plan 2012.............................

I was a little unsure as to whether or not I should publish my own business plan, as it is, obviously, very personal to me. Hell, I'm just plain stupid to be doing this, right? But then I thought....If I write it down, it makes it real. But if I publish it to God only knows how many people, then WOW, anything might be possible. LOL!!

There are some bits that I have left out as it may be a bit too personal and you may laugh and I may be rather embarrassed! MY plan is 100% personal to me, so may only be slightly relevant to you. You may also look at it and say, mmm... what's all the fuss about, looks pretty basic to me. That's fine, but it's dynamite for me. Hopefully it may just spurr you on to sit down, grab a very large pot of tea and do your very own.
So anyway, I've just followed the plan, pretty much as I was told to.

here goes............................

List the following:

10 things my business accomplished in 2011

  • I had increased FB page numbers
  • I had introduced my printed and stitched range. With the added stitched border and buttons, I had made something that was unique and a little more than just a print 
  • I had got a logo that I was 100% happy with. Thanks to Little Big Box. My BRAND was starting to come together.
  • I had started to add another aspect to Cheeky Pickle, by creating a very popular Homewares collection
  • I had decided to pull out of doing shop consignment
  • My custom orders had increased a lot
  • I had become a lot more organised in the way I ran Cheeky Pickle
  • I had pulled out of doing lot's of markets and had decided to do a few, well chosen ones.
  • I increased my prices
  • I had a fabulous and very successful Christmas Market night on FB
  • I added names to my designs (huge success in sales)
10 things I accomplished in 2011

This I struggled with. Being English, it really doesn't come that natural to blow your own trumpet!

  • Designed my own website (woohoo, I have to admit, I was/am so very, very proud of that, even though I probably won't keep it. It has been a great put-me-on!)
  • Became more confident on the computer, didn't feel as scared to do things on my own and not have to wait until hubby came home to help
  • Wrote a few good blogs
  • (hopefully) I had started to gain some respect from other business page owners. It can feel a bit clicky on FB when you first start on there. But doesn't any new job!
  • Made my market stall better (o.k, i'm starting to struggle...)
  • I had helped out quite a few other pages with shout outs and product reviews. I really enjoyed helping out in a way I felt I now could, with the bit of knowledge that I had behind me
  • I had started to become a lot more confident, both in myself and in the decisions I was making for my business
Couldn't think of any more........

Challenges my business had faced

  • Dispute with an unhappy customer
  • Dispute with Post Office and printers
  • Time management
  • Erratic blogging/posting
  • Self doubt
  • Having to work in school holidays and weekends. The family time I did have, I was very stressed and not "with" my family in mind as well as body
  • Overloaded with custom orders
  • All work was happening mainly Sept - Dec
  • Shops - a missed opportunity as I can't bring my wholesale prices down enough to justify itself

    So this was the basis of what I had to work with. And so I headed off in my own direction here and sectioned my problems and solutions off.

    After a long time getting to the bottom of how I and my business ticked, I realised that my main problem was time management and organisation. So I came up with a few sub headings to help clear my head a little.

    be more organised......................

    • Do only e.g 6 custom orders per month
    • Write a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly plan. I have just done this and it's already working very well
    • Blog on the same day every week. Be CONSISTENT.
    • Pre plan FB posts
    • Organise invoices/receipts better - make it a weekly task, rather than leaving it for months
    • Limit time on FB
    • Spread work over the year better. Stock up for XMas markets much earlier
    • e mail back and forth to my customers less
    • Spend more time on my product photo's and descriptions
    • Get an e mail list together, start a newsletter

      other ideas......................................

      • Sign up for a couple of courses that are relevant to my work
      • Find a much better happy medium between work and home life (impossible, right?) 
      • Look into different, bigger markets. Where I can reach out to shops/wholesale
      • Put more money into marketing. No idea how at this stage.
      • Get my online SHOP up and running and make it look very professionl
      • Think of ways I can get my work into shops without feeling robbed


        • Collaborate more with other FB pages
        • Be more communicative/chatty on my page with both customers and biz pages alike
        • Blog more :)
        • Read/look at other peoples work. Don't just be a fan, READ all those fabulous, FREE business guides and helpful info that's out there

          So that is just a small pocket of ideas that came splurging out of my head on my man flu, stay in bed and multi task day. And here are the MAIN points (well these are the ones that I wish to publish. There a few more TOP SECRET ones!!) that I finally came up with that will help me to push myself and my business further towards the sky!

          take a HUGE step back often
          only do the BIG markets
          be ULTRA ORGANISED, and stick to it
          Increase COMMUNICATION on all levels
          set up my ONLINE SHOP
          get my work into SHOPS
          make everything look more PROFESSIONAL
          turn my brand into GOLD
          make my CUSTOMER SERVICE even BETTER

          Once I had finished my plan, I was right in the mood for doing something else positive for my business and found via Build a Little Biz, once again a great little resource, Framework for your Business. The basic subjects that you need to delve into, interrogate and extract what you can from, are:

          • You
          • Your product
          • Your target market
          • Market place
          • Brand

            This exercise is quite in depth, it took me hours to be honest, and I may not have done it perfectly (I'd love Karen from Build a Little Biz to let me know what she thinks) or how it was intended, but since completing it, I have found it invaluable to my business. I realised that I should have done this a long, long time ago as it really is the basic foundation to what your business should be built upon.

            so this is mine...........................

            It's just a list of words really. But as I started listing "my" words that related to "me", I soon realised that a pattern was beginning to emerge, relating very strongly between my business and my own personal views and standards.


            Honest, grounded, down to earth, positive, witty/funny, dry northern English sense of humour, reliable, professional, perfectionist, quirky........

            Loves running/boxing/keeping fit/ loves nature/hill walking/surfing/skiing, busy mum to two kids, one dog and hubby, hates sitting down and doing nothing, insomniac.......

            Degree in Multi Media Textile Design, loves colour/texture/bold design, background career in Textile Design, passion for patterned papers, professional, perfectionist.............

            That was the first bit completed and already I could see a pattern emerging.

            words to sum up
            • witty
            • quirky
            • reliable
            • professional
            • natural
            • honest and down to earth


            what am I selling?
            • Art, Art for childrens bedrooms, homewares, cards, tags, bunting, prints, textile designs
            • handmade, loved, designer, quality, something unique/modern/special/luxurious/custom made/one off/pretty/something to match other items in the customers home/magazine living.

              words to sum up
              • designer
              • modern
              • handmade
              • unique
              • quality

                • Mums, new mums, handmade lovers, scrapbookers, women aged 24 - 60 (??) people who want unique gifts to buy
                • People who want attention to detail/a professional and personal service/to feel like they matter/people who want to experience the whole handmade/personal package from choosing from fantastic photo's of products, right through to payment check out.

                  MARKET PLACE

                  Honestly.........I'm a bit stuck on that one and need a bit more time!! Will keep you posted :)


                  When I looked back on all my lists and brainstorming ideas, I finally brought it together to write my last list. Brand. This is supposed to sum up the message you are sending out to your customer and your promise. Basically I put together all my word lists from the other little subheadings and extracted the ones that I felt most strongly about.

                  And to be honest, I feel like it sums myself and Cheeky Pickle up perfectly. It also gives me a direction and on those very busy day, when I'm trying to do everything (badly!!) it helps me focus on what matters most. These are the words that sum me up now, and ones that I will be working very hard on everyday to make sure that Cheeky Pickle is at it's best.

                  honest/reliable/personal and excellent customer service
                  Quirky/witty/one off

                  a fantastic, fresh frame of mind.......................................

                  Completing these two little projects has put me in a fantastic fresh frame of mind to start 2012. So it's up to you now. Take your time and don't rush each step. Be selfish and take a huge chunk of time away on your own to complete these tasks. You may thank YOURSELF later.

                  Please let me know if this blog was useful to you? Also I would really LOVE to know if you completed any of the tasks mentioned, and if so, how did you go? Have you come up with some fantastic new strategies to push your business forward into to 2012. Please share :)

                  Cheers - Ali xxx


                  1. Dear Ali,
                    Thank you! I loved your writing!
                    You give sooo much help at finding the path, the information, the strength needed; and you are doing it in a lovely, clear, natural and honest manner. I am ready to set up my business plan now!!! Your writing energized me so much that I would be happy to start it right now:)). Keep on doing what you are doing in the way you are doing it! Thank you! (and, please, blame the dictionaries for my sometimes awkward English, I don't really use any English in my non-virtual life:)

                  2. So, so glad that I energised you Lidia. You know I think your work is just fabulous and I know that you and your amazing illustrations will be famous one day, and I really mean that!! Yes write a business plan or a framework. I know we should be doing a 5 year, long term one, but I think just sitting down and doing anything that makes you think about the future of you biz can only be a positive step. Let me know how you get on :)Akward English??? You always write beautifully, better than if I tried writing in your language I reckon!! xx

                  3. Yet again, a superb read. The "be more organised..." and "other ideas..." sections could have been lifted straight out of my own head. I have been meaning to do my own business plan for a while now and you have given me the kick up the backside I needed. Thank you. Hx

                    (as you can see, I have sorted my google ID)

                  4. Ha, ha. Looks like quite a few of us are being kicked up the backside this week. I've sorted my Twitter account out and now I'm "attempting" to finally sort my newsletter out via mail chimp!

                  5. Very good Ali! Thank you for sharing. It is a good idea to start writing things down so you can see it all clearly. I've only just started doing that myself. Weekly, monthly and yearly goals are an excellent idea!

                  6. I really need to do this
                    you put me to shame, your so organised

                    Thanks for sharing this with all of us Ali xx

                  7. Sometimes it's hard, but you just need o step away from the sewing machine/print table e.t.c and hve a good think instead of doing all the time!

                    Mmmm....small goals, I like that Thea. Seems more easily achievable.

                  8. Ali - it may be March but I've just read this blog post. I'm mid writing my own business plan ... I like to say my business year is April - March (!) but next year I think I'll do this in January! What a good way to write the plan out. I am definitely going to use this as a template. was getting way too bogged down by other plans probably meant for bigger businesses. I also like the idea of reflecting on the past year. Normally so in the moment yuo never actually pat yourself on the back for things that went well before. thank you! Jennifer

                  9. Thank you Jennifer. You have made me go back and read what my goals were in Jan. It is only March, yet I can see that i have strayed away from what i set out to achieve. I need to print this up and stick it in front of my sewing machine!! Ha, ha....good luck with yours. Make sure you don't rush it. Take your time and be honest with yourself :) xx

                  10. This is where I am going wrong! I need to write it all down don't I! I have a plan of sorts -ish in my head but my memory is so poor that I can only grasp a few fragments of it at a time and I tend to fixate on them ignoring the other bits. Thank you so much for this, I will follow your format and hopefully get everything sorted out xx

                  11. I've just reread this thanks to as notification of a comment made today by someone else and I'm so glad I did. I have yet to do a formal business plan but I have lots of bits of paper lying around the house with my thoughts and ideas on. I have done so much sine I first started Doodlebags and I am so pleased with myself and so grateful to you, and others like you, for your help, encouragement and support. xxx

                  12. Good on you girls!! To be honest I reckon I need to read back through it all again and see how well I have done in achieving some of those goals i have set myself. YOU Doodlebags/Helen have done an amazing job, you should be so proud of yourself! xx

                  13. I like the way you make your plan, Ali! You are very direct to the point, which is a good characteristic of an entrepreneur. Nowadays, the competition is tough and fast, and you should be proactive to be able to respond to problems quickly. The best thing I can suggest is know your product’s USP (unique selling proposition). This can help you stand out in the marketplace.

                    Adina Mauch