Stop, start, keep... repeat

January is a time of new years resolutions – stop enjoying wine so much, work harder on the business, go to the gym, spend more time with the family, etc, etc. And also a time for planning the coming year (or maybe just thinking that you should do some planning before shelving that idea and just jumping in boots and all!)

Before you jump into this year, it’s really worth spending a few minutes (OK an hour or two) reflecting on 2015 so that you have a good starting base for 2016. One way to do this, of which I’m quite a fan, is ‘start, stop, keep’. It goes like this: 

  • What should I start doing in 2016
  • What should I stop doing in 2016
  • What should I keep doing in 2016. 

This framework is action oriented, and helps you move forward, rather than wallowing in failures without figuring out how to change. Reflection is a useful tool, but only if you DO something with the information, otherwise it’s just navel gazing.

Let’s talk through each, with a marketing and business development lens. 

Start doing:

Firstly, if you haven’t already, figure out your niche and really focus in on that group of people. Michael Kites has a great article on this. As he says “Getting more focused towards a niche gives you the opportunity to truly differentiate yourself – to literally be the one person in the world who is the most specialised at serving those particular clients.” OK, so maybe you won’t be the ‘one person in the world’, but you can certainly be the go-to person for your particular niche.

Secondly, make sure you are clear on your focus areas, and then apply your marketing efforts there. For instance, do you want more clients, or less clients, or different clients, or do you really just need to keep the ones you’ve got? Each of these requires a different strategy and focus. Marketing efforts (time, money, brain space) should go towards meeting your business needs. Be ruthless.

Stop doing:

Getting overly excited about a new marketing tactic, and trying to implement it without consideration of the overall plan and business goals. I see this ALL the time. This is why many advisory businesses have the experience of ‘we tried a website and that didn’t work, so we tried events, and that didn’t work, so we tried advertising and that didn’t work, so now we think marketing is a pointless waste of time and money… But we still want to grow our business.’

 Before you spend a single dollar on marketing your business in 2016, make damn sure you know why you are spending that money and how it’s going to benefit the business. 

Keep doing:

The fact is, most advisory businesses are solidly run and most advisers and accountants keep up their professional development and look after their clients to the best of their ability. As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It can be too easy to look for things to change, often in the areas that you’re most comfortable. Of course, it’s likely that these areas are in pretty good shape. It’s the areas that you’re not comfortable in that probably need review.

 I would recommend doing the start/stop/keep exercise with your colleagues; it definitely yields better results when you do this as a team. You will probably come up with a long list of ideas. The key then is to decide which ideas are going to have the most impact on your business and at the very least, get them implemented first.

As an aside, I also find this a very useful tool to do one-on-one with your key team members every month. You can ask them for feedback (ie: what would they like you to start/stop/keep doing) and you can similarly give them feedback. The framework makes it easier to keep the lines of communication open, and is much more conducive to a good quality conversation than the old ‘so, how are you going?’ which is way too open ended and ambiguous, and doesn’t give your employees a way to say ‘well, it really bugs me when you do xxx’.

Done regularly, the start/stop/keep conversations can really help stop little things becoming big things. And as they say, employees don’t leave organisations, they leave their immediate manager. Ouch.

If you have any questions about the framework, or want to run your own start/stop/keep list past the Mayflower team, drop us a line or comment on the article. Look forward to hearing from y’all.