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Goals Retreat... Done

We are literally just back from our annual goals and objectives retreat, and this year it went far more smoothly than I would have suspected. I'd like to think that, after several years of attempting these exaggerated team meetings, we're getting the hang of this kind of strategic planning. Sadly, I suspect that premise is not accurate. While I do think we're slowly starting to internalize the importance and efficacy of good planning, and we're warming to the notion that we should be writing everything down to keep us honest over time, there may be more going on.

Every year we take some sort of trip, or isolate ourselves in some way to spend uninterrupted time crafting our goals and objectives for the coming year. I spent much of my career working for large organizations, many dealing with public money, which required us to be really good at verbalizing how we spent our time and funds. I learned to love the process, and found the time spent in organizing helped immeasurably with budgeting, prioritizing, and often defending what we attempted to do as a team. So there is no problem with valuing the concept or process of strategic planning, that's a given. The issue arises that when we attempt to adapt a process that works for a large group of disparate departmental, administrative, and sometimes political constituents, and apply that process to a married couple... it can seem a bit silly. The exercise can feel needlessly complex. I mean really, it's just the two of us. Why are we going through this whole time consuming, and expensive, ritual?

I'll be the first to say that I have felt a bit foolish at times during these sessions. I bought a huge flip chart, loaded up various colored markers and post-it notepads. I've booked transportation, hotels, and reserved meeting rooms, but it seems that every year we back off slightly on the corporate nature of these retreats. This year, we drove to Austin, rented a hotel room for one night, and drove home the following day. So what's happening to us? Are we giving up? I don't think so.

I think we've always attempted to combine some sort of vacation with these retreats. And that hasn't changed. I'm not suggesting that we're trying to mask a holiday with work jargon, but rather that we need to disconnect with all the pressure we've been under during Q4, and remove the many distractions present at home or in the studio. We need to psychologically separate ourselves from the day-to-day running of the business to see it from a 30,000 foot view. If that means that we discuss goals by the pool, so be it. I'm willing to do what it takes to make this business succeed. Seriously though, although our finances may dictate how much we can afford in any given year, retreating to some other place is really important to the process.

Given that we carved time away from the business this week, and drove all the way to Austin for the night, I think the process was far more simple than it has been in the past. I suspect we're getting the hang of it. We were able to review last year's goals, assess whether or not those goals and objectives needed to be thrown out or updated, and then we were able to move on to how we are forecasting for the months to come.

We deviated slightly from the way we have done goals in prior years, in that we stepped up the organization of the planning to comport with key elements in running the business. Before, we have always looked at our goals as a sort of shopping list for our dreams. We created a list of what seemed lovely at the time, and then crafted objectives that would help us to realize those dreams. That has been great, but in the past couple of years, we noticed that by the summer, we largely couldn't imagine why we felt so strongly about the goals that we had identified six months earlier. So what was going wrong?

I don't think there was a particular issue with the quality of our goals, but rather that they were like a Christmas list to Santa. All our goals were lovely, and would be wonderful if achieved, but they weren't alway key to the growth of the business. So, while it would be wonderful to attend an art fair in Barcelona, would spending the time and effort to exhibit abroad move the needle for our profits this year? We had lovely goals, but they didn't always seem to work together toward a clearly measurable success.

This year, our goals were based instead on several pillars of good business management. We've grouped our ideas considering the need to create and maintain plans around production, prospecting, promotion, productivity and profit. Although we do all of these things already, I can't go to a folder and pull our our prospecting plan for review. My hope is that, by organizing our year around a recognizable plan for each of these five areas, we will be able to create these written plans for the future. So if our prospecting plan centers around expanding our list of collectors, we we can craft objectives around events, networking, outreach, and client appreciation efforts. I don't know, it seemed to be far more organized, and it the whole process was a lot faster than in previous years. It just seems smarter to me. Of course, the test will be in several months. Hopefully come summer, we'll be able to recognize not only what we were trying to achieve with the goal, but also we will have largely realized its completion.

There were two goals that were new to us this year. One was the need to craft strategy around the creation of our new company in Romania, and the second addressed the birth of our new nonprofit corporation Aripa Arte. While both are related, each of those undertakings have unique needs, and will require us to spend some time and effort planning for their success.

So overall, I think we can say that our 2023 Goals and Objectives Retreat was a success. I'll include the entire list, not because I think it is so worth your time to read, but because it may be helpful to someone in their own planning process. Feel free to skip over the text, or to pick our work apart. I would welcome any suggestions or observations, and if you've done a great job with your goals, I'd love to see how you've organized your year as well.

As I've said before, at the end of the day, these are our goals and objectives, and we can alter them, expand them, combine them, or reject them as we see fit. We have created a living document that is specific to our needs, and that reflects our understanding when they were written. As we change and grow, so will our goals... and to fail at a goal in no way means that we've failed as people, or as a business. It just means that the goal needs to be rewritten, that the objectives may need to be tweaked, and we can start the process all over again.

Goals & Objectives 2023

Goal I: Production Plan: Create Adequate, Marketable Art.

Objective 1: Create a grid for tracking projects at weekly meetings.

Objective 2: Prepare a series of works for exhibiting off site.

Goal 2: Prospecting Plan: Expand List of Collectors.

Objective 1: Host quarterly events for collectors at the studio.

Objective 2: Networking events with other prospects, influencers, and press

Objective 3: Attend at least two art events per month

Objective 4: Track appreciation of established collectors

Goal 3: Profit Plan: Benchmarks to Increase Profit.

Objective 1: Update price increases in Artwork Archives, Websites, and in Studio

Objective 2: Generate monthly expense reports, sales, revenue reports, and projections.

Objective 3: Identify expenses that can be cut to save money.

Objective 4: Create a list of vendors who have wholesale products.

Goal 4: Promotion Plan:  Create Sales and Marketing Strategies.

Objective 1: Increase social media engagement 20% (purchase campaigns)

Objective 2: Schedule off site exhibitions

Objective 3: Track engagement of Art Chat, Vlog, Blog, Podcast

Objective 4: Test paid ad packages.

Objective 5: Write at least 6 articles marketing us and our art.

Goal 5: Productivity Plan: Develop processes to work more efficiently.

Objective 1: Carve out time to process receipts weekly.

Objective 2: Identify list of processes that could benefit from automation.

Objective 3: Identify list of activities that could be done by a remote assistant. 

Goal 6: Professional Development: Identify Mentoring and Training Opportunities.

Objective 1: Find communities who can help us learn..

Objective 2: Identify coursework that can fill gaps in our knowledge.

Objective 3: Employ specialists who can direct and inspire us. 

Goal 7: Incorporate Aripa Arte and Buburuza Productions SRL into the Business

Objective 1: Identify checklist for opening the company. (Logo, website, register NGO)

Objective 2: Create board reporting package template.

Objective 3: Submit all required paperwork for 501(c)3 status.

Objective 4: Establish a network within Romania.

Objective 5: Do research into need.  (focus groups, surveys, interviews)

“Art Life Blog with John & Bogdan” is a weekly blog/vlog/podcast that creates a community, a conversation, between creatives in all sorts of fields at all sorts of levels.  We want to discuss what we’re learning, what we’ve experienced, and whom we’ve met in our journey of running a freelance creative business. John Bishop is a visual artist living in Houston, Texas. His work is largely abstract, and explores how to turn mythic, archetypal symbols into individual experiences allowing us to see them in a new way, with fresh eyes. Bogdan is a videographer and fine art photographer who constantly seeks to stretch the boundaries of traditional photographic work, with the added flare of his artistic eye.  Both artists’ work can be seen online, or at their studios at Silver Street Studios, 2000 Edwards Street, in Houston.

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