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     Quarterly Retreat For A Solo-Preneur

I am, in the words of one very young friend, the boss of me. Though I am currently an office of one, I still need occasional evaluation, planning, and some blue-sky dreaming time. From this desire for some time with the only staff I have, grew my quarterly RETREAT.

Each year I schedule my retreats in the CALENDAR well ahead of time, and I don’t give them up for clients. For me to work for days and months at a time without taking time for my retreat would be like trying to drive my car without stopping to fill the gas tank –- it couldn’t last very long. My retreats are a PRIORITY, and I treat them as such by blocking off the time the same way I would for a client.

Most of the time my retreats have a FOCUS. One time it was “clients”. I began the day by making a spreadsheet, with my clients’ names down the side and the months of the year across the top. I then filled in the sheet for “hours per client” and again for “dollars per client”. I had actually guessed wrong about which clients had been responsible for the most income that year. Alan Weiss, the author and consulting expert, has recommended letting go of the low-profit clients each year. I went for a long hike, examining how I would IMPLEMENT this idea. If I were to let go of a client, what would that look like? To whom would I refer them? What would I say? How might I turn a low-producing client into a more lucrative one? Later, when one of my unexpectedly high-producing clients asked for special consideration in scheduling an appointment outside my usual business hours, I was well prepared to give a little, knowing how important she had been to the success of my business.

Another retreat day focused on professional development. I began by listing all the SKILLS I had acquired since I began my current business. I then made a list of all the things I would like to learn. This for me can be a problem, since I am interested in just about everything. How easily I could spend all my time going to classes and none of it earning a living! Spending time looking at my list helped me to focus on what would be the most BENEFICIAL use of my professional development dollars. I asked questions such as, what sort of clients could I work with in the future if I completed this professional development? Are these the clients I most want? How could I better serve my current clients? What professional development would strengthen my business for the future?

Another retreat might focus on MARKETING ideas, with time spent online looking at all the resources available from sites such as Evangelist Marketing, Robert Middleton’s Action Plan, Romanus Wolter, The Kick Start Guy, Jill Lublin’s Guerilla Publicity, and many others. Follow up the research with some thinking and dreaming. Walk around the nearest city and notice all the ways in which OTHER people market themselves and their work. Dream up something that’s never been done before, or commit to doing something that works for your successful colleagues.

And because I want to be the kind of boss everyone wants to work for, I make it FUN. My retreat days may include lunch at a nice restaurant, a trip to the ice skating rink, a walking tour of an unfamiliar neighborhood, or some other activity to shake up my patterns and see my business life from a fresh PERSPECTIVE.

The day ends by COMMITTING to new plans with a timetable attached. These new plans become action steps to be entered in my planner, helping me to translate my dreams and brainstorms into reality. If you are the sort of person who thinks better aloud than alone, it can be helpful to join with other “solo-preneurs” to make a retreat a JOINT one. Agree on a theme, then put one person in charge of planning for the meeting; rotate the responsibility of organizing the day’s activities each quarter.

While I try to be a good boss to myself every day by communicating (or in my case, thinking) clearly, giving myself the necessary tools to do a good job, and acknowledging my effort as well as results, the quarterly retreat remains one of the most ENERGIZING things my boss does for me.


Margaret Lukens is the owner of New Leaf Services, providing professional organizing and transformational coaching. She is available to organize retreats and planning meetings for offices of any size. Visit her website at www.newleafservices.com.

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