Business Planning

business_planningI used to compile business plans back in my corporate days. These plans were fat, shiny binders bedazzled with rainbow charts and stuffed with sunny spreadsheets describing the annual fiscal resolutions of my department. Each salesperson would put in their anticipated revenue, admin would counter with anticipated costs, and there’d be a ton of back and forth until we got a net black number that we could send up to the execs. This is how we kept our jobs every year.

At the end of the year, we had to report on whether or not we met that plan. There was usually so much staff turnover, product change, and department restructuring that the plan and the department who created it in January bore no resemblance to the results delivered at the end of December but that was okay. After all, we had excuses—look at all that turnover, change, and restructuring!

You don’t really get that when you’re a self-managed business of one. Productivity is fairly constant and there aren’t any major restructuring or product changes. Year in, year out, it’s me doing what I do.

I started doing business plans for myself a couple years ago. Unlike the big binders of my past that no one ever really read, my own art business plan is a terse list of bullet points. Here is the one I drafted for 2012:

1. Create House brochure, get it printed, distribute to Real Estate offices.
2. Prepare for “Neighborhoods” show – summer/fall readiness with postering
3. Enter work in 1 FCA show and do ongoing Call for Entry research
4. Write an Art blog
5. Update website – add Resume, Publicity pages


1. My crack Graphic Design team (Me) made some great brochures. They’re sitting in a box in my studio. Now I just need to get the lazy-ass Marketing department to compile a distribution list and send them out. Oh, wait: I’m Marketing.

2. Manufacturing never did produce enough work for my “Neighborhoods” show. I better speak to them. Oh, wait, that’s me, too. It’s great – and necessary – that my product line sells but if I’m going to have enough for a show, I have to do a dedicated show-only run. Unfortunately, I’m a little short-staffed. Maybe some productivity seminars will help?

3. My Proposal department managed to find a few interesting Calls for Entry but only got into one FCA show. Disappointing; I should mention them – I mean Me – to HR, which is also Me.

4. No art blog, unless you count this one here. My Communications department has been underperforming; time to restructure Me into Marketing.

5. The website is up to date. Me-the-Webmaster was reasonably on top of things. Maybe I should move Me to Communications?

Sometimes Management needs to cut everyone some slack.

My ongoing goal, of course, is make enough money to survive. That’s about two or three painting sales a month, which I do. The way I do it — and this is the part of the plan that stays the same every year — is to keep working on these four states of development:

(1) Have paintings “out there” getting exposure,
(2) Expressions of interest and potential sales,
(3) Commissions in the queue, and
(4) Paintings I’m finishing that are sold or potentially sold.

This is my idea of the artistic sales cycle: seeding, cultivating, growing, harvesting. “Seeding” is doing some kind of charitable giveaway that you hope will pay off down the road. This is where the more visionary Executive role has to keep pushing everyone on.

But, man, it’s tough when the whole staff wants to call in sick or take a mental health… month!

So fellow pros and self-starters, how do you do it? Do you plan? Do you do an end of year review of that plan? What does your annual picture look like?