Use 2016’s last days to prepare for your New Year

 

It’s the last week of the year, and you’re spending it at work. Most likely the phones are quiet, the demands are few, and it’s a good time to contemplate 2016 and prepare for 2017. How can you use this (short) week wisely? Here are a few suggestions to help you get a jump on the New Year.

1. Set your annual personal goals, and if you’re the agency owner or manager, the agency’s goals. What were your 2016 sales goals? Did you meet them? What were your challenges and obstacles? What were your wins? What do you see happening in your marketplace next year? All of these can help you set 2017 goals. We even suggest you use a SWOT analysis, listing out your (or your agency’s) Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

It's also important to observe how your yearly goals intersect and support your long-term (3-, 5- or 10-year) goals, such as growing your agency or your book of business to a certain size, retiring at age 50, etc. 


2. Take a look at where you spent your time. We know it’s impossible to account for all 2,016 hours you spent working in 2016. (That’s no typo – if you multiply the average 21 work days per month, times 8 hours per day, times 12 months, it equals 2,016 hours.) Still, you should know which activities made you the most money this year. And you probably have a good idea of what percentage of the week you spend in agency meetings, water cooler conversations, computer upgrades, social media side trails and more – those activities that typically don’t make you any money. Now consider ways to increase the money-makers and downplay the time-suckers. 


Related: Insurance agent productivity hacks: How to squeeze 10 hours into 8


3. Invest in yourself.
Do a SWOT analysis on yourself as well: what are your strengths and weaknesses? How can you build up those weaker talents or skills? Calendar in any training classes for the year, taking into account your busy season(s), so as not to overload you or your staff. Consider not only continuing education credits, but new learning opportunities such as marketing or technology-related classes, many of which are available online. One good example is Lynda.com which offers hundreds of business, web and marketing classes.


Related: 9 time management tips to help you make the most of the New Year


4. Calendar only the effective tradeshows. You know which ones are most beneficial to you, whether they’re insurance industry events or local chamber events. Choose those, and don’t let yourself be guilted into attending ones that have no return on your investment.


5. Calendar your rewards. Yes, it’s important to build into your year vacation time and other self-rewards. If you’re a manager, it’s equally important to build in recognition time for your employees. If you don’t schedule it, you’re likely to overlook it in the day-to-day rush.


6. Schedule your thanks. As we discussed in an earlier post on 5 Ways to Thank Insurance Clients, you don’t always have to give gifts to clients around the holidays. You may want to schedule other, or additional, customer appreciation gifts and letters.


7. Commit to spending more time with your clients, cross-selling and getting referrals. You know first-hand how hard it can be to gain new clients. So explore ways you can delight your existing clients in the New Year, turning them into referral machines. Since they already know you and work with you, they’re easier to upsell, cross-sell and act as your advocate.