THE YEAR IN REVIEW: LUCKY BREAK’S 2018

LuckyBreak2018Retrospective

Year In Review

 

I recently shared some of our big clients wins of 2018 and Lucky Break has enjoyed good success this year, too.  Raising teenage daughters, resettling my family in a new state, and navigating the Summer of Surgery (I survived three operations over the course of three months!) kept new product launches to a minimum, but we were plenty busy nonetheless. A few of our highlights…

 

LBCSign

 

  • We graduated three full semesters of Brick House Branding, empowering 75 entrepreneurs to take their companies to the next level. We also continued another round of updates from BHB grads, highlighting their progress and what they’ve learned in the process of launching, rebranding, or up-leveling their brands.  You ‘re invited to catch all the awesome “before + after” blogs in our Where Are They Now series.

 

  • I was quoted in business articles in several notable publications, including the Motley Fool, Craft Industry Alliance, and SoapQueen.

 

SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS + LIVE EVENTS

 

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  • I had the distinct pleasure of keynoting the Craftcation conference in Ventura, CA. My talk focused on giving ourself much-need flexibility and grace as entrepreneurs. This was my third consecutive year attending and it’s quickly become the highlight of my year. If you’ve never been to Craftcation, it’s one part vacation, one part business conference, one part craft party… and 100% good time. The Lucky Break Team will be there again in 2019 and I hope you’ll grab a ticket and join us!

 

  • I keynoted the HSCG Annual Conference right here in my hometown of Atlanta, GA. It was a blast hosting the Lucky Break team and we grubbed hard, cocktailed harder, and enjoyed some late-night festivities at the Georgia Aquarium. In between all of that, I sat on an Expert Panel and taught two additional workshops on brand development and wholesale.

 

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  • In mid-summer, I rolled into Alabama to be a part of their annual soapmaking event, leading a workshop on pricing. I had my daughter in tow and we spent the following day at the  in reflection at the National Peace & Justice Memorial. If you’ve been thinking about visiting, I encourage you to go. It was overwhelming and moving and powerful all at once.

 

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Hello from the Caribbean! A Recap of our 2018 Annual Strategic Retreat

Lucky Break Strategic Retreat

Lucky Break Strategic Retreat

 

Turquoise waters. Mimosas for breakfast each and every morning. Dessert served on white china multiple times per day. Crisp linens turned down each evening just before bed. Postcard-worthy sunsets.

 

It’s safe to say that there are worse ways to tuck yourself away and do some business planning. Right? RIGHT. The Lucky Break team has a tradition of gathering together once per year for our Annual Strategic Planning Retreat. In years past, we’ve huddled in NYC, Asheville, and Savannah (you can see my reports from those retreats here and here). But I decided to kick things up a notch or three this year and take the retreat to the seas.

 

 

Earlier this month, Shannon, Melissa, and I boarded a Royal Caribbean ship and set sail for a 7-night cruise through the Eastern Caribbean. Yes, there was horseback riding through a 2,200-acre Puerto Rican ranch. Yes, there was catamaran sailing. Yes, there was sea-turtle-spotting, acrobatic shows, jaw-dropping sunsets, and plenty of poolside sunbathing. It was divine in so many ways. It also involved a fair amount of seasickness, which was far less divine. It’s all about balance, right (no pun intended)?

 

 

This year, we decided it was just too damn cold to stay stateside. And we’ve been digging extra deep in our workloads lately, too, so some teal Caribbean waters felt like just the ticket. And the Caribbean did not disappoint. Exhibit A…

 

 

We stayed in a swanky Royal Sky Loft Suite, which meant that we had two (!) bathrooms, a generously-sized balcony, a dining area, a bigger living room than I’ve ever seen on a cruise ship, and a lovely loft bedroom. Melissa and Shannon crashed there, and I slept where I always do: on the balcony. The room stewards always think I’m slightly mad to sleep outside, but have you ever seen the nighttime sky from the middle of the ocean? So. Many. Bright. Stars. And the wind swirls around me as the waves lap against the boat and I promise you: it’s the best sleep ever.

 

 

Some of our favorite moments:

  • Melissa had recently commented that she had never had a corn dog (HOW? How is that even possible?). I scoured that boat for corn dogs to no avail. I finally asked our room steward where a girl could get a corn dog and the answer was: Not on this ship. But a few evenings later, the chef paraded out a plate of the most decadent corn dogs, especially for Melissa!

 

 

  • My birthday is in January. and I typically take a very Buddhist view of the occasion. It’s a quiet affair by choice: no cake, no balloons, no parties. I prefer to spend the day in quiet reflection. I sleep in a bit, eat something delicious, get in some extra meditation time, and think about what I want for myself in the year to come. Our room steward noticed that my birthday was coming up soon and surprised us by decorating the room with signs, mobiles, and crepe paper pom-poms suspended from the ceiling. The chef and wait staff presented me with song and cake at dinner. It was much more “high key” than I generally prefer, but it was so incredibly sweet that it made me cry.

 

  • Mimosas that magically appear when you sit down to breakfast. And wine glasses that never go bare at dinner.

 

 

  • Melissa was one of just three (out of 6,000 people!) selected for additional screening by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. That sounded intimidating at first blush, but it simply meant that we were able to skip the dreadfully long passport lines and go directly to an enforcement agent who informed us that “This is all b.s.!” and sped us right through.

 

Inbetween the ice cream cones and sunbathing and swanky dinners, we accomplished a surprising amount of work. At each retreat, we pull sales data and financial reports. We launch surveys for each of our key programs before each retreat and review the insights those surveys reveal. We review the report from the previous year’s retreat and reflect on what we did (and didn’t accomplish). We pull back and look at the bigger picture of what we’re doing, reconnect with our core values, analyze team responsibilities and technology to look for fresh efficiencies. We perform competitor analyses, so we can keep a finger on the pulse of the landscape. We explore new collaborators and colleagues, too.

 

And the very last thing we do is plot every product launch, speaking engagement, and enrollment period on a giant desk calendar that we’ve deconstructed and taped to the wall. Color-coded post-its are arranged and rearranged until we have a solid roadmap for the year ahead.

 

 

So what decisions did we make this year? I can’t dish on all the good stuff just yet, but here are a few sneak peeks:

 

  • My book on the psychology of smart pricing will be published this year! Look for it this summer. This is a subject that I’m hyper-passionate about… how do you go from a pricing system that’s based on your costs to a pricing system that’s based on your brand? I’ve been collecting examples for the past few years and I have some interesting strategies up my sleeve.

 

  • We’re playing with the idea of introducing a whole new product category to Lucky Break’s offering. It would be a big departure from what we do now (*insert big tease here*). I have an appointment with my IP attorney in the next few weeks to get the green light, but I’m so excited about the possibilities!

 

 

  • I finally moved over from Snapchat to Instagram Stories. I know, I know… you’ve probably been there for a year already. What can I say? I’m late to the game. But I’m having a ridiculously good time with it. I’d love to have you follow along!

 

  • We’ll soon launch Instagram Story takeovers featuring some of our favorite clients. I’m so eager for them to pull back the curtain and give you a peek inside the day-to-day mechanics of running their empires.

 

 

  • At the end of 2017, we hired a part-time Technical Product Manager (Hi, Helen!) and that opens up a world of possibilities with regard to new product development in the software space. We’re still deciding which direction we want to take that, but the possibilities have us positively giddy.

 

  • We also just hired a new full-time teammate (Hi, Angie!) who was onboarding while we circled the Caribbean. She’s whip-smart, decidedly lovely, and she has a few skill sets that we’re exploring how to put to work, too.

 

 

All in all, not a bad way to spend a week. We have some big things on tap for 2018 and I hope you’ll keep an eye on Lucky Break as we roll out new things. Even better: hop on my mailing list and you’ll never miss a thing (Bonus: I’ll deliver free business wisdom to your inbox every few weeks). Will we take the retreat to the seas again next year? Who knows, but I certainly wouldn’t mind it!

 

Peek inside the Lucky Break Team Retreat in Savannah, GA

Retreat in Savannah, Georgia - Lucky Break - Lela Barker

Last week, I tucked away with my team in a gorgeous home in the historic district of Savannah, Georgia. Melissa, Shannon, and Eileen flew in from three different states so that we could huddle together to make grand plans for the coming year. Our Strategic Team Retreat has become an annual fall tradition, offering us a chance to look back on the year that was and plan what’s next for ourselves (and for you, too).

 

Retreat in Savannah, Georgia

 

The retreat itself is preceded by a solid month of data collection and planning. Aside from finding digs which are both comfortable enough and swanky enough to keep us happy, there’s a mountain of research that needs to be done: each Lucky Break teammate reviews themselves, giving me important insight into what they love about their job, and what they find less thrilling, I discover what skills sets I’ve left untapped, how I can make their work more efficient and fulfilling, and how I can communicate with them more effectively. There are dozens of reports we pull to discover data trends: revenue figures, sales-by-product, Google Analytics for our website, MailChimp email marketing stats, month-by-month social media analysis… the list goes on and on.

 

And then there’s the most important piece. You might not have realized it, but I saved a seat at our table for you too! I designed a Client Survey and sent it out to my email subscribers, asking them to share their thoughts with the Lucky Break team. We explored what you’re struggling with, which facets of your business you feel the most confident it, and what you’d like to see us create next. We wanted you to have a seat at the table, too, and we poured over all 142 survey responses with a keen eye toward understanding how we can best serve you in 2017.

 

Retreat in Savannah, Georgia

 

We spent an average of 12 hours a day in meetings: data review, brainstorming, and schedule plotting, punctuated by the occasional dance break. We tore apart a giant desk calendar, taping it to the walls of the dining room, loading each month with dozens of brightly colored Post-it notes to mark every open enrollment period, every new product launch, and every speaking engagement. Melissa typed as we talked, creating a 57-page roadmap of the next twelve months (complete with an alphabetical index, because that woman is a goddess!).

 

And there’s no possible way that you could get the four of us together in one room for a week without some serious shenanigans happening. Between meetings, we feasted on crab cakes in a sunny restaurant by the river. We noshed on goat-cheese-stuffed artichokes in a historic mansion. We hosted a wine-fueled pajama party on Periscope and survived a Moscow-Mule-fueled ghost tour in a pop-up hearse. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried…

 

Retreat in Savannah, Georgia Ghost Tour

 

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Do you need to take a time out from your business?

Lucky Break Consulting - Planning a Strategic Retreat For Your Small Business

Not the stick-your-nose-in-a-corner-for-five-minutes variety of time out, but certainly the let’s-pull-back-and-look-at-the-big-picture variety.

 

In late October, the Lucky Break team and I did just that, and I can honestly say that planning a strategic retreat is the single best thing I do for my business. This is the second consecutive year that we’ve tucked ourselves away for a few days in the fall and challenged ourselves to put everything we’re doing under the microscope. The end result? We’re continually assessing ourselves as a company, celebrating what’s working, fixing what’s broken, and exploring new ways to serve our customers.

 

How often have you felt like you’re working IN your business, rather than ON your business? Sometimes we’re so consumed with the day-to-day operations of running our companies that we fail to really pull back and look at the bigger picture. Taking your team (or- hell- even yourself!) away for a few days of strategic planning is one of the very best things you can do for your company.  There’s something magical that happens when you unplug from daily life and examine your business at every level.

 

    • What’s working especially well?
    • What’s not working as well as you hoped?
    • Who are you really serving?
    • How you can get to those people more efficiently?
    • Which of those people’s needs aren’t currently being met?
    • How are social media platforms evolving and how can you improve engagement on your preferred platforms?
    • What business systems need to be developed?
    • What vulnerabilities does the company have?
    • What kind of traffic is your website garnering? What’s driving that traffic and how effective + pleasant is the online experience for your customers?
    • What pieces of your business really light you up and how can you focus more on those facets of the business?
    • What pieces of the business drain your energy and how can you focus less on those facets?
    • What are your goals for the coming year?
    • Where is your revenue coming from?
    • What expenses or investments aren’t bearing fruit?
    • Who can you collaborate with in the coming year?

 

Shannon (my Client Concierge + graphic designer) and Melissa (my Operations Manager) came in from Massachusetts and Alabama for a few days of intensive work at a funky little house, nestled in Asheville, NC in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  As a virtual team, this is the one time each year I can count on us all being together in the same room and- let me tell you- we move mountains when we’re sharing the same physical space! Enjoy a few of my favorite images from our time together…

 

Lucky Break Consulting - Planning a Strategic Retreat For Your Small Business

Our days started with the breakfast I made for us each day. Don’t judge our bacon consumption… we needed protein to fuel all that cerebral work!

 

Lucky Break Consulting - Planning a Strategic Retreat For Your Small Business

Our days sometimes ended with Moscow Mule-fueled pajama parties in my bedroom.

 

Lucky Break Consulting - Planning a Strategic Retreat For Your Small Business

There’s never a bad month to be in Asheville, but October is especially beautiful. When we stared to go stir crazy, we piled into my car for a drive down the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway.

 

Lucky Break Consulting - Planning a Strategic Retreat For Your Small Business

Flowers + coffee= the secrets to a productive retreat!

 

Lucky Break Consulting - Planning a Strategic Retreat For Your Small Business

Our planing process includes covering the walls with a 2016 desk calendar, covered in color-coded sticky notes, and plotting out the entire year. Product launches, class enrollment periods, speaking engagements, personal time off… it’s all there.

 

Lucky Break Consulting - Planning a Strategic Retreat For Your Small Business

When not sitting around an oversized dining room table stacked with reports, laptops, and coffee mugs, we were huddled together in this magical little spot in the backyard that we dubbed “The Thinking Hut.” Being surrounded by all that fresh air and the majesty of nature does wonders for the creative process.

 

Lucky Break Consulting - Planning a Strategic Retreat For Your Small Business

Big pasta dinners also do wonders for the creative process. I’m convinced that full bellies make for happy retreat participants!

 

Lucky Break Consulting - Planning a Strategic Retreat For Your Small Business

I’m a lucky girl, indeed, to work alongside these two. They cheer our clients on every bit as much as I do and their commitment to Lucky Break inspires me to dig deeper and challenge myself every day. A great team is so vital and these lades are my right and left hands!

 

PLANNING A STRATEGIC RETREAT

Peek at your calendar and identify a 48-hour stretch of time where you can sneak away for your own retreat between now and the end of the year. Perhaps these tips for making the most of this critical time will prove helpful…

 

1. Get out of your house. Can you tuck yourself in at a local hotel? Or stash yourself away in the guest bedroom of a friend? I firmly believe that getting out of your element allows for clearer thinking.

 

2. Leave technology behind. Vow to reserve your smartphone exclusively for calls. Bring your laptop but don’t sign onto the internet. I love technology, but it can prove to be a down-the-rabbit-hole distraction that takes you off course.

 

3. Feed yourself well. A full belly makes for a clear head and you’ll need an abundance of healthy food options to serve as fuel for the work ahead.

 

4. Design an agenda before you go. List every facet of the business that you’d like to analyze and then organize those pieces logically, assigning firm “start” and “stop” times. The structure will ensure your assessments are efficient while helping you to avoid getting bogged down with the process.

 

5. Set goals. What decisions do you need to make during this time? What are you looking to accomplish with this retreat? Sometimes I find it helpful to set the goals first and then work backwards to design the supporting agenda.

 

6. Bring your research. I run revenue reports and collate lots of thinking and data before heading out.

 

7. Capture your takeaways. Ensure that you record the big decisions made at the retreat and your plan for implementation. Decisions are meaningless without action, so establish a realistic timeline for putting these ideas into motion.

 

What techniques do you use to pull back and work at higher levels of your business? I’d love to hear what works for you… drop a comment below!