As a creative small business owner, you know that there are times you have to work IN your business—that includes the agency side of business! Today, we’re going to talk about how to plan an immersion weekend and clean up client processes, set small business quarterly goals, and more.
They’ll tell you that you got to pick one side or the other and maybe I will one of these days, but probably not. I adore the service provider or agency side of my business. The way I look at it, it’s the little lab where I can tinker and play in the sandbox with ideas or hypotheses that I have. Then based on what’s working and what’s not, I can turn those into things that I’m putting into digital courses or products or even things that I’m teaching here.
If you offer a service though as a creative small business owner or entrepreneur, then you know sometimes we get so busy and in the weeds with actually delivering the service and providing that to the client—we don’t turn around and actually clean up the parts of the business that they’re interacting with. It’s like at some point maybe you should pause the flights and actually go, work on the airplane and make sure it’s in spit spot shape—and all God’s children said, amen—this can happen to the best of us.
That’s why I’m going behind the scenes on how to do an immersion retreat in your business and clean up your client services, the service provider whatever agency style side of your business you wanna call it. AKA that time we had spa days for the Ashlyn Writes Copywriting Agency side of the business. We did this in Q1 for my business and it was a freaking Swedish massage for the agency side of things—it hurts ~*sooo*~ good.
I posted on Instagram and asked if this is something that y’all would be interested in and you said, heck yes, so here we go.
No. 1| Goal Setting
Not to belabor the plane analogy but you’ve probably heard the one degree theory. Basically, for every one degree that a plane is off its course, it’s gonna miss its destination one mile for every 60 miles you fly. Darren Hardy explains this a little bit more in his book, “The Compound Effect.” 100% recommend it. Think about it this way—a plane that is leaving LA flying towards Rome pointed one degree off to the south. After 12 hours it’s gonna land somewhere in Tunisia, Africa. If it’s one degree off its course to the north, then it’s gonna end up somewhere either in Slovenia or Austria.
What does this have to do with your immersion retreat weekend for your agency?
Well, the goals matter but it’s not the whole purpose or point of running one of these immersions. The way I wanted to set it up or the way I found it most helpful is to remember that this is NOT your big goal setting/brainstorming/dream session for your business. This is not the time where you’re thinking about what’s possible? What can we do in five years? What can we do in 10 years? But I have found it was really helpful for us to at least spend one hour getting on the same page.Even If it were just me, I would have done the same thing.
We shared ideas about where we wanna be in 10 years, five years, at the end of this calendar year. Then where that meant we needed to be six months from now, where that meant we needed to be at the of the quarter and then the end of the month that we were in. That backward planning tactic has been so helpful for me. So take it and use it, it’s great.
But I hope you can see what I’m saying here. We did spend a little bit of time just being like, okay, this is what we’re going after—BUT that’s not the whole purpose of one of these. I’ll get more into the schedule in just a moment. Instead, I would recommend you clear out these two to three days and set them aside.
Your focus during your immersion retreat weekend is cleaning and tweaking to the nth degree, every. single. step. in your process.
Every single workflow in micro workflow in your agency or in your service that you provide people. Every client touchpoint along the way. Every email they’re interacting with. Every template they’re interacting with. Every bit of your deliverable and how that gets to them.—> THAT is the purpose of a retreat like this.
We didn’t book anything fancy for this. We just came here to my house outside of Atlanta. I did treat it a little bit like a staycation, made sure childcare was covered. I also had no big work to do’s on my plate. It was just this. Time blocked, I’m only working on this. I had my credit card loaded in DoorDash ready to go for takeout. I had gotten lots of snacks, LaCroix, drinks, everything was ready. Also having office supplies on hand. Posterboard, big sticky notes, Sharpies, things like that were helpful too. I’ll bring those up more in just a sec.
So you’ve got these two to three-ish days set aside. You’re just going to focus on the service provider side of your business and cleaning it.
By the way, Amy Porterfield has an episode, it’s pretty much vintage at this point but she talks through doing one of these immersion retreat weekends for her funnels in her business. And that is helpful but what I’m talking about is for those of us who provide a service, whether you’re a photographer, a designer, a floral designer, I don’t care what it is. If you are providing a service to somebody, I still think you have to set aside this time and go through and work on every single client touchpoint and workflow piece along the way.
That brings me to step two of the agenda.
No. 2| The Agenda
The week before we met Sarah, who helps on the agency side of my business, and I had the agenda ready to go.
So here’s my tip for you. Once you already have these dates set aside for your immersion weekend and you know you’re gonna spend some concentrated time immersing into all of the agency side of your business, make sure you set up some sort of corralling place where you can load in any ideas and things that hit along the way. This way when you’re working and you’re servicing your clients and you think, oh my gosh this would be so much more helpful to them if I had a PDF that explained X, Y, Z. It goes on that idea list. Or you run into a little place where you realize something needs to be fixed. It goes on that idea list. Just keep banking all those ideas on this list ’cause that’s gonna help set the agenda and the tone for your time.
So when we’re trying to come up with a schedule for this, it wasn’t hard because the list was already made.
<<<Here’s what I found helpful to do>>>
On the first day, we were just focused on the client workflow, the service, everything that went into it. Again, every client touchpoint along the way.
The second day was then gonna focus more on the marketing mechanism of it. If you watched last week’s video, I talked a little bit more about the welcome magazine and the pricing and services guide that we use in my business and all that kind of stuff. So day two of this was when we were really cleaning that.
Here are some more examples of how this broke down for us ⬇️⬇️
Immersion Weekend Day One
Time Tracking—So on that day one, one thing I’m so passionate about is time tracking. We through every single piece of the service that we’re providing people and pulled down to the 15 minute mark, how long that takes us. Does it take us 15 minutes, 30 minutes, four hours? Then that way I can look at that whole client process and say, this package takes us 7.5 hours to execute or whatever it is. And then that can help you turn around and see how many can you actually do of these in the month? Have you been underestimating yourself or overestimating yourself? (probably that. ;))
Client Support—This also can be where you go through and see where clients may need support along the way or an extra piece of communication. The way I think about it is if two clients have asked the same questions—that’s on me. That proves that something has not been clear in the process and I need to figure out a way to message it to them or hold their hand or get them support that is more conducive to them getting through the project. So again, this day one is a lot of fixing that kind of thing and just looking at every single little bitty touchpoint along the way and cleaning it.
Immersion Weekend Day Two
Enhance Messaging—How can we enhance the messaging about this service that we provide or make it clear on sales calls? How can I clean up my pricing and service magazine? How can I clean up that welcome magazine? How do we get repeat business? Are we getting repeat business? I mentioned things like poster board and sticky notes and again, even if it were just me I would be using these things to put big ideas on the wall, to break down instead of just on my computer what the workflow of a client process looks like.
With the sticky notes, here’s my best tip—before you get started or as you’re getting started writing down on stickies all the things you need to be buttoned up before you are done with your immersion retreat—stick all of those on one window pane. The goal is by the end of your immersion weekend they’re moved over to the pane where they’re answered. It can just be a good visual reminder if you can see the questions and the things you’re trying to clear up along the way.
Comment below, if this is starting to make sense or you’re at least getting excited about maybe having some dedicated time where you’re really working on cleaning up the service provider side of your business.
That’s gonna bring me to step three, the ongoing process of this, and scheduling a follow-up plan.
No. 3 | Follow-up Plan
I remember saying early on in my business that if I’m gonna charge BMW prices if my prices, then I need to make sure that I’m providing that same level BMW experience.
I am first to say that I have failed this 100 times over the years.
BUT it’s a bar that I want to chase constantly on the service provider side of my business. And if you’re the creative CEO, then you know is very hard to have these multiple sides of your business because your brain is split essentially.
You have the service that you provide people and then maybe you have digital downloads or courses or other types of products people can buy from you. You’re trying to think about how to market and position both. One thing I’ve worked to do to make sure that I’m regularly checking in and making sure that the service is clean is having what I’m calling white-glove check-ins. I wanna make sure we’re providing white-glove level service. Having a quarterly check-in where we’re coming back and we’re saying, okay, this quarter, what worked and what didn’t about our services and the agency side? What needs to be tweaked? What templates still aren’t working? Where was the client communication breakdown? Or where did something go wrong? You’ve heard the whole “work on your business not in your business” before, but again sometimes you need to be IN your business.
How can you have that quarterly moment where you’re really getting in the weeds and working in your business?
As you wrap up your immersion retreat also get really clear on your action steps and the things that need to be done moving forward. We determined a huge list of those, loaded them into Asana under our Q1 goal and set deadlines for when those things needed to be done and then decided what would bleed into other quarters. I also would make a list of everything that you did do, everything you cleaned up as kind of your report card or at least a moment to say, this is everything that we got cleaned up.
You can either share that if you’ve got other people on your team or just keep it as a record. So, you know what your time was spent doing these two to three days. If you are looking to clean up your client processes, then look down below and don’t miss the client welcome magazine swipe copy that I have ready for you. It’s free. It’s yours for the taking.
And now that you’ve seen behind the scenes on how to have an immersion deep dive week or weekend in your business, what about onboarding your clients in those workflows in general? Well, be sure to watch this video on my YouTube channel so you can learn how to do that. As always, comment below with any questions that you may! Here’s to working from a place of more rest, less hustle.