About three weeks ago, I realised I was in shooting distance of publishing my 100th blog this year. While there have been Facebook Lives, emails and even a video produced during 2016, it feels like a significant milestone and one to be celebrated in some way. So, of course, I love a challenge and I had to make sure that I reached that magic number of 100 by New Year’s Eve. And here we are.
I can’t quite believe it!
I’d literally put my fingers to the keyboard less than a handful of times pre 2016. So in a lot of ways, it seems strange to even be writing this. I’ve learnt a lot, there have been times that I’ve lost my willpower and struggled to keep going but on other occasions, I’ve been humbled by the comments and feedback that I’ve received.
What a year!! Here are my reflections on 2016.
REFLECTIONS ON 2016
A few weeks ago, as part of a Content Marketing Academy Fellowship Meeting, we were encouraged to answer a number of questions relating to 2016 before we started our 2017 planning. I’d say planning is one of my key strengths and as a planning addict, I’d already started my planning. However, I must admit I hadn’t really taken time out to fully reflect upon 2016.
As I worked my way through those questions on that day, I found myself thinking about and celebrating parts of 2016 that weren’t immediately obvious. I’m so grateful for what this year has brought me despite the ups and downs along the road. Taking a little time out to reflect and remind myself of this was more than worthwhile and helped me tweak those 2017 plans.
I’m going to share my answers to those questions from that day, and a couple more, as a round up of 2016. If you do have time, why not compile your own version as you read through, or pop back and complete before you start those 2017 New Years Resolutions.
Huge thanks to Chris Marr for prompting us to do the exercise and by default inspiring this blog.
What were my 5 Greatest Achievements or Moments of 2016
#1 I moved over 500 miles back home to Scotland
Over the 15 years that I’ve worked and lived in and around London and Essex, I’ve often thought about moving back to Scotland. In November of this year, I finally did it.
There are so many reasons why it felt like the right time to do so and so much that I’ve missed about home over those years. I know that many of you will both understand and relate to why I made this decision.
At the same time, I have no regrets re the time I’ve spent living and working down south. Those years working and living away from home, have made me into who I am today.
Walton-on-the-Naze will always remain the original home to Millie’s Beach Huts and I’m so so pleased that my move has had no impact on the business. In fact, I now have the best excuse ever for longer trips and holidays in the beach huts!
#2 I Quit my Full-Time Job
This one was slightly scary but if I wanted to make a move back to Scotland put more time into Mille’s Beach Huts then it had to happen.
In some ways, this decision felt like it was a long time coming. But I am human and there have been moments when I’ve wondered whether it was the right decision to make. I call them ‘wobbles’!
A few months on and despite a huge amount of hard work, I’m yet to regret this decision, particularly when many around me encouraged me to seek another accountancy role back in Scotland.
Sometimes you have to realise that It’s Not All About the Money and 2016 was the year I jumped!
#3 Selling my original two beach huts and re-building the business from scratch
At the start of 2016, the original Millie and Harley were up for sale due to licencing changes. I had already purchased one new beach hut but renovations were yet to start. It took a long time to sell both beach huts but I finally handed over the keys to two new owners in June. Phew!
There were times that this was difficult and emotional. Just two days before I sold both beach huts, I received a call from the private landlord saying that ‘someone’ had told him that I was getting ready to hire them out despite this being prohibited on site.
I was incredibly upset. I was, in fact, trying to sell the beach huts at a loss and struggling to sell them due to the number up for huts for sale on the site along with his own new builds.
Through the tears, I asked who had told him this. It really felt as if it was turning into a vindictive campaign against those all of us who had hired out our huts in the previous year. The irony was that one of the beach huts on this site that I owned was completely empty and being repainted to aid with securing a sale. I’m not sure anyone would have wanted to hire an empty beach hut!
I think I was shocked that as a business owner himself, he’d questioned me on this despite the person informing him not being the direct source. Instead, I was given the answer “it was someone who wouldn’t lie”.
This was just one instance of many that I feel I can finally talk out loud about. I was previously fearful that sharing some of those experiences would result in the huts not selling and a backlash against others still trying to sell their huts on that site (even now).
It won’t surprise you that it has taken me a long time to trust other beach hut owners since then and I’m so glad to be out of what I felt became a poisonous environment. It also took me several months for me to fall back in love with my business following those experiences. Part of the reason why I didn’t start renovating the new purchases until March 2016.
It’s only now that I know how much better both the business and I are for it. I know that I’m more prepared for any shocks coming our way and grateful to everyone who stuck with me during those months.
#4 I Made Time to Invest in Myself
I started 2016 with some very clear 100 day goals. I jumped right in and joined the 100-day Business Bakery Facebook group to provide some extra support. A few hundred business owners all working towards their own 100-day goal on a daily basis more than helped you keep that motivation post the first few days of a new year. Losing 18 pounds during those 100 days and taking time out for me, was at the heart of those goals.
While my weight loss went on the back burner for the rest of the year, the personal development continued and maybe even ramped up!
For the first time in a long long long time, I took time out for holidays and didn’t take the day-job with me! Weekends were dedicated to me and planning for the future with the work laptop firmly switched off. That was a hard habit to break and learning not to feel guilty was even harder!
As the year continued, I can’t count the number of opportunities I’ve grabbed to personally develop. From joining the Content Marketing Academy and attending their 2016 conference and World Class Communication Workshop to the huge range of books, online webinars and courses. I’ve completed and developed skills that I never quite thought I would during this year both from a business perspective and my own mindset and general personal growth.
It’s taken a lot of willpower to squeeze in that development time while working full time and developing future plans while ensuring I didn’t burn out. However, without spending that time on development, I may not have had the energy or time to do everything else.
#5 Purchasing Oor Pirate
To the outside world, it must have looked a little crazy when Cara, Managing Director of Gillies and MacKay, and I made the decision to buy Oor Pirate during the Oor Wullie Auction on the 13th September. The outside world was right. It was a little crazy and Cara sums it up perfectly in our exchange of messages on the night itself on her blog HERE.
BUT I was in the final weeks of working in the NHS and starting to pack up boxes to move back to Scotland. For me, Ninewells Hospital is at the heart of Dundee and over the past few years, has played an even more important role in my family’s life.
I also knew that it may be some time before I’d be in a position to donate this size of money to a charity, so I was keen to do what I could to support the evening. It really felt like I just had to do this and do it now.
That night, I blew the budget that I set before the auction had started. Having gotten close on a couple of the Oor Wullie’s early in the bid process, it was starting to look like it may not happen.
I have so much respect for Cara for trusting me enough to do this together as it really wouldn’t have happened without her. It feels like it was alway meant to be, sheds, beach huts and a pirate!!
Since purchasing Oor Pirate, he’s been out on his travels and he continues to make us very proud. I’m so looking forward to keeping up to date with all the Archie Foundation do with the funds raised that evening.
There were so many other memorable moments in 2016 but I feel these five helped trigger so many others. From securing our first national press feature in the Mail on Sunday and making the Beach Hut of Year shortlist for the second year running to even buying a Harley Davidson.
All of these seem to have been made that little easier by taking the big leaps above!
The Smartest Decision I Made in 2016
Have I ever told you the story about my third beach hut purchase, the new Harley? No?
Well, I hadn’t planned to buy another beach hut just yet. Selling the original two beach huts, renovating Millie and Isla had consumed significant funds not to mention the emotional aspect of it all. Both Millie and Isla’s renovations had been very difficult and I’d lost faith in the builder during the process too. The last thing on my mind was starting again with another beach hut.
I was also preparing to leave my day-job by then and my focus should have been on developing the new businesses and preparing to move house.
It doesn’t sound like the best business decision to spot a beach hut online, ask a few questions by phone and use the last of my savings to buy it. But that’s what happened. Yep, I purchased Harley without even seeing the beach hut in person.
Two weeks later and I’d found the most amazing builder, Mark from Ten Huts Ltd. Harley was gutted out, repaired and ready for me to decorate in those two weeks. He opened just one week into the school summer holidays and sold out in a few days. Mark is now very much part of the Millie’s Beach Hut family and I’ve enjoyed watching him also make the leap to working full time on his own business. Great minds perhaps?
Sometimes you just have to trust your gut feel and the experience that you have and jump (again).Great love and great achievements involve great risks. Dalai Lama Click To Tweet
Three Things I Need to Do More of in 2017
I may have dipped my toe into video and facebook lives during 2016 but I recognise that not only do avoid pictures of myself, I’ve been avoiding video too. However, I know that not all of you want to read blogs and I also know that I could be more helpful by using video more often.
I’m therefore committed to making sure at least 25% of the ‘content’ I produce next year is in video format. Go Pro at the ready!
#2 Dedicated ‘off days’
It will be easier now more than ever to let my weekend and weekdays merge into one. I’ve seen how much having dedicated ‘off days’ has benefited me. It’s those days that have helped me re-energise and be my most creative.
One of the first things I’ll be doing in 2017 is marking out both my holidays and time out to make sure I keep doing this.
#3 Technology and Social Media Downtime
I’m one of those people who understands that importance of being able to answer queries, emails, texts quickly. We now live in a world of zero patience and an expectation that businesses will be available 24×7.
However, being attached to the numerous social media platforms and emails can be unproductive. Having also dipped my toe into mindfulness during 2016, I know how powerful being ‘present’ can be and being ‘attached’ to gadgets can distract from this.
During different points of 2016, I’ve tried to ensure I have set times where I switch off the gadgets and notifications. One of the biggest benefits I saw was when I switched my mobile phone off in the early evening, helping me establish a better nighttime and morning routine.
However, I know this is not a habit that is truly formed yet and there is more that I can do.
3 Things I Need to Stop Doing in 2017
When does saying sorry become too much?
Saying sorry for something that I wasn’t responsible for or even my own fault was something that I noticed in the workplace just over a year ago. Since then I’ve become much more aware of how often I say sorry and had started to work on this in 2016.
I still have a long way to go. I’m far from the point that I don’t apologise to someone else when they bump into me in the street. The clue being they bumped into me, so why am I apologising!
So it remains firmly at the top of the ‘must stop’ list in 2017.
Allison Fallon does a great job of summing up why she thinks women apologise far more than men too (and what to do about it!). You can read the article HERE.
#2 Overcomplicating Relationships
There is a Jim Rohn phrase that has come up time and time again in 2016:
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”.
This has been proven time and time again during my 2016. There are so many decisions that I may not have been brave enough to take without having the right people around me.
However, I know, particularly during the latter months of 2016, that I have let overcomplicated relationships dominate too much of my own time and headspace.
There was one occasion when after weeks of developing a friendship, it became very very clear that a fellow business owner had only been doing so for her own benefit. When it became clear to her that I wouldn’t be pursuing a joint interest, I was very quickly dropped.
The sensitive side of me immediately blamed myself (see apologising above!!). Even when I’m treated with less respect and care by those I’ve trusted, I seem to find it hard to understand and waste time thinking and worrying about this. I also find it hard to walk away from those situations too as I prefer to seek a way to resolve.
It did, however, remind me that I do sometimes trust too easily and there are still people who look to take advantage when they see potential success for their own benefit only.
My aim in 2017, is not to change who I am but change how much of an impact these individuals have on me. I can’t make people treat each other better but I can be in control of my own feelings and choose how they make me feel.You are in charge of your own feelings. No-one else. Click To Tweet
#3 Spending money
It’s a bit of a sweeping statement but reducing the amount of money I spend in 2017 is key. It is, after all, a start-up year for both Millie’s Beach Huts expansion and Millie’s Pet Services. Both require a significant investment in funds this year.
2016 has without a doubt been a year of investing in me, money wise, and so it’s now time to reap those rewards and reduce spending in 2017 to achieve my goals.
I know. An accountant who prefers to spend. Who’d have thought!!?!?It is never too late to be what you might have been. George Eliot Click To Tweet
My Favourite Books of 2016
With a massive 22 books under my belt in 2016, choosing three has been difficult. You can find the full list HERE but these three have stood out for me:
#1 Daniel Flynn – Chapter One
I owe special thanks to Jack O’Brien of Terrace Physio Plus for recommending this book.
It’s a book that can really change the world and that I finished reading just before Christmas. It sets out the first chapter of an amazing journey for the team at Thankyou and has helped inspire a number of ideas for my own 2017 journey.
You don’t need to own a business for this to inspire you. It really does just make you want to be a better person.
The good news is that even the purchase of the book helps change the world for the better – https://chapterone.thankyou.co/
#2 Mark Schaefer – Born to Blog
I can’t count the number of times I’ve recommended this book since reading it. While the title is aimed at bloggers and it’s filled with numerous tactical tips for your blog, lots of these can also be applied to other mediums of communication too.
A game-changer for me was Marks’ questionnaire helping you to work out what type of blogger you are.
If you already write, you’ll know those days where you just don’t feel like writing and no matter what plan you’ve set out for topics you can’t quite find the energy. Marks’ book changed that for me as it helped me understand what type of blogs I preferred writing.
Now on a ‘low energy day’ or when I ‘m just struggling with words, I revert back to this questionnaire and if I need to, I change my blog topic to one that is more aligned with my style. Sometimes you do need to make it a little easier for yourself.
Mark also encourages you to not just focus on SEO focused blogs and talks about ensuring that least 10% of your blogs are personal. I see so many people publishing blogs, video and more without really revealing anything about them and their own lives. Instead, they just stick to their professional subject and even then forget to share their own opinions on the subject too.
It can be scary doing this but I know from feedback on my more personal blogs that they do have an impact and in a way they help me too.
You’ll find the book here – Born to Blog: Building Your Blog for Personal and Business Success One Post at a Time
Oh and I seriously can’t wait to hear Mark talk again at the 2017 Content Marketing Academy Conference. Excited? Just a tad!
#3 Everybody Writes – Ann Handley
I remember reading the foreword to Ann’s book whilst sat outside one of the beach huts and I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. The words in front of me could have been written by me.
I hated English at school, opting for maths and only took my Higher in English in case I wanted to pursue teaching. I, therefore, have always had this feeling that my words just didn’t live up to my excel spreadsheets! The foreword summed up my feelings perfectly.
Ann was my firm favourite when I heard her speak at The Content Marketing Academy Conference this year and so I took advantage of the bookstall and picked up her latest book. Everybody Writes is jam-packed with helpful tips and I wish I’d found it earlier. In particular, I loved her style of writing and how she’s broken down her bumper book into easy to read sections.
Sometimes it’s those small bits of advice that are the gems of advice that have a big impact. I’m now a huge advocate of writing a very very ‘crap’ first draft of a blog and leaving it a day before starting to edit thanks to Ann’s advice. I know this not only saves me a huge amount of time but I hope that people will get to hear the real me in my writing as I’m not as afraid to just get on and write that first draft.
I’m cherishing my signed copy, so you’ll have to pick up your own copy – Everybody Writes: Your Go-to Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content
5 Most Popular Blogs of 2016
So before I head off to pour a small glass of something celebratory for these last few hours of 2016, it only feels apt, to sum up, my 100th blog, by taking a look back at the most popular blogs.
If you’ve been counting down with us on Instagram over the last few days, you can finally found out which blog is in the top spot!
- Best Beach Huts to Hire in Essex – we look at the best 6 beach huts for hire in Essex and why I chose them.
- Britain’s Best Beach Huts for Hire – the 7 best beach huts for hire in the UK. There are even some sleeper options!
- How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Beach Hut? – now you know where to find a beach hut, this blog looks at exactly how much does a beach hut hire cost.
- Beach Hut Interior: How to Design and Decorate Your Beach Hut – it can be hard to know where to start. So why not start here? Full of ideas and suggestions to develop your own beach hut style.
- Buying a Beach Hut: Do’s and Dont’s of Buying your first Beach Hut – it’s not a small investment so my list of do’s and dont’s will help you navigate through your purchase.
But, The Real Highlight of 2016 Has Been YOU
Yep, I mean you. You have been the best part of 2016.
You are one of those special people who open each of my blogs and take the time to read them. Either to learn something about beach huts and days out or just enjoy my journey with me.
You are the best part of 2016 because you are someone who has taken the time out to read my social media posts, comment on them and even share. Yes, Margaret, every single one of those facebook shares you do doesn’t go unnoticed and I value each and every one. And you too Veronica, I love receiving those amazing Instagram photographs. George, Linda, Carly, Maria, Emma and everyone who was with us before the huts were even built and still supporting us now. There are so many of you to mention that I can’t do you justice!
It’s also been about every single one of the 363 bookings that we’ve welcomed this year. I can’t forget Maggie, Jenny and Lesley who were the first three Millie’s Beach Hut Club Members and signed up over our launch weekend. You all made 2016 spectacular.
Suzanne Hale Photography, Shani Coles, Marie Donn Photography, Dear Beautiful, 3 Little Buttons, Chloe Lee Photography and A Cup Full of Glitter. All of these talented ladies have visited our huts this year and shared the most amazing vlogs, blogs and photographs of the beach huts. This year has ben all about you too. I can’t describe how thankful I am that you’ve been part of our 2016 and brought the beach huts to life.
Nichola. Millie’s Beach Huts just wouldn’t exist without you and the love and care you put into making sure they are looked after and spick and span for each booking is priceless. You are truly remarkable. And you too Chloe and Maggie. You’ve helped make me worry less during those summer months while juggling the day job and beach huts.
My Content Marketing Academy Family. I owe huge thanks specifically to Julie Christie for introducing me to the group and to Col Gray from Pixels Ink and Kevin Anderson from The Story Edge. Both of these gents wrote two blogs that made me jump and buy a ticket for the 2016 conference. One of the turning points of 2016 in so many ways.
I have so much admiration for every single person in the community and know I can learn something from each and every one of you. I know I will continue to do so, daily! Many people think that businesses can’t support each other and instead should be competitive and cut-throat. Each of you proves them wrong every day and I know we are all so much better for that.
#FNI you know that I wouldn’t have achieved half of the above without you and we really are going to #FNI in 2017 too. I’m behind you all 100%.We Rise By Lifting Others. #SquadGoals at the heart of @hellocma Click To Tweet
Marcus Sheridan, Ann Handley and Mark Schaeffer who, to me, feel part of the CMA squad, thank you. Each of you has had a profound impact not only own my writing and these 100 blogs but also my life. In particular that one slide at World Class Communication in May triggered a series of events that led me here, post the tears!
What was on that slide, I hear you ask? Well Marcus asked us to do a task answering the below:
“If you received enough money to never need to work again, what would you spend your time doing?”
It hit a raw nerve with me that day and it accelerated my very vague two-year plan into just a few months. 2016 would not have looked like the above if I hadn’t been in the room that day.
So I now challenge you to think about that question and what your honest answer would be. Go on, think about it carefully, what would you spend your time doing?
Now take that answer and tell me, can you make that happen in 2017?
I promise you that you can make it happen, no matter how difficult it currently feels. It doesn’t need to be as dramatic as my 2016. You may not want to quit your job, move 500 miles or buy a Harley Davidson but what if you took one small step? What would happen if you spent some time in 2017, taking that step closer?
It may take a lot of courage, a big dose of bravery and some very special people to help you through the harder times. But oh, it’s worth it and in just a years time you’ll be that one step closer. Think about how good that will feel.
Hey, did you know it’s a new year tomorrow? Why not start now?Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-day book. Write a good one. Click To Tweet
Have an amazing evening and very very very Happy New Year to you all from Millie and me!
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