Quiet: Business Planning Solo

“Alone time is when I distance myself from the voices of the world so I can hear my own.” Oprah Winfrey


Managing a fast growing business can be a challenge. Trying to do that through a global pandemic, homeschooling and three lockdowns is even harder. With all the family working from home and the myriad of disruptions, many business owners can relate to the balancing act that became 2020 and 2021.

During one of my business coaching sessions, my coach suggested a personal retreat to improve my headspace as we prepared for the new year. This would help me to recharge and redirect my focus for 2022, something which, at the time, I didn’t think would be possible. However, the more I thought over the prospect, the more I found the motivation to get things in motion. After much preparation and husband/children wrangling, I booked a 3 night business planning getaway in Port Macquarie, four hours north of my home in Sydney. I love my family but after two years of being ‘very close’ with them, I was counting down the days until my departure.

Not a bad location for business planning! - Flynn’s Beach, Port Macquarie  

Me with my Kikki K Dream Life Journal
overlooking Flynn’s Beach – not a bad location for business/life planning 🙂


Although I’d initially planned this trip as a recharge, I also found the welcomed opportunity to dive deeper into my business, reflect on my progression so far and set out goals for 2022. We had already proved our model and in the startup world have a solid Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Now it was about scale and shifting to a growth mindset. Armed with butchers paper, post- it notes, and a rainbow of highlighters, all that was missing was a great playlist to get me ready. 

1: Consider your customer journey
My free time away from the chaos of children and sharing an office with my husband led me back to those all important questions we ask ourselves as business owners. Where are my customers, how do they find us and how do they experience our services? In summary, how do I map out my customer’s journey from first contact to sale?

2. Draw up your project workflows
The next step was to work out as a business, how we got from A to B. I started to consider the steps we took as a company from initial client enquiry to the final report delivery. With so much technology and software on offer to support this process, was it time to invest in new approaches to make this more efficient?

3. Business Model Canvas –
I personally love the Strategyzer classic and remember using it when I first started Insights Exchange. Whilst a few items have changed, the foundation has remained the same, which has given me confidence that my business is on the right path.

4. Organisation chart
One of the greatest challenges for growing businesses is always human resources, whether that’s hiring talent or allocated the correct workflow. I started to ask myself the following questions: What are the key roles we need to fill? Where are the gaps? Who reports to who and are the FTEs or PTE/contractors? What tools do we need to make our business run faster with less people?

5. Determine your guiding principles and company values –
Finally, I found myself at the question at the heart of every business – why do we do what we do? What are my company values and how do I bring my guiding principles into my business? I still love Atlassian’s values. They are the driving force behind what we do, why we create, and who we hire.


5 recommended podcasts and episodes for business inspiration and intel:

Thankfully, the entirety of my business retreat was not filled with just flowcharts and project workflows. These five podcasts helped see me through the moments of distraction, loneliness (maybe I did miss my kids?) boredom and refocus me back on track. I’ve listed these helpful soundtracks below: 

  1. Tim Ferriss’s first presentation of 4hr work week – ironically this is what inspired me to start my own business 12 years ago!
  2. Glen Carlson’s Dent podcast – Fran Boorman
  3. Miracle Morning for Entrepreneurs – Audible
  4. Kristina Karlson’s Dream Life – My 20 Life Lessons
  5. How I Built This: Wisdom from the Top – Indra Nooyi
“I left Port Macquarie energised and motivated, with a clear direction of how to guide my business into the next stage of growth.” 

If you’re struggling to refocus your thoughts towards your business, I would 100% recommend this to all those who need to zone in and spend the time unpacking everything and then putting the pieces back to make it even stronger. In the future, I may even consider making these retreats into a team exercise, but sometimes as Founder and CEO, you need that time to direct your vision, before working on your workforce to implement it. At the end of the day – it’s your business. 

So don’t delay – set your intention, book your three nights of peace and productivity and make 2022 your best year yet!

Nichola Quail
Founder and CEO – Insights Exchange