Year in Review 2016 & Goal Setting for 2017


Further reading: How to Create your 12-month Strategic Plan (and my 2014 Annual Review)

The funny thing about having kids is they make you laser-focused. If you aren’t laser-focused, you’re dead meat.

My wife and I had our 3rd child, another boy, this past April. So for those who keeping score, we now have 3 kids age 6 or younger, two of whom are still in diapers, and any 1 of which is likely to be throwing fistfuls of food across the room in our house at any given moment in time.

What that means is I don’t have as much time to work as I would like.

But big deal, I’ll bet you feel the same way too.

As I write this it’s New year’s eve and I have to be home in 51 minutes but I REALLY want to do a “year in review 2016” / “Goals 2017” blog post so I’ll make this a super quick.

I’m a big believer in the power of setting ambitious and specific goals for yourself.

Four years ago, in November 2012, I wrote a blog post titled My Next Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal, where I wrote,

The big goal I am working on now is to build this blog into a platform and a resource for entrepreneurs and small business owners who want to grow their businesses.

I plan to do that by writing about my entrepreneurial successes and failures, interviewing successful entrepreneurs (like this interview) and sharing non-boring legal tips for entrepreneurs. In short: by providing as much value as I can.

I want to diversify my business, to move from a model nearly entirely reliant on one-on-one client-based revenue to one which generates revenue from this blog, and from phenomenally useful, helpful information products like Business Profit Academy.

That’s why I dramatically overhauled Smart Business Revolution in May of 2011. And it’s why I continue to seek out opportunities for learning and developing my abilities so that Smart Business Revolution continues to become more valuable to its readers.

The really cool thing is most of this actually happened – thanks to the power of setting big goals, breaking down those larger goals into achievable smaller goals, and using a group to hold you accountable.

Here’s my philosophy about goal setting in a nutshell. You should start by envisioning the larger goals you want to achieve for yourself and your business. This is best done with the help of others who can give you crucial perspective and feedback.

Next: you break down your larger annual goals into quarterly and monthly goals.

Finally, meet with an accountability partner or small mastermind group and set 3 specific goals each week. Rinse and repeat throughout the year.

That’s it.

For bonus points, tell everyone what your annual goals are and join a community of like-minded people who will hold you accountable to achieving these goals.

Now, in this post, I want to first review my goals from 2016 and reflect on which ones I achieved and which I didn’t, and why. Next, I mention a few other things which went well, and what did not go well in the past year.

Then I move on to setting annual goals for 2017.

By the way, this is similar to a process we run through for our Rise25 Inner Circle members (which I mention below).

2016 year in review 

I had some big goals during 2016 and I’ll be the first person to say I didn’t hit all of them.

I actually think that’s a good thing. If you hit 100% of your goals, you weren’t stretching enough.

My goals for 2016 included:

Goal: 4 weeks off for new baby from mid-April to mid-May.  

Result: I didn’t exactly take 4 continuous weeks off but I did take off probably about a week and a half and a lot of partial days. I ended up taking about 5 weeks off total during 2016.

We also got an amazing nanny, Ruby, this past June. She’s been a lifesaver. She’s really helped me get back a lot more of my time to actually get more work done on my business(es).

Goal: One 5-7 day RV trip.

Result: Nope. When I set this goal a year ago, we were expecting our 3rd child. I told my wife Nicole about this goal at the time and she just laughed. “Not gonna happen,” she said. And it didn’t.

We actually did go to Yosemite at least with the baby and we all stayed in one hotel room. That was dumb, but what was even dumber was going over 4th of July weekend. Here’s us stuck in the line of traffic to get into the park:



I have no clue why I’m smiling in this photo. I was ready to run out of the car screaming.

Goal: Have 100K subscribers by end of 2016.

Result: Did not hit 100K subscribers. According to my Infusionsoft account, I hit about 50K contacts, though we had to unsubscribe about 10K of unengaged email addresses during the year. I’ve also learned it’s not so much the size of the list as the quality. (But I still would like to hit 100K as a personal goal sometime in 2017).

If I had not spent a lot of time on building up the Rise25 business (see below), I might have been able to hit 100k subscribers, but I’m glad I shifted my attention to building up Rise25 instead.

Goal:  Switch to Infusionsoft during 2016. Be 90% switched by end of Q1 2016.

Result: Accomplished. We fully switched over to Infusionsoft during the first quarter of 2016. I’m glad we made the switch, though it was painful at times. There’s a huge learning curve and it’s frustrating at times.

However, we can do a lot more than we could before so having switched to Infusionsoft there is a lot more we can do. It’s like switching from a plastic butter knife to the biggest Swiss Army knife you’ve ever seen. There’s pretty much nothing you can’t do.

Goal: Have 2 full timers by end of 2016

Result: Did not accomplish. I have a small team and everyone is an independent contractor. However, we are hiring someone for the Rise25 Inner Circle business.

Goal: By end of 2016, be on pace for 7 figure biz ($80K/mo by then).

Result: Did not accomplish. We ended up spending a substantial portion of 2016 re-envisioning our retreats business as an annual membership community. As a result, short-term cash flow suffered but I think in the long run, the business will be better off.

For example, if you think of your business as having a product ladder, with entry level, mid-level and higher level products, until recently I did not have a higher level product. Now that I do, it will be much easier to hit higher revenue targets.

But the bigger question is how do you move from a primarily “one on one” client-based business to a more scaleable business serving a larger audience… so that you can create a 7 figure business.  

Here’s how I did it…

How to go from a “One to One” Business to a “One to Many” Business

In retrospect, the past 5 years I have run my own business has been about 3 separate and distinct times of transition. Here’s what they look like in the rear view mirror:

Year 1 of entrepreneurship: getting my feet wet, figuring out how to get clients, keeping clients happy, figuring out that it’s hard to scale up a service-based business. I looked down the pike at lawyers who had 25 years of experience and saw many were miserable and working their butts off to barely cross 6 figures per year. I also saw the portending omen of A.I. which stands poised to significantly disrupt the legal profession, among others. I decide I want to follow a different path.

During this time, 85-90% of my time is client work, practicing law. Because most of my work is local and commoditized, I see a firm ceiling on my income potential. 10-15% of my time is spent on the “long game” – building a more scaleable business aimed at helping entrepreneurs to use relationships to grow their revenues (Smart Business Revolution).

Year 2-3 of entrepreneurship: Because I now know I don’t want to scale up a low-margin, client-based service business, I work extra hard to build a more scaleable digital business around thought leadership.

I shift to spending 50% of my time on short-term revenue-generating client work (practicing law) and 50% of my time on the longer term goal (Smart Business Revolution) which initially doesn’t produce a lot of revenue but has much greater potential to produce revenue at scale.

Eventually, as digital product revenue grows, I move to spending 95% of my time building my  Smart Business Revolution business and just 5% practicing law.

To build a more scaleable business which leverages new and emerging digital tools, the name of the game is to grow your email list.

During 2014, I spent a time of time writing guest posts for Forbes, Entrepreneur, Huffington Post, Business Insider, Lifehacker, Art of Manliness, and a ton of other sites. I grow my email list from 1,000 subscribers to 5,800 by the end of 2014.

At the end of the year, I think ‘eh, 6-fold increase. Not bad. I’ll do that again.’

But then at the start of 2015 I start doing webinars. During the first 90 days of 2015, I double my email list – from 5,800 to around 12,000.

I think “forget guest posting. I’ll focus on webinars.”

I double down. I end up doing 83 live webinars during 2015 and growing my email list to 25,000.

Year 4-5 of entrepreneurship: Enter Phase 3. I’ve now built an “audience” using webinars but I’ve also figured out it’s hard to sell just digital products.

I team up with Dr. Jeremy Weisz and we create Rise25 Inner Circle, an annual accountability and group coaching program for professional services entrepreneurs who want to scale up and shift from “one to one” client work to “one to many.”

From a business model perspective, the Rise25 Inner Circle model is advantageous in that it’s more continuity income and each sale is much higher value than selling one-off digital products.

We go from holding our first event, a one-time, half-day event for $250 per person… to a $15,000-per-person annual program in the span of 18 months. We add our first dozen members during fall 2016.


Austin Mastermind Retreat, conducted by John Corcoran and Jeremy Weisz.

Fireside chat with Sherpa Chad Rubin (founder of two 8-figure businesses) at the Austin 2016 Inner Circle Retreat. Photographs of Austin retreat by Matthew Monroe. 


Fireside Chat with Sherpa Gini Dietrich, founder of multiple 7 figure service-based and digital businesses

The Rise25 Mastermind meets in Austin Texas.

One of the highlights of our Austin retreat in December 2016 was when we surprised our Inner Circle members with a late night food truck just for our group.

Now, I believe Rise25 Inner Circle is the future of my business and will increasingly be more of the focus of my attention, as it’s much easier selling a program that costs $15,000 or more (we’re raising the price in 2017) than it is to sell digital products which are $97 to $297 or even $997. 

Goal: move office by August 2016

Result: Accomplished. I moved to a new office in my town, and start riding my bike to work, 2 miles along a bike path with this view of the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate bridge in the distance:

Photo credit: Pacific coast - Baja Bound

Photo credit: Pacific coast – Baja Bound

I ride my 6 year old to kindergarden every morning which is incredibly rewarding.

Goals for “Retreats Business” (which became called Rise25 Inner Circle during 2016):

Goal: hold 3 live retreats during 2016

Result: we hosted just 2 live retreats during 2016. However, I did have another kid during 2016 which got in the way, and we also spent a number of months changing the format from one-off retreats to an annual program, which was time well spent. So I’m glad we changed the format.

Austin Mastermind Retreat, conducted by John Corcoran and Jeremy Weisz.

  Austin 2016 Inner Circle Retreat. Photograph by Matthew Monroe.

Austin Mastermind Retreat, conducted by John Corcoran and Jeremy Weisz.

At our Austin retreat in December 2016 for Inner Circle members, we surprised the group with a visit from a guest Sherpa, Mike Muhney, who was co-inventor of ACT! Software, the original CRM software. ACT! Software created a new industry in CRM software, which today is a $37 billion and growing. He told the story of how they came up with the idea which paved the way for Salesforce, Contactually, Insightly, etc.

Summary – What Went Well

Here are a few areas I am proud of from 2016:

  • Vacations. I did 5 weeks of vacation throughout the year, including a week in Kauai for our 10th wedding anniversary, a partial week in Yosemite (we left early because the two-year-old seriously would not sleep in the hotel room and was keeping everyone else up), and a week in Tahoe, plus some staycation time.
  • Created a New Course. I held a pilot for a new course, Get Amazing Clients, during 2016.
  • Webinars. I did about 60 live webinars in 2016 and added thousands of new subscribers.
  • Created a new High End Offering. I realized that my business product ladder did not have anything at the higher end. We created the Rise25 Inner Circle program which is now my higher end offering. Even better, we’ve gotten clearer on who this program is for and who it is not for. It is a program aimed at professional services entrepreneurs who want to “scale up,” and shift from doing “one to one” client work to creating a more “one to many” model.
Napa/Sonoma Rise25 Retreat, March 2016

Napa/Sonoma Rise25 Retreat, March 2016

  • Attended Events. I like traveling and haven’t been able to do much of it the past few years. During 2016, I went to Traffic & Conversion Summit in San Diego in February 2016, FinCon in San Diego in September 2016 (where I spoke), Larry Benet’s SANG event in Beverly Hills in October. That’s in addition to my own events in Napa/Sonoma in March 2016 and in Austin in December 2016.
speaking at FinCon in San Diego, September 2016 (with Art of Charm podcast host Jordan Harbinger and AppSumo/SumoMe Founder Noah Kagan)

speaking at FinCon in San Diego, September 2016 (with Art of Charm podcast host Jordan Harbinger and AppSumo/SumoMe Founder Noah Kagan)

  • Had a Baby. Oh yeah, my wife and I also had a baby. Cue gratuitous baby shot:


… and gratuitous family-with-kids-walking-through-tall-grass shot:


… and extra gratuitous Dad holding boy-with-adorable-bright-red-curly-hair shot:


Summary – What I Did Not Do Well

Here are a few miscellaneous areas I did not do well in 2016:

  • Consistent Flow of Leads. I’m a huge fan of doing collaborative webinars, but eventually you hit a ceiling. A lot of the audience you will want to do a webinar for will want you to reciprocate in some way, but you can only do so many promotions to your own audience without burning them out. Although we experimented with Facebook ads, we didn’t get them to work and I did not do a good job of finding another consistent source of new leads beyond collaborative webinars.
  • Saving. I did not increase my personal or business savings during 2016.
  • Work/family balance. I admit I wasn’t always the best friend, husband or father during 2016. And I want to do a better job of that in 2016. The ends do not always justify the means.
  • Producing podcasts consistently. I really stopped putting out new podcast episodes consistently, and got way behind with 40 interviews in the can I need to get out the door. I recently hired a new Podcast Show Notes producer whose job is to keep me on track, and my business partner Jeremy Weisz (who has been producer for Mixergy and runs his own INspired INsider podcast) is helping to systematize my podcast to make it more consistent.
  • Writing consistently for this blog. I would like to write more consistently for my blog in 2017.

Goals for 2017

Now for my goals for 2017…

Goal: Add 50-60 members of Rise25 Inner Circle, hit $80-90K/year in recurring revenue (on pace for 7 figures in revenue per year)

Comment: During 2016, I wanted to grow my business to be on pace to hit 7 figures, but did not achieve it. I actually think we have a better chance with Rise25 of hitting 7 figures during 2017, in part because I think it’s something people really want, and in part because I have an amazing business partner who is not only wicked smart but he also has more energy than a barrel of squirrels.

And unlike one-off sales of digital courses, the Rise25 business is more continuity, creating greater predictability.  


Facebook Ads expert Adrienne Richardson at Austin 2016 Inner Circle retreat. photo by Matthew Monroe.  

Goal: Launch Rise25 Quickstart in 1Q 2017 for at least $1,000, and add 15 members to pilot. Then sell another 30-40 members in 2017.

Comment: Jeremy and I have found in offering Rise25 Inner Circle that there were a lot of people who wanted to come but who couldn’t, either because they had conflicts with the dates, family obligations, or didn’t feel ready for the larger financial commitment.

So we are currently developing a virtual program (which we’ve code-named “Quickstart” for internal purposes) which would be less expensive and aimed at these people. We’ll be rolling that out during the first quarter of 2017. 

Goal: Do second pilot of Get Amazing Clients

Comment: During 2016, I did a first pilot of my new Get Amazing Clients course. I’d like to do another pilot which is a mix of live Q&A sessions and recorded lessons.

Goal: Overall revenue (in the door) in 2016: $500K

Comment: kinda speaks for itself. But I’d also like a bigger portion of this revenue to be from my own products and programs. Ideally less than 10% of my revenue will be from promoting others’ products and programs. I still am a big believer in collaborating with other thought leaders and online course creators and doing cross-promotions, but I would like to do fewer promotions in 2017 as I devote more of my energies to promoting the products and programs I have created. 

Goal: Create a consistent source of leads other than collaborative webinars.

Comment: This is a carryover goal which I did not achieve in 2016. However, instead of selling a $300 or $400 digital product, I now have a much more expensive membership community I’m selling, and will soon have a more expensive virtual Rise25 Quickstart program. We’ll continue to experiment with using Facebook ads to generate leads for these programs. So I think we have better ways to monetize these new lead generation activities.

Final Thoughts

For the third year in a row, I’m really excited about the year ahead. We’ve got the pieces in place and now it’s time to execute.

What are your goals for the next 12 months? Share them in the comments below.