Let me start by wishing you all a very prosperous, happy, healthy and fun 2015. 

I hope this year will be the most successful year your life yet.

2014 has been the most successful, fun & interesting year since starting my business. Let me share the journey and set direction for next year in this post.

2014 performance review

At the start of 2014, I have defined these goals for my company. Let us see how we fared.

Financial Goals

  • Get $1 million revenues: We had a very prosperous and satisfying year in 2014. We made total revenues of $1,018,000. The exact figure may vary 5% once we audit our books and close accounts (financial year ends on March 31). Rough break up of revenues:
    • Templates: 24%
    • Online Courses: 59%
    • Live classes: 5%
    • Ads: 10%
    • Consulting: 1%
    • Affiliate & Partner commissions: 1%
  • Launch 2 new courses: In 2014, I could not launch a video course. On the contrary, one of the existing products (Advanced Power Pivot class) was shelved due to contract expiry. I almost launched a new course called as 50 ways to analyze data but a cyclone that passed thru my city knocked me offline for almost a month and put a dent in the course development progress. I will be launching this course in Jan 2015. It is a miracle that despite these setbacks, my business managed to beat revenue targets.
  • Launch 1 new product: I have launched Excel Dashboard Templates product in November 2014 and it immediately became one of the most popular items on our online store. By the end of year, we have more than 700 customers for it.
  • Write one new book: Although I wrote a lot of content, I did not publish a paid book in 2014. But I am happy to say that I have a new book contract on cards. I am co-authoring a book with someone else (details later) and it should be published in 2016.
  • Organic growth in website community: In 2014, I have spent less than $25 on advertising my site or products. All of this money was spent on Facebook. Every bit of traffic, growth, sales we generated were 100% organic.
  • Spend less: 2014 is by far the most expensive year in my life (business expenses hovered around usual levels). This is because at the start of year we bought a new car (Toyota Innova, SUV) and immediately got bit by travel bug. We drove more than 13,000 KM in 2014 visiting 7 different states in India. Every time we took one of these trips, we spent a lot of money for hotels, food, fuel and other incidentals. While these expenses are a small fraction of what we earn, they are significantly higher than what I spent in previous years. Now that my driving itch is more or less satiated, I expect to drive less and spend fewer $s on hotels in 2015. Apart from these expenses, as a family (and business) we spent almost nothing on other things. We bought no new gadgets, few clothes, did not buy any new major appliances, cooked most of the food at home, harvested more than 300 mangoes and ate them during summer.

Marketing Goals

  • To reach 100,000 members: Yes. As of 31 December 2013, we have 50,000 members on our RSS + newsletter list. Another 50,000 members are part of our newsletter thru Aweber.
  • To reach 10,000 fans on social media channels: partially achieved. We have 5,700 fans on Facebook, 6500 on Twitter & 11,000 on YouTube.
  • To release 2 print books: failed. I have not authored a single book this year. I realized writing books is a hard task and I do not particularly enjoy it. So I am saving books for later part of my career.
  • To release an iPhone app: Gave up. This is something that I see as zero value. So I have abandoned the iPhone app development efforts early in 2014.
  • To have a million visitor month: Failed. Our traffic remained stagnant or experienced very small growth in 2014. Our traffic went up by 5% in 2014 compared to 2013. As revenues & members continue to grow organically, I expect the traffic to plateau at this level for 2015 & 2016. This is because most of our traffic comes from search engines. Unless lots of new people start searching for Excel, it is unlikely that we will have million visitor month in near future.

Operational Goals

  • Improve website navigation: Our site continues to get positive feedback from new users and experienced Excel people. Last year (2014), I have added few more landing pages and added articles that can help people learn a concept or technique thoroughly from one page.

Life Goals

  • Visit 2 new countries: At the start of 2014 Jo & I planned to take the kids and go on a round the world tour. But we gave up that idea as we did not feel too comfortable leaving home for such long time. So we could not visit any new countries in 2014. That said, I went to US again for attending a conference.
  • Drive more & Explore India: In 2014 we drove more than 13,000 km and explored a lot of beautiful, fun & inspiring places in India.
  • Stay fit: In 2014 I took up walking & cycling as daily fitness activities. I ran 500 KM and cycled 1,300 KM in 2014. I started cycling in July and I am very happy the progress. It is part of my work out regimen and I aim to cycle more in 2015. I have also switched to a low-carb diet starting August 2014 and immediately saw amazing benefits of it. I am in the best shape of my life now.
  • Write another book: I could not allocate time to write another book. May be in 2016…?
  • Consume less: Our personal consumption levels are very low this year. As a family we spent less than 5% of what we earn this year.

Goals for 2015

Financial Goals

  • $1.25 million revenues: 2014 was a fantastic year despite no new product launches. This year I have a new course coming up in Jan / Feb. I am also planning to hike prices of various products. As of now we are offering some of our products way cheaper than they should be. So all of this should translate to higher revenues.
  • Continue to spend less: Nothing new here. Just maintain the manic obsession with keeping costs low while offering high quality products.

Marketing Goals

  • Focus on email marketing: Since 2013, I have shifted most of my marketing efforts to email marketing and seen great amount of success. This year I want to spend more time nurturing our email subscribers and converting more of them to paying customers.
  • Introduce webinars: I am planning to add webinars to my marketing arsenal. I see many companies offering training programs use webinars to enroll new customers. I want to test this strategy.
  • Advertise: This year, I want to loosen my purse strings and allocate $200-$500 per month on ads. I will be using this money to recruit new leads for our email lists, webinars & courses.
  • Podcasts + videos: This year, I want to spend more time on podcasts and videos. Specifically, I want to create 30 podcasts and 20 videos & share them with our audience in 2015.

Operational Goals

  • Change course enrollment process: So far, my course enrollment process has been like this:
    1. User clicks on link / ad for the course
    2. They go to landing page and read the details about the course
    3. They purchase

The problem with above approach is that it coverts very low % of people. For example, Excel School page converts less than 1% of visitors. This means, people are hesitant to pay for it (despite having the need to learn). As such purchasing a course is not something that can happen in 1 visit. Many people come back to the sales page few times before purchasing.

So In 2015, I want to experiment with a new process along these lines:

  1. User clicks on link / ad
  2. They go to a page that has basic explanation about the course
  3. At the end of page, they are invited to join a special email list
  4. Once they are on that list, I send them 2-3 videos in the span of 10 working days
  5. At the end of last video, I invite them to join the course and send them to another page where they can pay.
  6. Interested people pay and join
  7. Rest will be removed from the list.

During the initial stages I will do a split test so only 50% of the visitors to Excel School go through new process. Once I measure conversion rates and feel confident about new approach, I will switch everyone to go through this new process.

Life Goals

  1. Explore options to move to another country: After spending 33 years in India, Jo & I are itching to spend sometime in other countries. We are exploring options to migrate to either USA, Australia or New Zealand. As it is too early, I am unable to set a goal for this, but hopefully by end of 2015 we have clarity on this subject.
  2. Stay fit: I started 2015 with a 2 day bicycle expedition to Eastern Ghats (range of hills near my city) riding for more than 150 KM on a hilly terrain. I plan to cycle at least 2015 km in 2015 :)
  3. Consume less: Again nothing new. The only major purchase I have on cards is switching my phone. My iPhone4 is almost 4 years old. Time for something modern that doesn’t crash often.

What are your startup goals for 2015?

One of the best things about goals is that they open imagination windows of your mind. You can think of new peaks to ascent and then plan. So what new and exciting things you are planning to do this year. How are you going to make 2014 the most awesome year in for startup? Please share using comments.

Read previous annual reports – 2013, 2012 & 2011

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