Setting a Course for Zimbowties in 2019

Oh, the places I plan to go! I have such great dreams at the beginning of the year! If I could see half of them through I’d be a trilingual, hand-standing billionaire responsible for world peace!

Often I dream up everything that I want to achieve in the year to come and then quickly get distracted by “life” before I can actually figure out the steps I need to take to make that wishlist a reality.

How could I avoid falling into this trap again in 2019, especially with our work at Zimbowties? Well, I decided to try out the idea of having an “offsite” outing for planning our social enterprise’s year ahead. In other words, you completely separate yourselves from your usual environment, with all it’s distractions and other “urgent” things that need to be done, and go away for a day or two to set out a plan for the year ahead (I was actually inspired to do this when I heard this great talk in Boulder last December on having on offsite for your marriage!)

Offsite to Where?!

The Nyanga Mountains: Where the views are long (sometimes) and the air is fresh (always).

The Nyanga Mountains: Where the views are long (sometimes) and the air is fresh (always).

The Zimbowtie team, that is my mother and me, are lucky to have access to a small cottage in the Nyanga mountains that are near to our hometown, Mutare in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. It’s a beautiful, fairly remote location at one of the highest altitudes in our country, with very few distractions including little to no cellphone reception, some chilly weather that some of you might not realise we get in Zimbabwe in our summer, and, most importantly, quiet!

Zimbabwe or Scotland?

Zimbabwe or Scotland?

We picked a weekend in January and headed out to the cottage on a Saturday morning to spend one night there and try to figure out where we wanted to go with Zimbowties in 2019.

The Program

Here’s how our offsite went down…

1. Reflect on the year gone by

It’s so easy to get caught up in what’s next and not pause to celebrate the year gone by and to learn from it too. To do this we took a look at the goals we set at the beginning of 2018, our Business Model Canvas and we also drew out a timeline which helped us really appreciate just how far we came in 2018.

Drawing out what 2018 looked like for Zimbowties

Drawing out what 2018 looked like for Zimbowties

2. Reestablish our WHY’s for creating Zimbowties

After looking back at where you’ve come from it’s always great to check in and remind yourself why you’re actually doing all this. We chose to create Zimbowties and if we are still enjoying it why would we continue?!

To do this check-in we performed an exercise called the Workview and Lifeview reflections outlined in the great book Designing Your Life. It very basically helps you refocus and get in touch with your beliefs and values that are your moral compass for life.

We then listed some of the reasons why we started, and continue to work on, Zimbowties and by comparing these to our Workviews and Lifeviews it helped to reestablish that we’re really happy with how things are going at Zimbowties.

Start with why?!

Start with why?!

3. Brainstorm Zimbowties’ company values

As a company moving forward into 2019, and beyond, we feel it’s really important to have a value system that will act as a compass for all our activities and help to guide us, and anyone we ever happen to employ, in decision making. Having this compass is really empowering for potential employees as they won’t need to have their hands held and you can trust them to go out on their own to achieve great things for your company.

We started the process of figuring out exactly what these values are by brainstorming and then prioritising the values we believe are most important for how we conduct business at Zimbowties. We’d like to ultimately have a nice list of easy to recall values, but this is a work in progress and something we’re going to be constantly coming back to as we try to make it useful.

Starting the process of being able to share our company’s values

Starting the process of being able to share our company’s values

4. Discuss Zimbowties’ brand “personality”

As we grow we want Zimbowties to become recognised by people in much the same way that they’d recognize a person. That is, we want it to have character and personality because we believe this will help people to understand and talk about who we are and the work we’re doing in just the same way they’d talk about a person they know.

To do that we want to try to ensure that we’ve got a fairly consistent brand personality so people don’t think we’re too crazy. We’ve been using the Brand Personality Spectrum tool and we’ve also just been discussing how we’d like people to think of Zimbowties as we try to figure this out too.

5. Brainstorm goals and visions for Zimbowties in 2019 and beyond

Our final exercise for the year ahead was to list some goals that we aim to achieve in the following year and to start to create a long term vision for Zimbowties that we’ll be able to use as our Southern Cross (like a North Star but for people like us who live south of the equator).

We did this by brainstorming our goals and visions and then prioritizing those things that we most want to achieve or become.

In order to try to make our goals achievable, and not just a wishlist, we’ve tried to make them all S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based). We’ll be sharing some of our goals on our social media channels (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter) as we’re probably not going to be able to achieve some of them on our own and we’d love to get those of you in The Zimbowtie Club onboard to see what we can achieve together in 2019.

It’s great to have plans and goals as they help us measure the progress we’re making, but living in Zimbabwe we’re all too aware that plans change and just how discouraging this can be. To make sure we can stay optimistic in those confusing times we believe that having a long term vision will always help you to work around short term obstacles. We’re still figuring out exactly what is guiding us but here are some of the things we’ve brainstormed so far…

Starting to work out our vision for Zimbowties.jpg

Take breaks

It wasn’t all work on our offsite and when our brains were full, or we got stuck on something, we took breaks that mainly involved drinking tea in front of the fire or going for great walks in the surrounding nature. Taking breaks is key to not giving up and being able to tackle things afresh!

Take a break: have a cup of tea and stare at the fire. Just don’t give up!

Take a break: have a cup of tea and stare at the fire. Just don’t give up!

Final Thoughts

Starting out our year with an offsite has been really encouraging for my mother and I as we’ve reaffirmed just how meaningful and enjoyable we’re finding creating Zimbowties. We’ve come so far in the last year and we feel a lot more confident in ourselves and in our work and the possibilities of what we can achieve. Thank you for joining us on this journey into 2019 and beyond.

If you’d like to run a similar outing for your team feel free to email me ( and I can share more info on how I structured what we did.