Getting Here From There, and There From Here.
In my work as an executive coach, career counselor, and business consultant, I often work with clients that are stuck in their business planning. Simply, they are unsure how to move forward.
This is true whether they are looking to advance their career, are considering going back to school or pursue a graduate degree, or identifying opportunities to change direction in leading the organizations they created or work in.
One strategy that I employ when I work with a client is to take a step back and revisit their past.
Call it hitting the “PAUSE” button, if you like.
We revisit how they arrived at the point in time in their careers that they currently find themselves stuck in.
Specifically, we identify the strategies they used in the past that worked for them. We revisit their career/professional goals, or the business plans they created when they launched their business. The driving force behind this effort to revisit the past is to see what goals they still have not achieved, and (equally important) to identify the goals they set in the past that are no longer relevant to their future plans.
Additionally, we look to see if their own personal life goals, ethics and values have changed over time. Changing values lead to changing aspirations, hopes, dreams…and GOALS! It’s akin to re-visiting your life insurance policy, health insurance, or your tax filing status. Your life changes over time. So should your plans.
Once you complete that look back, it’s time to look ahead over the horizon.
This is one part visualization, another strategic planning. Ask yourself where you see yourself in the next 2 or 3 years. Some call this document an action plan, career road map, or visual cue board. No matter the title, the key point in this looking forward exercise is, you MUST write your plan down.
Because…a plan that is NOT written down is NOT a plan at all. It’s a dream.
Otherwise, you’ll find yourself looking down the rabbit hole…
Once you document your short term goals, it’s an empowering process to identify the following:
1.) Measurable Tasks to Achieve: In order to set realistic goals, they have to be quantifiable, so you have to use numbers to tell a story. (ex. in next 3-4 months complete my 2015 marketing plan with associated budget of no more than $15,000 total spend.)
2.) Realistic Time Frames for Completion: Use specific start and end dates, with as many “WHAT-I F” scenarios. You can call this contingency planning but you need to be able to hold yourself accountable to meeting key deadlines. It helps to use the Steven Covey Time Management matrix guide of assigning TWO variables into prioritizing each task.
One factor to assess is the degree of importance/impact for each task, the other is the mount of time you have to complete a task. for example, completing a national advertising plan to launch October 1st has a tremendously high impact and a VERY short lead time. These tasks are all assigned a TOP priority.
3.) Required Resources: what will it take to complete this goal? List any/all certifications, professional Association memberships, a bank loan, hiring contract or full-time staff, etc. In order to achieve your goals you have to set aside the requisite resources in order to see them through to completion.
4.) Contingencies: Identify any and all foreseeable potential barriers, that may prevent you from competing your tasks and achieving your goals.
Once you have your revised forward-facing plan, you can begin implementing. Remember, you MUST be sure to set aside the time needed to revisit these revised goals and future plan on a regular (daily, weekly, monthly) basis.
Grow your business by focusing on your strategic planning.
With all the many demands placed on you in running the day to day operations of your small business it can be extremely easy to get side tracked by managing the different tasks just to run the business. Instead of investing all of your invaluable time and effort working IN your business, it’s critical that you take a STRATEGIC approach to work ON your strategic planning and growing your business.
But how do you stop managing the details of your business and instead focus all your efforts on your business strategic planning to grow your company, you ask?
Following are a few very easy to implement strategies you can begin doing TODAY to get out of your business management so you can get INTO the planning to grow your business:
1. Outsource Non-core Functions: Outsource all of your administrative functions to an outside third party, also referred to as a “virtual assistant.” Any task you perform that cannot be directly attributed to generating sales, finding new clients, or obtaining referrals is a WASTE of your time and effort. Hire a vendor to manage your various administrative functions from billing/invoicing to your email programs, managing your social media accounts, running your emails, updating your prospect and client contact details.
2. Develop your Operations Plan: Create a detailed operations plan defining your business processes, policies, procedures, risk management, business continuity and other day to day operations SO THAT you can delegate these Operations tasks to employees, outside consultants, vendors, etc.
3. Empower Your Employees: I am constantly amazed at how few business owners I coach are willing to delegate tasks to their people. They believe their people are not qualified (a very dangerous sign!) or they simply do not know how to give up control of tasks they have done themselves. But your people are closest to your clients, prospects, operations and tasks. By empowering them you create a number of positive outcomes such as:
a. Employee satisfaction which leads to greater retention
b. Employee productivity gains – so you can get the full return on your people investment
c. New ideas to reduce your costs, increase your revenues, serve your clients, find new business, obtain referrals
d. New product/service offerings
e. Free up YOUR time to invest in the planning ON your future business growth
4. Plan for Growth: Develop a strategic networking plan so you can identify the events that all your top clients attend so you can plan a program for maximizing your networking investment.
5. Create Client Referral and Loyalty Programs: 50% of all new business comes from your existing clients. 35% of your new business is generated by new clients referred to you by existing clients. Only 15% of your new business comes from advertising. Thus, 85% of ALL your business comes from existing clients. How are you personally working on developing one time clients to repeat purchasers, from repeat purchasers to raving fans and how are you maintaining those Raving Fan relationships.
Here’s to your success in starting a new business in 2013. May it be the start of an entirely new path for you!
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach
You Must PLAN to Make 2013 GREAT!.
How are you going to make next year GREAT? Can your life be PLANNED?
No, this is not another one of those annoying end-of-year, goal-setting advice columns we ALL hate!
What this post IS about is charting a new course to a desired future, by creating your own personal strategic planning guide. Have you planned what you’re going to do next year, to change your life? Want to change the world? GREAT, but how are you going to accomplish that? Through strategic planning.
In order to achieve true change, we all have to PLAN our strategy to achieve success. After all…a plan that isn’t written down is only a DREAM.
You won’t be able to achieve your goals until you commit them to writing. Every day I work with people to help them plan their career strategies, and their business strategic planning initiatives. I see first-hand how few people actually make the effort to write a plan so they can chart their progress against tangible benchmarks.
Most people leave their fate (their very FUTURES) to chance, as they fly by the seat of their pants. Somehow, without a plan they still miraculously expect positive things to simply “happen” to them. They react to situations life presents, rather than chart a course for success by actively managing their future.
Visualization is the Key to Success!.
The first thing you need to do is visualize a future in which you are fully “ENGAGED” and are pursuing your life’s passions by doing what you love to do. Close your eyes! Go ahead. It’s what world-class athletes do, in order to see themselves being successful. So, close your eyes. Good! What does such a future look like? Write down everything. Are you working for someone else? Yes? What are they like? What is the organization’s culture? Does it fit into your personal values and beliefs? What are the people like? Where is your workplace? What are you doing?
Now that you have a detailed image of your ideal workplace, conduct research on 18-32 organizations (ideally 6-8 firms in each of your 3-4 preferred target industries) that fulfill your needs. You are developing your very own personal career strategic planning document, which I create for my job search clients.
Do you want to start your own business? If yes, then ask yourself: “Why do I want to start this type of business now?” Another excellent question to prime the pump: “What makes me uniquely qualified to be successful launching this business?” Asking such brutally honest questions will help you to identify a potential niche you might fill in your chosen industry.
You need TWO things in order to plan, launch, and grow a successful business. The first thing you must have is the passion/energy to see your business planning through from idea generation (concept development) all the way through to successful launch/commercialization. The other thing you must have is the technical expertise and know-how (proficiency) to navigate launching the business. Where your technical skills overlap with your passions is your ideal “SWEET SPOT” of potential business ventures that you should pursue. Being passionate but lacking expertise is futile, and being an expert in a field but lacking passion is also a recipe for failure!
Time for Goal-Setting.
To plan anything, you must write down your short-term (next 3 months) and longer term goals. For job seekers, I recommend your own personal 40-year plan (let me know if you want a copy.) Begin by stating your current situation and then go forward in 5 year increments to define what your ideal future career benchmark looks like at that point in as much detail as possible. For entrepreneurs, small business owners and start-ups take classes! Check out WIBO, the NYC Business Solutions Center, SUNY Levin Institute Fast Trac program, Small Business Administration.
Engage your college/University Alumni Relations department for professional business networking, join relevant trade associations, explore business incubators that are popping up all over the place, and find your local Small Business Development Center and Economic Development Center, as well as your local business merchant associations like the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, Elks Club, Kiwanis Club.
Go Back to School.
Sign up to take classes in a continuing education and professional studies program that will provide you with the skills you need to plan, launch and grow your business. Some good ideas include professional selling, public speaking, business communications, social media, internet marketing, blogging, financial planning, operations, etc.
Create a TO-DO List.
Using a task list is an excellent strategy to employ, in order to keep track of all the things that you need to accomplish. It will also enable you to monitor your progress in achieving results. A comprehensive action plan includes the following:
* List of tasks with descriptions for each;
* Start & End dates;
* Priority level (1 is a top priority, 2 is a VERY important task, and a 3 is a get it done when you can);
* Status (open, planned, in progress, completed);
* Owner (the person responsible for completing the task);
* Contributors (those people you will need help from, in order to complete the task); and
* Contingencies (anything that will prevent you from accomplishing the task (lack of resources, funding, expertise, time, etc.)
Get Started TODAY!.
Start your planning NOW! January first is RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER. Are you an entrepreneur, start up working on a new business venture? Email me for my business planning template guide for step-by-step instructions on how to craft a compelling business plan.
Want to make 2013 a success? It all starts with PLANNING! Put your eggnog and those Christmas tree lights down right now. Start writing your 2013 strategic planning document. Do not watch “Miracle on 34th Street” or “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Instead, fill your life with miracles by planning.
Here is to a great, successful, achievement-filled 2013!
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach