By Wayne Bidelman
So, we are into another new calendar year. Was 2013 a frustrating year for you? Are you anxious to make 2014 better? Did things pick up in 2013 but you are not 100 percent sure of exactly what to do to keep it going or to get to that next level? Do you still wonder if, despite being really busy, you are doing the things necessary to get you to where you personally need to get—financially and/or lifestyle?
Here’s the magic answer … You just need to figure out how to do the right things at the right time. Sounds simple, right? Well, it CAN be simple. Just avoid the following three common mistakes ...
- You never formalize your goals;
- You have no road map for driving to meet those goals; and
- You never know whether you are on track for reaching your goals.
- Formalize your goals.
- Write them down! It has been proven that once goals are written down, there is a better chance of reaching them. We may have unwritten goals, but if they are just rolling around in our head, they tend to become meaningless.
- It is important to have long-term goals, but with a short-term focus. Although our focus here is 2014, first set goals three, four or five years down the road (not short term, but neither so far down the road to be totally out of sight). Let me tell you a brief story.
- Long term financial and/or business goals must match up with what needs to take place to ensure you will meet your goals.
I shared the speaking platform one time with an Olympic swimming coach who trained four swimmers for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. We were speaking to an audience of business owners about goal setting and execution. The coach spoke first, and then I had the unenviable task of following him, with the challenge to translate his comments into something that would effectively apply to business owner goal setting and execution.
To summarize the analogy, think about the Olympic swimmer who has four years to prepare for the next Olympic Games. He wants to qualify so he sets his four-year goal to meet the time requirement for his stroke. He cannot wait four years to make it happen. Instead, he needs to start improving his times soon. If his short-term goal is to shave 1/10th of a second every six months, he may not improve enough to qualify for the event.
Similarly in the business context, we might decide to grow our business by 10 percent a year, but discover some years down the road that we have not reached the level required to retire as planned. I must emphasize, however, that setting long-term goals is only useful when they are supplemented with short-term goals.
- In other words, build an executable PLAN. Since this is for you, and potentially also for your immediate constituents (e.g., employees, family, etc.), it needs to be simple, focused on internal execution, not on what external eyes may think.
- The core of this road map must be to define goals for three different time periods (remember … long-term goals with short-term focus): three to five years, 12 months, and 90-days. Start with the long-term goals and work to the shortest time period, ensuring every step of the way that short-term goals are well aligned with long-term goals. (In other words, all of your 12-month goals should help you make appropriate progress for meeting the three to five year goals; the 90-day goals must help you to reach the 12-month goals.)
- Within each of the three different time periods, list the action requirements to meet those goals. Actions can be general for the long-term goal, they must be specific for each 90-day period. List NO MORE than five action items! If you come up with 25 required actions, prioritize them and focus on the top five―it is better to complete five really well than 25 half cooked. I saved a business owner once from alienating his family and failing miserably in his business by having him adhere to this requirement―his ambitious goals required more than five long-term actions which he could not expect to complete well. He concluded that he was unrealistically ambitious and needed to cut back to attainable levels.
Make sure the goals are SMART goals (or at least, the S – M – A part, i.e., Specific, Measurable, and Attainable)
It is one thing to have formalized goals and a road map, and another to develop a process that ensures you are on track to achieve your long-term objectives. It is a time and distance thing, to retain the road map and driving analogy. It is important to not only know you are on the right road, but that you are getting to the destination within the desired time.
Of course, the objective of tracking progress is to ensure that you reach measureable goals as planned. Ideally, there will be items that you can track more regularly, perhaps daily, to increase the probability of success. In business, for example, if you are after a 90-day revenue target, you could track the number of sales and the average size sale, both of which can be determined daily.
If you follow the process outlined here, you will set defined goals, a clear road map that will help you decide what you need to do to reach those goals, and methodologies for measuring progress. An added benefit is that you will develop confidence in your actions, since they will be designed to get you to your goals. Remember … the key is to do the right things at the right time.
I utilize a one-page exhibit to summarize this information—very easy to develop, easy to use, and easy to interpret.
However, here is one additional mistake we all make. And that mistake is that we just do not do what we know we should do. So I often show this number...
It has been proven that less than 5 percent of the people who read this article (hear this information in a seminar, webinar, meeting presentation, etc.) will take action!! Yes that’s sad, but we are all human, very busy, and also great procrastinators.I urge you to follow these simple steps. DON’T BE PART OF THE 95 percent! The process may not be perfect the first time, but just making the effort will work miracles. If I can be of assistance, please let me know.
Make 2014 the best business year ever!!
Mr. Bidelman is a business coach, focused on independent business owners. He has 30+ years’ experience with specialty financial services businesses, within the largest insurance/banking organizations in the world. Under his leadership, one business became one of the largest in the nation and top 10 in the world, and another start-up international business reached 7 figure revenue and 20+% profit margin within 6 years. He has built and managed teams of people and been a business leader since his 20s. He is a prolific writer and presenter, and is a host on a weekly business radio show (“Local Biz Now” www.WSICweb.com). Mr. Bidelman graduated with honors from the University of Iowa, with a degree in Actuarial Science, has earned his Fellowship in the Society of Actuaries (FSA), and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
Wayne Bidelman, FSA, is a business coach for AdviCoach. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 704.997.5002.