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Long-Term Goals: What’s Your End Game?

Long term planning can feel daunting; we know it’s critical, yet it seems so ambiguous and a long ways away, even when it’s only a few years. If you’re like many business owners, you push it off to tomorrow, and worry about later, well…later. The problem is that “later” arrives when the time for careful and thoughtful planning is past.

Years ago, I joined a young, growing, software company. Profits were strong, and growth seemed easy. I asked the CEO “what’s the most likely end game? How do you want to get out of this? What do you want to get out of this?” I was shocked that he had no idea. Over the next few days we’d circle back to the question again and again, and he eventually realized that the most likely outcome was to be acquired by one particular company. My next question was “what decisions do we make that will make that outcome most likely to happen?” That most likely, and desired, outcome guided the company’s strategy over the coming years and yes, we were acquired by that most likely company at a very lucrative price.

A client and I were talking about his 2014 plans this week when I threw in the question “how long do you want to do this?” My client has owned a very successful business for 14 years and, honestly, he’s tired. I wanted him to start thinking about his ultimate goal, and we then started talking about his most likely exit strategy and the path most likely to get him there.

This week, another client and I talked about possible outcomes and what each might look like for his life. After all, business ownership, and it’s winding up, should support our personal goals and dreams. Once he sorted out the most likely outcome, we created possible paths to reach that outcome. When you take a trip, you look at different ways to reach your destination and select the path that best meets your wants and needs. At every intersection, you make a decision to follow the road that will get you to your destination when you want to, in the manner you want. You select one course, but you know there are alternatives in case you encounter obstacles.

Defining long term business goals and strategies is the same as creating your travel plans; define a goal, set a course, but always have alternatives in the back of your mind in case you need to take a detour. Long term planning, whether it’s an exit strategy or a few years away, becomes simple when you think in terms of “most likely and desirable outcomes”. Give it a try and let me know where you want to end up. 

Free Vision Planning Notebook – yes, FREE!

Vision Planning notebooks are an excellent way to map out your action plan for the New Year!

Vision Planning notebooks are an excellent way to map out your action plan for the New Year!

Hi everyone! Now is a great time to write out your goals and plans for the New Year! You know my motto – “if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail”. I have extra vision planning notebooks  that I’m giving away FREE starting Wednesday, December 18, until the New Year. The only thing you have to do is sign up for the newsletter on www.avisionofyourown.com!  Once you do, shoot me an email at with your mailing address, and I’ll send it out. Any questions? Shoot me an email!

Vision boards are a great way to really focus on what you want to accomplish next year. Writing down your ideas makes you accountable to yourself, and moves your ideas from your head to reality!

3 Fail Proof Ways to Set Goals – And Stick to Them!

2014 will be here before we know it - have you started setting your goals?

2014 will be here before we know it – have you started setting your goals?

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

We’ve heard so many times about the importance of setting goals. Calendars, mugs, desk paraphernalia and social media (heck – even me!) remind us daily to set goals, often with quotes like those above. We all know we “should” set goals, and we want to, we intend to, but we just don’t get around to it. What’s the deal?

There are a few reasons that goal setting gets put aside. Let’s walk through the most common reasons and find solutions.

  1.  There’s just not enough time. I hear this from business owners frequently. Between the never-ending email, answering client questions, working through staff concerns and issues, and keeping the revenue stream going, long-term planning gets pushed aside.
  2. It can be scary to put a stake in the ground, so it feels easier, in the short term, to avoid it. The catch is that the lack of goals causes us to waste time and energy by pursuing faulty avenues, wondering how we are doing, and just plain worrying. Classic “short-term easy way out” versus long-term gain.
  3. We don’t know how to set goals. It’s natural for humans to set goals and to go after them; honestly, I think we are born with that tendency. Somewhere along the way it gets complicated with books, checklists and workshops. Amazon lists over 6,000 books on “how to set goals”!

Now that you’ve seen yourself in at least one of those scenarios, let’s explore some solutions:

  1. As many quotes as there are about setting goals, there are probably as many quotes about time – “we all have 24 hours in a day” – that sort of thing. It comes down to seeing value in spending time on setting goals. If you haven’t experienced success with goal setting before, just try an experiment with a small idea and see how it works. For example, set a new customer inquiries goal for January, 2014 and follow the steps I’m about to outline.

If you truly believe it is just about time, set aside time and space for goal setting – preferably out of the office without interruptions. Give yourself a time limit and stick to it; a couple of hours is a great place to start.

  1. I get that setting goals is scary – I get scared, too. Remind yourself how good it feels to set a goal and to achieve it. Pause long enough to really capture that feeling, and it will help pull you towards setting a goal and achieving it.

Give yourself a safety net if you’re nervous about setting a goal. Rather than relying on one strategy, map out two to pursue and have at least one in the back of your mind.

Find someone to share your goal with, someone who will safely hold your goal for you – encourage you, strategize with you, and celebrate with you. 

  1. The “how” of setting goals starts with finding the “right” goal for you. My definition of the “right” goal for your business is one that makes you smile, gives you the feeling of everything falling into place, and makes you squirm. Goals that push us to try new ideas,  to learn new concepts or skills, or to use previously untapped resources can make use nervous; as long as they meet the first two criteria you’re on the right track.

Once you’ve landed on a goal that you feel good about and that pushes you, here’s where we often get off track. Believing in your goal is a requirement to reaching it, but action needs to accompany that belief. Mantras and positive self-talk can help but they can not achieve.

Separate your goal into pieces:

  • Results Goal – Define the outcome of your goal; what can you measure? Outside forces that we can’t control are at work on our goals, so we can’t completely control the outcome. Results Goals are things like revenue, percentage growth, or customer count.
  • Action Goal – This is the piece of your goal that you can control; it’s what you do – the number of phone calls, the education you attend, the events you host.

Correlate Action Goals to your Results Goals, asking yourself “what action will most likely help me to reach this Result Goal?”

Finally, measure your actions and results and record them. Every Monday a reminder pops up on my screen to record my weekly traffic; sure, it is sometimes a nuisance and I think “I don’t have time”, or “what if the numbers went down this week?”. I plug away, though, because setting goals and working towards them is my nature, and it’s your nature, too

Helen Dutton, A Vision of Your Own, has provided business and personal coaching for small business owners since 2000, providing online and face to face coaching for entrepreneurs, small business owners, start-up businesses as well as established businesses across the country. Clients come from New Hampshire, her home state, but she has also acted as a mentor to business owners in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Denver area, and closer to home in the Boston area. Helen helps her clients develop their small business ideas, create marketing plans, improve operation efficiency, build customer service systems, build management and leadership skills, and develop confidence as a business owner. Helen provides business tips and resources through her blog and her newsletter, where you can also find business templates to help your business prosper.