When you’re trying to reach your goals, start with “the end in mind”!
Now that you’ve set a goal for 2014, declared a New Year’s Resolution, have you taken your first step? You see, there are results goals (the outcome that we want), and then there are action goals (the action we will take to reach our desired outcome). And that’s where the rubber meets the road. It’s one thing to declare “I want to double my sales”, or “I am going to be more productive”, but when we define what action steps we will take to reach those outcomes we begin to see results (for more about results and action goals see here).
But knowing what those steps are can befuddle even the best in business. When a client is struggling to define the steps to reach their goal, I walk them through the process I’m about to share here.
Entrepreneurs are big thinkers – great at knowing where they want to end up. Defining the steps to reach that destination can feel mundane, cumbersome, and well…boring. Small business owners are fond of the expression “make it happen!” but without a large staff to “make it happen” those details often fall on your shoulders, the small business owner.
To easily define those action steps, and to take the most efficient path, here’s my remedy for detail-offended entrepreneurs:
- Begin with the end result – feel it, believe it, know it.
- Once you can envision reaching that goal, ask what step you would have taken right before you reached the goal?
- What action would you have taken immediately before that?
- And before that?
- Continue backing up until you reach an action step that you can, and will, take today.
By starting at your goal, you include only those actions that produce results and that are the most effective and efficient. The best part is that once you’ve walked backwards to where you are today, you’ve defined a comprehensive action plan designed by you, in full detail, to your desired goal.
With pieces of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) about to go into effect, this is a good time for owners to look at the small business benefits they offer to employees.
Small business owners are struggling with rising healthcare costs, and balancing the financial implications to their company with keeping their talent happy. How do they know the right mix of benefits? When should they ask employees to be responsible for a bigger piece of the cost? Employers are hesitant to small business benefits, yet absorbing the ever-increasing costs are hurting their bottom line.
Back in my corporate days when I oversaw Human Resources, creating the benefits package honestly felt like we were gambling with employees’ financial and health future. The health insurance co-payment and
deductible could have significant financial impact in family lives. While young employees often see little value in life and disability insurance, their potential impact is enormous, although hopefully less called upon. Retirement benefits are increasingly more important to employees, yet business owners often believe retirement to be cost-prohibitive. How do business owners know what the right decision is?
Ask. As in your employees – the people you are trying to help. Personnel costs are often the largest expense and can potentially have the most significant impact on the success of your business so you need to get it right. Yet all too often the benefits’ decision is made in a vacuum, without the input from the people they’re designed to benefit! Ask your employees what healthcare elements are most important to them – out of pocket costs, routine coverage, or catastrophic coverage. Tell them that you will make the decision but that you would like their input.
At first glance, this process may seem risky to your bottom line. Compare headcount costs as a percentage of revenue over several periods; is it growing? Flat? Decide what your business model and you, the business owner, can live with for headcount costs. As long as benefits fit within that framework, and you’ve gotten input from your staff, don’t stress the details. Ask employees’ to share in the costs from the get-go and always let them know the benefits’ cost that the business is picking up.
Retirement plans have the feel of being expensive, yet with the tax credit now available for setting up a plan (check http://www.irs.gov/publications/p560/ar01.html for an overview) a 100% employee-funded plan can have no financial impact to your business. While employer contributions are not required under all types of plans, the contributions are tax-deductible and are a relatively low cost/high value benefit.
Don’t underestimate the value of group life insurance and long-term disability. These costs are miniscule compared to health insurance and yet have the potential to save an employee’s family. While not often called upon, these provide peace of mind to your staff. Peace of mind means your staff can be more focused on the task at hand – growing your business.
It’s easy for summertime to slide by, a bit more relaxed and laid back than other times of the year; you may find your business productivity decreases as a result. I’m all about enjoying the summer, but I also love achieving what I’ve set out to achieve! How do you accomplish both?
- Define your goals; what do you want to be able to say about your business that you can’t say now? Be specific (that’s the first element of SMART Goals, remember? See http://avisionofyourown.com/small-business-tips/smart-business-goals/ for a SMART goal refresher). Here are some examples:
- Earn 6 new level A clients.
- Introduce XYZ product line with at least 4 products.
- Complete training and certification in a skill or technique.
- Define what it will take to get there. If you can’t define every step, start with what the next logical step is, and move from there.
- You are an expert at something (that thing everyone knows to be true about you). How do you best apply that to reach your goal? How and when will you use those skills? Using our natural abilities turns the steps to our goal into an easy stroll.
- To reach your goal, what tasks or responsibilities are best done by someone else? Once you understand where your greatest value lies, consider how to best accomplish other tasks. Many of us love control, but seriously… what is honestly better done by someone else? Consider swapping control of a business function for summer fun.
- What resources do you need? Where and how will you find these resources? Consider environmental, physical, and motivation and support in addition to financial and human resources.
- Define milestones so that you can feel confident about the progress you are making, or not. While it’s nice to think all of our attempts will be successful, allow for some fallout in your timeline. Here are some examples:
- To reach 6 new level A clients by 9/1, I need to speak to 36 by 6/15.
- Meet with 8 potential product vendors by 7/10.
- Schedule certification exam no later than 8/15.
- Go. It really is that simple. If fear of failure is an issue, just focus on the task at hand. If you’ve defined your tasks with milestones and responsibilities (access FREE worksheet downloads) taking one step at a time will get you to where you want to go.
Achieve your goals. Enjoy the summer. That’s excellence with ease.
Fear keeps us from new adventures, new horizons, new highs, and new lows. Yes, overcoming a fear is a scary thought. However, overcoming a fear is such a powerful emotion that it is able to overshadow failed attempts. I know I’ve had my share of failures but I honestly can’t remember them. Overcoming fear gives you a thrill and remembering that feeling can benefit your business.
Just like a strong vision can pull you forward, connecting with how you will feel after overcoming a fear can also pull you forward. When we are fighting with a fear, we dig in our heels. It becomes tough for anything to push us forward and we become stuck. However, when we connect with a positive outcome we are propelled forward. By focusing on the end result and taking small steps forward we are able to slowly overcome our fear.
If you have a fear getting in the way of your business’s success, here are four simple yet effective techniques to move you beyond your fear easily:
- Clearly define the outcome that you want. Be singularly focused on that outcome. The fear may still exist, but it will be much quieter.
- Build a support team around you and be sure to include some risk-takers. Get rid of any nay-sayers.
- Write a step-by-step guide for someone else to follow to reach your goal. Follow it yourself as an experiment.
- Name it – “this is a (irrational) fear.” That’s it; end of story. Decide to move past it.
Define the outcome that will pull you forward, as if you were catapulted over the obstacles, and the fears will become small speed bumps along the way. Be persistent, there is no fear than can’t be overcome!
One of my early coaches gave me an exercise to magnify my gratitude and ultimately my results, and it’s a lot of fun: it’s called the YAHOO! Game. It’s “thank you” on steroids. If your GoogleAnalytics show that your numbers are going up, shout “YAHOO!”. If your phone is ringing more and more, give it a “YAHOO!”. Customer checks in the mail? “YAHOO!” It may feel silly at first but trust me, keep going because after a few shout-outs you’ll feel really good. If it feels silly enough to make you laugh, well, laughter is a good thing, too.
It’s the time of year when we think of expressing our thanks more often. Expand your gratitude, make it bigger, declare it loudly; you will be rewarded in so many ways.