Ahhh, it’s berry picking season. I visited my favorite organic berry farm yesterday to pick the final blueberries of the season. Peter, the book-loving farmer who I could chat with all day, directed me on where to find the best remaining berries. “Stay to the left, the first few bushes in the lower field; you’ll get 4 pints from those first two bushes alone.”
Those first two bushes were loaded, but there seemed to be good berries in the row to the right. Before I knew it, I was dead center of the lower field, picking one berry at a time rather than handfuls. How did I manage this?”, I wondered. By always looking for that “better” berry, just as I’d done and seen others do in business as well. It’s easy to see someone else’s success or another great idea only to get distracted; before you know it you’re completely off course. More often than not, taking your eye off the ball, your ball, also keeps you from meeting your goal.
- Define your goal clearly and specifically. My goal was not “to pick blueberries”; my goal was to pick at least 5 pints in less than the 40 minutes I had. Other days, my goal was to enjoy the quiet and sun as I picked berries. In business, a common goal is “to increase revenue”. An example of a more specific and clear goal is “to add $15,000 a month in service revenue from XYZ program, with $5K coming from existing customers, $5K from referrals, and $5K from new customers/new program.”
- Benchmark your progress towards your goal frequently; know exactly how you’re doing compared to plan. I wanted 5 pints in 40 minutes; if I didn’t have over 2 in 20 minutes I needed to reassess.
- Compare your original strategy to your actual progress. It wasn’t until I looked up from the blueberry bushes, and looked to the left, to realize how far off course I’d gotten. At that point, I actively chose to redirect my energy and go back to the left side of the field. If you find yourself off course, decide where you really ought to be and go there.
Meeting business goals is actually pretty similar to picking berries: know what you’re after, stay focused to fill your bucket, have fun while you’re doing it, and enjoy the fruits of your labor!
I pulled a muscle recently and it has really slowed me down. And, it ticks me off. As usual, my reaction is to try to work through it, “If I stretch it more, if I work through it, I’ll get better and stronger and I won’t be a wimp.” This is pretty much my approach to everything, and it works as well in business as it does in the gym. If you recognize yourself at all in this “just work harder” mentality, listen up: it doesn’t work.
I am not suggesting that effort is not required. Focused, informed, clear effort is necessary to accomplish our business goals. However, when you’ve been working towards a goal for a long time with little progress, or it feels like you are pushing up hill, it’s time to seek an alternative approach. Specifically, here are some choices:
- Re-access your business goals. Is it your goal or someone else’s? Does it fill you with excitement or fear? Basically, is your heart in it? It may be an admirable goal, but if it’s not YOUR goal currently, it’s not going to work.
- Ask for help. I sucked it up and finally went to the doctor for my muscle. If you’re struggling with an element of your business goals, find an expert and have them implement it or teach you to implement. It’s still your vision and your accomplishment – it’s okay to ask for help. Sometimes it’s the smartest thing you can do; you may just have to ask your ego to step aside (trust me, I speak from experience).
- Consider whether you are struggling with the goal or just a particular strategy to reach your business goals. For example, if you’ve been trying to grow your Facebook “likes” and it’s going more slowly than you’d like, ask yourself “What is that I’m really trying to accomplish?” More customers, more clients, more revenue, most likely. If your current Facebook strategy isn’t working for you, consider other avenues that will get you to the same end result. A customer referral program? Newsletters? Better SEO? It’s easy to get wedded to a strategy and lose sight of your bigger picture business goals; reconnect with your goal or ask a coach to help.
- Know when to back off. Continuing down a path can sometimes do your business more harm than good, just as continuing to train did for me.
With some focused attention by an expert (thank you, Dr. Coapland, www.performancehealthnh.com) and reconnecting with my longer term “Why” of training, I’m confident that I will heal and be back better than ever. If you find yourself in a similar spot in your business – frustrated, struggling, and not reaching your business goals – take a page from my injury recovery book.
Crisp, fall days, a change in seasons, the first school days full of promise and new beginnings; fall has always been my favorite time of year for all of those reasons. As I enjoyed this beautiful day writing while sitting on my porch, it dawned on me that small business owners have the opportunity to begin again every day, to change course as appropriate, or to try an approach again in a different way. My kids have new teachers and new classrooms which reinforce the “new beginning” excitement, but we each have new opportunities as well.
There is no need to wait for the next quarter, next year, next shipment, next anything to begin again in a different way. So many times, I have heard business owners say they want to continue down a certain path until… until they run out of promotional materials, until a certain employee leaves, until the next fiscal year and I’m honestly baffled by that logic. By nature I’m a very curious person so I ask, “What benefit do you expect to gain by waiting?” Often times, the answer is in avoiding a negative (such as I won’t waste money, I won’t have conflict – a big one), or a sense of completion, of finishing an action plan. None of those are a benefit to your business.
Small business owners are fortunate as we have no corporate office to answer to, no dictated plan to adhere to; yet all too often we behave as if someone is watching over our shoulder making sure that we follow The Plan. It can be discouraging to scrap a plan we thought would bring success; it can also be draining to change courses (again). But it is more exhausting to follow through on a plan that isn’t working.
In the spirit of new beginnings, start tomorrow by looking at your day’s work and asking, “What benefit do I expect from this?” Be as specific as possible and if you can’t find a specific reward, double check that the intention of your work is to provide value and not the avoidance of something negative or numbly following a path set. Just a few weeks in, the “new school year” excitement is wearing off for my kids, but that doesn’t have to be true for small business owners. Be clear about your intentions, take actions in line with your goals, and adjust continuously. Tomorrow is a new day.
– Helen Dutton, Business Coach
photo credit: flatworldsedge via photo pin cc
Summer is winding down and school is right around the corner, which caused me to ask, “What do I still want to do this summer so I can say “What a great summer! I did everything I wanted to do.” Those of you who know me, won’t be surprised that I asked my family a similar question before summer vacation; “What do you want to be able to say at the end of vacation that you can’t say now?”
Summer plans, vacation, and business are all more enjoyable and fruitful when there is a clear objective with specific, concrete actions set in place. It’s one thing to say, “I want to have the best summer ever” and quite another to say “I want to take surfing lessons” (my daughter’s goal for our beach vacation). Business owners have so many goals on their plate that the objectives sometimes get lost or confused. Personally, I know that when I have too many goals on my mind that it’s easy for me to spin around in circles and get less done than I would like. When my clients are frustrated and struggling to move forward decisively, I ask them: “What one thing do you most want to get done today/this week/this quarter/this year?” or “If you get nothing else done, what one action will most move you forward?” Here’s the simple two-step process for success in business:
That’s it. It’s that simple.
I can hear you now saying, “But I can’t decide!” If that’s the case, determine what additional data you need so that you can decide. Chances are you do know what you want, but something’s holding you back. If that’s the case, remember that you’re just signing up for the next step, not the next 20. Just one step. The most important thing. Here are some ideas:
- Book client appreciation event.
- Post ad for new employee.
- Run trial ad on Facebook.
- Ask for meeting with your ideal client.
In the remaining days of summer, my list could include painting the deck chairs, visiting DC, more sailing, and well, you get the idea. Instead, my list is simple: get outside with my family. So, you’ll find me in the White Mountains of New Hampshire tomorrow.
– Helen Dutton, Business Coach
photo credit: Nicholaus Haskins via photo pin cc
Summer is starting to wind down, families are talking about back to school, and your business may be transitioning from one season to the next. For many businesses, August can be slow and that can cause even the most seasoned business owners into a panic. That panic is easily avoided, though, if you know where you are with respect to your goals what you need to do reach your goals. Follow these three simple steps to feeling at ease as business year end approaches:
- Compare year-to-date results to your 2012 goals. Even if you never wrote down your goals, you had a number in your head. Are you where you need to be? Calculate how much business you need to do between now and December to reach your original goal.
- Decide if your original goal needs to be adjusted – up or down. Just as it doesn’t make sense to shoot towards an overly optimistic goal, it also makes no sense to aim towards a goal you’ll reach by October. It’s just not fun! Make sure your 2012 goal feels “right” – the right amount of a stretch to energize you without overwhelming you. With your new goal in hand, determine the amount of business needed per month.
- If you’re running behind your 2012 goals, you can no longer convince yourself that “things will turn around” just as long as you stay the course. Decide on up to three courses of action you will take to meet your monthly target. Here are some examples:
To increase my monthly sales to $12,000 from $10,000, I need to:
- Reach out to all former customers by mail by 8/31 followed by a targeted e-mail campaign by 9/11 with a bundled product/service offer. Remember to make it time-sensitive!
- Create, test and implement a system to shorten the customer’s buying cycle by at least 1 week
- Meet with staff to hear their business building ideas by 8/22; create an employee incentive program for one of those ideas and kick-off on 9/1. Make this fun and exciting!
Once you’ve created action goals, share them with a colleague, a friend, or a coach. Ask them to hold you accountable and set check-in points in your calendar.
Business panic is most often caused by not knowing where you really stand and by the lack of a plan. Define those two and your fear will decrease; take action and see results and your panic disappears.
– Helen Dutton, Business Coach
photo credit: Krissy.Venosdale via photo pin cc