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Posts Tagged ‘Productivity’

5 Steps (Back) to Get Ahead with Your Goals

When you're trying to reach your goals, start with "the end in mind"!

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:

  1.  Begin with the end result – feel it, believe it, know it.
  2. Once you can envision reaching that goal, ask what step you would have taken right before you reached the goal?
  3. What action would you have taken immediately before that?
  4. And before that?
  5. 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.

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!

Increase Profit Without Increasing Business

Do you know which products or services are profitable and increase profit?  Or, equally important, do you know which ones are costing you money?

Chances are you offer multiple product or service lines, and you probably know how much revenue each brings in (if you don’t, let’s figure that out first). Do you know which ones are the most profitable?  Offering products and services that contain a healthy margin is essential to any business.  Here is how to get started analyzing your current offerings and how to decide if a future offering will make the (financial) cut.

Step 1. Determine the Purpose:  Deciding to offer a new product or service ought to begin with the basic question: what is the purpose of adding this product or service? The answer might be to make money, but stop and think about it for a minute; other valid reasons may be to increase sales of another product or service or to satisfy your customers and clients by making their lives easier, which increases their loyalty to you. You may want to be the “one stop shop” for your customers in your field; recognize that, and define your products and services with that vision in mind.

increse profitStep 2.  Support your Goals:  Once you are clear about your goals, it’s time to learn which product and service are meeting those goals. I once interviewed a large department store that’s policy was to only enter a new product line if the depth of that department could stand as an independent store in a mall. Can your products or services survive on their own, or do they rely on other products or services to survive? Let’s walk through an example:

Business: hair salon
Services Offered: hair styling, massage, and nail care.
Products Offered: hair and body care products.

Step 3.  Allocate Costs:  Each product or service should be recorded as a separate line item within the bigger category. For example: hair coloring would be a line item within hair styling and shampoo sales would be a line item within hair products, (which is within hair and body products).

Costs associated with each product or service should be recorded individually, within the bigger category: payroll for hair stylists is a cost of offering hair coloring as are the associated products.

Step 4.  Determine Profit:  To determine the true profit from each product or service line, allocate incremental overhead to each. True cost accounting would tell you to allocate a portion of all overhead costs; I think you get a clearer picture by only considering incremental costs.

Step 5.  Review and Act:  Review your stated goal for each; which products or services are not meeting your goal, which ones increase profit? Chances are you have products or services that are not meeting your stated objectives. Take a closer look to see where you can make adjustments. If you can’t, and your goal stands, it may be time to cut the product or service line loose. If you do, you just may be surprised by how much time and energy you save without losing any profit.

Employee Benefits that your Team Really Wants

Understanding what employees want in benefits can seem like shooting at a moving target; there are more studies and surveys than there are potential employee benefits. These studies have a lot of great information in them but there’s a catch: they didn’t ask your employees. The only way to find out what is most important to your employees is to ask.

SurveyMonkey.com is simple and anonymous for employees to use. The free version allows you to ask up to ten questions with a variety of question formats. If you have few employees, try having an open dialog with employees to prompt in-depth answers; consider asking employees to give you their thoughts in a more free-flowing format. This style is best for discovering benefits that don’t come off the shelf.emlployee benefits

Stop and think about what employees really want, with or without a survey; it comes down to the basic wants that all humans desire – control, to make an impact, and appreciation.

  • Control. Employees want to be in control of their schedule, when they work, where they work, and how and when they can take time off. Open communication allows you to both achieve what you want.

Employees also want to be in control of their approach. This can be a tough one for entrepreneurs to swallow since there is a control-freak lurking somewhere in us. If you hire up (Read more about hiring up: http://avisionofyourown.com/tag/managing-employees-small-business/page/3/), you have hired an expert, someone more skilled at their job than you could be. Why would you try to control how this hired expert completes their tasks? If you’re still skeptical, create a safety net by asking for drafts, agreeing on a timeline, or having the employee explain their approach first. Do this a couple of times, then let them do the job you hired them for.

  • To make an impact. Humans like to contribute, to give, to know that they make a difference. While we generally think of this in philanthropic terms, it’s true in all aspects of our lives including our working lives. Allow your employees to contribute, to use their talents, to feel valuable.
  • Appreciation. Let your team know that you appreciate them; be specific, timely, and usually, do it in public. It can be as simple as a heartfelt thank-you or a handwritten note with tickets to a show or dinner. If you ever received a handwritten note from a boss, I bet you saved it for a long time and may even still have it. Give that same gift to a well-deserving staff member.

Talk to your employees about what is most important to them through a survey, an impromptu conversation, or a scheduled quarterly/semi-annual review. Incorporate these basic human wants – (control, to make an impact, and appreciation) into your organization – and not only will your employees notice, but they will appreciate you more and be motivated to work harder. Happy employees means happy customers, an attractive bottom line, and a less stressful personal life.

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.