Back in December, I did ‘Roadmapping’ on my radio show, Accelerate Your Business Growth. Roadmapping is identifying where you want your business to be on some date in the future and then setting up the steps you can take to get there.
Ever since then I’ve been confronted with people who are having trouble focusing. They either don’t set the goal, or they set the goal but then can’t land on how to proceed. Either way, the root cause is the same–an inability to see a big idea in small pieces.
This, for me, is the biggest problem with goal-setting. We are all taught to set goals, create a business plan, think big. Where will you be in five years? 10 years? Do you have an exit strategy?
The difficulty with long-range goals is that they are so far off, and often times so big, that we have a hard time getting our arms around how to get there. We find it hard to focus.
Tony Robbins said, “One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power.”
This is why I prefer to focus on the short term; the little steps. It may sound elementary. But, if you think about it, those small steps are the things that lead us to our big goals. We can’t jump from here to three years from now; we have to take each little step toward the goal.
I liken it to a football game. The goal is to score a touchdown. Rarely do you see the quarterback throw the ball 80 yards to someone in the end zone. What you do see is the offense run a set of plays to keep getting first downs. It is those first downs that keep the ball moving down the field to the end zone.
In business it means focusing on the short term to gain the long term. Keep these things in mind when working on your business:
1. Walk backwards
2. Monitor your progress
3. Stay flexible
You’ve determined your long-term goal. Now walk it backwards to identify the action steps you can take now to start getting there. It’s a process. The more you break it down into small steps, the more likely you are to implement those steps. It is those steps that will move the ball down the field toward your goal. Remember, focus on the short term—the first downs.
Here’s how it goes: based on your long-term goals, what do you need to do now to start the process toward that goal? If it’s a revenue goal, can you break it down monthly? Some businesses are seasonal or cyclical. With these, you can’t really break down the annual goal evenly. Rather, you have to determine which months are traditionally light. Take those expectations and place them in the heavy months. This makes the process realistic. You are more likely to achieve the steps and, therefore, the goal, if your strategy is realistic and sensible.
The point is to establish the steps you will take this month (the first month in the process). Only concentrate on those steps. Don’t worry about the bigger picture. It will come about when you are focusing on the current steps.
Monitor your progress
One of the biggest mistakes I see entrepreneurs make is setting a goal and that's it. They don’t establish the steps to move toward that goal, and then they don’t monitor their progress. You need to know on a consistent basis whether you are headed in the right direction.
Here's my favorite way of monitoring progress: set aside time on the first day of the month. This begins on the month directly following that first month when you established your first month’s steps. That morning, take a look at the results of the previous month. Ask yourself these questions:
1. What worked?
2. What didn’t?
3. Did I accomplish all of my steps and expectations for the month?
Establish the steps for the current month based on the answers to these questions. Repeat what worked and eliminate, or tweak, what didn’t work. If you accomplished your expectations, set new ones for this month. If not, adjust. Always ask yourself: Am I gaining the first downs?
Flexibility is a key characteristic of successful entrepreneurs. When you set up your plan, work that plan, and monitor that plan, you have to be ready to change course if you find you aren’t heading in the right direction. People who have tunnel vision and aren’t flexible find themselves unable to reach the end zone.
You have to be able to adjust to the realities you face. When you monitor your progress and find that you are off track, shift. There’s nothing wrong with changing course. What’s wrong is NOT paying attention to how things are going.
Imagine three years from now looking at where you are compared to where you want to be. Did you make it? Did you shift and adjust as needed? Did you even monitor your progress to know whether you were heading in the right direction?
Long-term goals are critical to business success. You’ll get to the long term by focusing on the short term. Remember the football game; it’s the first downs that get you to the end zone. It’s all about the first downs.