Many business owners won’t be satisfied when summer comes to a close this year. Why? Because they still haven’t realized their mid-year sales goals. Many owners I’ve seen in the course of my financial consulting business spend their days managing existing operations rather than growing their businesses. And as a result, they never seem to get ahead.
Fortunately, there’s plenty of time left in 2012 to still make your end-year goals. Here are some tips that can help:
Reassess your goals. Ask yourself where you’d like your business to be on December 31, 2012. What would you like to have accomplished? What would you like your annual revenues and profits to be? Clearly, if you don’t have a vision and goals for what you’d like to accomplish, your chances of success are minimal at best.
If you already have your goals in place, now’s the time to re-evaluate to make them more realistic. You can’t strive for goals set last January if, due to market conditions or some unforeseen event, they are no longer relevant or attainable. By doing this, one client of mine was able to significantly improve performance over the last few months of the year, ending up with solid annual sales even after struggling early on.
Prioritize (or reprioritize) your projects. Figure out the four most important projects that will maximize the likelihood of achieving your year-end vision when they're completed. Perhaps it’s developing a new product or building a system to improve customer satisfaction. Choose the month in which you will complete each of these projects, preferably one for each remaining month in the year.
Plan out your first project and break the work required into smaller pieces that can each be accomplished in approximately two hours. This may end up with quite a long list of tasks (find a project management or Excel expert if you need one!) but breaking it down in this way will enable you to make constant progress on completing the project.
Manage your time. Block out time on your calendar for meetings, your own project tasks and assessment. For example, your first prioritized project might take 20 hours of your time to complete, with five hours of meetings to check in on your team’s progress. In this case you can set aside the necessary chunks of time each week to focus on moving each project along.
Treat these appointment times as if they were meetings with a prospective partner interested in writing you a massive check to buy your business. You wouldn’t be late for such a meeting. And you wouldn’t interrupt it to answer an e-mail or a telephone call. Spend the time focusing 100 percent of your efforts on completing the project. Or hire a qualified assistant to make sure you keep to it.
Assess results. Assess your results after the first month. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t achieved complete success; most owners don’t when they start engaging in this practice. Rather, ask yourself whether you have cancelled meetings or shown up late at any time during the month? Did you block out enough time to accomplish the tasks you deemed most important? Have you been distracted by interruptions that turned out to not be as dire as you thought? Did your team go back to its old ways of functioning after the first week?
After the first month, figure out what went right, and what didn’t go quite as smoothly as it could have. Then, modify your plans for the next month.
Running a business is indeed a marathon and not a sprint. And to succeed in a marathon, you need to plan out each leg of the race and train in smaller increments. Similarly, as you “run” the great race that is your business, you need to build and strengthen your assets by completing projects in smaller increments so that by the end, your business can “cross the finish line” by realizing your year-end goals.
OPEN Cardmember Dave Lavinsky is the president and co-founder of Growthink, which provides products, consulting and banking services to help business owners develop business plans, raise funding and prepare their businesses for sale.