In this episode of Power Tools we talk about how Realtors can avoid procrastination through “getting ready to get ready”, or better known as being a perfectionist.
Have you ever found yourself facing a project to complete but, instead of starting, first you feel like you need to do some research, or get organized, or clean your office? Or maybe it was a personal goal like a diet you wanted to start, but you just need to get through this weekend first because you’re going to be out of town? Or, my personal favorite, have you ever been asked if you were ready to start doing (insert thing you’re supposed to be doing here) and simply answered no because you before you start you needed to do (insert thing you think you need to do first here).
At the end of the day, it’s all procrastination.
The question that matters for the purpose of this post, though, is why. Why are you putting off what you know you need to do, what you know you need to do? In my experience the answer generally boils down to one of two things, or sometimes both. The first is laziness and the second is a desire or need to have whatever the project is 100% perfect before unveiling it to the world. The first one is the easiest to tackle, so let’s get that out of the way.
If you’re lazy and you know it clap your hands. Hopefully you aren’t clapping your hands right now, but some of you may be. So, without coming off as horribly rude, if you did, update your resume and get out of here. Real estate is a 24/7 hustle. Sustained success in this industry is not for the lazy. I hate to burst your bubble, but there are no overnight successes and HGTV isn’t waiting outside your testing center ready to give you a show as soon as you pass your licensing exam. Truth be told, we have enough lazy Realtors in the industry. We don’t need another one.
So, you can either get your ass up and go to work or get out of the way of those who do. The choice is yours.
Now, let’s get to the real point here.
Getting Ready to Get Ready
The idea of getting ready to get ready, or procrastinating in exchange for action is neither a new concept nor is it really unnatural. It’s why procrastination is such a problem for so many people. I mean, how many hundreds of books have been written on the subject? When you see people who seem to accomplish a great deal, it is usually not a natural thing. It’s usually a practiced skill, like any other skill. But there’s more to it than just having the initiative to tackle a project. Anyone can start on a project. The key is to finish your project, at least enough to launch it.
It Will Never Be Perfect
Do you own a smartphone? If you don’t, we need to have another discussion, but for now we will assume you do. Every couple of months I’m sure, like I do, you get a new update to the software on your phone, right? Of course you do. So, here’s the question. Why didn’t Apple or Samsung or LG or hopefully not Blackberry wait until every single aspect of their software was 100% perfect forever before releasing it? I mean, aren’t these updates just an admittance of failure?
No, of course they aren’t an admittance of failure. They’re a normal part of auditing systems and updating them for what is relevant at the time. Why then, do we feel like we have to have every aspect of a project perfect before releasing it? Our database has to be perfectly organized, classified, and every aspect of our follow-up system in place before we would even consider the idea of sending an email. We wouldn’t dream of publishing a website without every single last detail being perfectly in place. But why?
How about instead, as you organize and classify your database, you also call them? How about you put your follow-up program to work right now instead of waiting until you’ve written or created every single piece of content that will go out over the next 24 months? The bottom line is that it will never, ever be perfect. Ever. You will make adjustments as you go along or you will find yourself with the most perfect yellow pages ad of all time. In the immortal words of Nike, Just Do It!
You Don’t Know What You Need Until You Do
Until you start, you won’t really know what you need to do to finish. You can plan and scheme and dream, but until you get your hands dirty and actually start, you won’t know what you need to be able to finish. Dan Sullivan, executive coach and co-host of the popular 10X Talks podcast, calls it the 80% Principle. Based on all of the plans you make, you’ll probably be able to finish about 80% of your project. 80% is good enough. Launch it and then put the finishing touches on it. Seek counsel, audit, adjust, and continue to do so at regular intervals to ensure that your plan stays on track for the long-run.
Its A Marathon, Not A Sprint
I get it, you’re a Type A personality. I know. We all are. You’re a control freak. We all are. You feel like unless it’s ready it will make you look unprofessional. I get it. We’ve all been there. Remember, Rome wasn’t built-in a day and neither will your business be. Ten years from now you will likely look back and laugh at how much you worried over this stuff. The point is that if you never start the journey, you’ll never know. Sometimes the first step is the hardest, but, once you make it, each ensuing step becomes easier and easier.
Very Few Others Are Doing It
To wrap this up, let me drop a bit of unadulterated honesty on you. 90% of your competition isn’t doing it. Doing what you ask? Anything. Truly, they aren’t. Less than half of your competitors are using a CRM (and most probably aren’t really using one, they just pay for one), fewer than 10% use video, and the list goes on and on. Almost every statistic available on what agents do for follow-up and marketing is pretty embarrassing, really. So, as you sit there fretting over whether or not whatever you’re working on is good enough, just remember that 80% of anything is way, way better than 0% of nothing.
In the course of a “normal” real estate transaction there are more ways for something to go wrong than the general public can imagine. It’s one of the many reasons why the general public doesn’t find value in the work a good Realtor does on their behalf. It’s also not the stuff they show on HGTV. The potential bumps in the road are numerous. The good news, however, is that, if handled correctly, these bumps in the road can be handled. Most aren’t fatal to the transaction. So, where’s the “but”? The “but” is whether or not you handle them like a butt or like a professional.
Through properly setting expectations with a client, proper presentation of the problem to the client, and cooperation with your fellow professionals, most bumps in the road in a transaction can be overcome.
Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t problems that can’t be overcome. There are, and if you haven’t experienced it yet, you will. That is, unfortunately, a part of the business and something that has to be dealt with from time to time.
In a previous post, we talked about setting expectations at length. So, I am not going to rewrite that post for the sake of this one. The bottom line is this: people don’t like surprises, especially in what can already be a stressful situation. So, don’t let it be a surprise. Setting expectations from the beginning and reiterating those expectations throughout the process will keep your client both prepared for these situations and aware that you know about them and are working on their behalf. Building value in yourself is the bonus.
The hidden beauty of setting expectations is that it allows you to present a problem as it arises in a way that doesn’t come as a surprise to the client. How you present a problem to your client, either buyer or seller, is key. If you freak out, they’ll freak out. If you come in laying blame, they will too, and most likely on you. If you come in bad-mouthing the other agent or other party to the transaction, they will feel like you are not in control.
The correct way to present a problem is to, first, go back to the expectation you already set. For example, “Remember, Mr. and Mrs. Seller when we talked about (fill in the blank)? Well, here is what’s going on.” Second, you review what you have already done or are doing to resolve the problem. This, again, builds value in you and what you do. Finally, you leave them with the plan and what could or could not happen in the end. Set a time to follow-up and be very communicative throughout the process. How you present the problem to the client will directly influence not only the way they react to the problem, but how they deal with the problem as you work through it.
Yes, I know, it is hard to be as good as you are. I know that there are very few agents capable of the level of awesomeness you bring to the table daily. I completely understand. However, from time to time you are going to have to entertain these other agents in an effort to serve your clients and make the money you’ve earned. We’ve also talked about cooperating agents in other posts before so I won’t get too deep into it.
Being able to creatively solve problems with the other agent, lender, and/or title company is how you will successfully navigate the treacherous path that pops up when there are difficulties in a transaction. The ability to bring all parties and vendors together to create win-win situations is how you show your true professionalism in times of need. That’s what makes you awesome, not only to your client, but to your fellow professionals as well.
Anyone can navigate their way through a simple real estate transaction. Anyone can also screw up a somewhat difficult transaction. Don’t be anyone. Be better than that. Show your value to your clients. Be the agent that other agents want to be like when they grow up. Having processes and systems in place in your business to deal with difficult situations, unforeseen problems, and less than stellar vendors, agents, and parties on the other side of the transaction is paramount to your success. That’s how you differentiate yourself and become an all-star.
The 2016 Presidential campaigns are well under way with three primaries and two caucuses down. Now, whether you like it or not, if you’re involved in real estate in any form or fashion, politics play a large role in your business and you ought to be paying attention. How involved in that you’d like to be is up to you, but if you aren’t aware of the ramifications to your business that the policies laid out by the candidates can have, you may end up regretting your lack of attention. That, however, is a topic for another day.
Today, I’d like to take a look (again) at the lessons we can take from a political campaign and apply (or not) to our business. If you think about it, at its base level, a political campaign is nothing more than a very long (too long usually) marketing and sales campaign. Now, it’s a candidate’s dream to run unopposed, but that’s not always the case. If you approach your business as a candidate running unopposed, when you do have an opponent you will be unprepared to deal with it and will likely lose the election. So, here are just a few of the many things you could take away from a political campaign that could very easily translate to your real estate business.
Note: While I am going to use actual examples from actual candidates, none of the info contained herein should be considered a critique of a candidate or an endorsement. Please keep your political comments to yourself. This is a real estate coaching blog read by no fewer than 21 people on a regular basis, not Fox News or the Huffington Post.
If you ask most political consultants, they will tell you that one of the most important things in a campaign is messaging, consistent messaging. Despite the scope of a Presidential campaign and sometimes the mud-slinging that happens, a campaign should be about policies and issues and the candidate who can clearly, concisely, consistently and, more importantly, convincingly communicate those points to the voter (buyer) usually wins. We’ve all seen the “flip-flop” ads accusing one campaign of changing positions based on voter attitude. Your value proposition should not change based on trends.
On the flip side of that, there is such a thing as too much messaging. Seriously though, how many of you have that friend who posts nothing on Facebook but things about their Advocare, Nerium, Plexus, Tupperware, Mary Kay, Seaweed Wrap, or Real Estate business? Being able to clearly communicate your value proposition is critical to your success. Wearing people out with it is, on the other hand, the fastest way to run someone off from being your brand advocate.
From a marketing standpoint, campaigns are generally excellent at using every available resource to distribute their message to the market. From traditional media to P.R., social media to word of mouth, commercials, print ads, video, radio, TV, newspapers, signage, and the list goes on, campaigns will literally use every single medium out there to communicate the messaging of the candidate and build brand awareness. What can you do to maximize your exposure to the public using the resources available to you? What are best modes of communicating your message to your intended audience? On that note…
Knowing Your Audience
So far, on the Republican side of this particular campaign, we’ve seen contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. The winner of the Iowa Caucus on the GOP side was Ted Cruz. Cruz did an excellent job of communicating a message to Iowans that fit what they wanted to hear, despite having one particular position that directly opposed the views of many voters. In New Hampshire, on the other hand, a far more liberal state, Donald Trump held firm to more centrist ideals and won overwhelmingly. In both cases, the candidates knew their audience well and communicated the message using every format they could and came away with the win.
Another big difference between the Trump and Cruz campaigns is how they have put together their ground game. Ground game in a campaign refers to the number of people going door-to-door or making phone calls for a candidate. Ted Cruz has been very good about setting up a solid ground game in nearly every state. On the other hand, Donald Trump has eschewed the traditional ground game strategies and relied more on large-scale events and making headlines. Traditional wisdom would tell you that the person with more people working the public will win. In this case, nothing about this election has been traditional. That being said, let’s go with tradition and try to build an army of advocates out there building your brand for you. It is, after all, the cheapest and most profitable way to build your business.
So, here’s where the rubber meets the road in a campaign. A campaign is a zero sum game. In order for one candidate to gain votes, they have to take votes from someone else. The only way to do that is to differentiate themselves from the other candidates in the field. Sometimes that is easy because of significant differences in opinions. Sometimes, however, many of the candidates look and sound a whole lot alike. Being able to effectively differentiate themselves from the others in the field, even if there are few actual differences, is what allows a candidate to take votes from other candidates in order to win. What is the value proposition you need to communicate to differentiate yourself from the other candidates to help a client buy or sell a property? Does your service differentiate you? Your use of technology? Your expertise in a certain niche?
Measurement and Adjustment
Analytics are extremely important in a campaign. Everything is measured. From opinions about immigration and economics to who is most handsome or pretty to, in the case of Bill Clinton, boxers or briefs, everything is analyzed and measured. Anomalies are tracked. Trends are forecasted to account for every possible outcome. Polls are taken regularly and analyzed. Adjustments, based on all of this data and its analysis, are made to ensure that the candidate’s message, appearance, marketing materials, or anything else that isn’t seen as favorable changes. Remember, the goal of the candidate is to earn votes. The goal of the real estate business owner is to earn business. What are you doing in your business to measure and analyze the results of your messaging, marketing and dollars spent doing both? How would you adjust that strategy if it wasn’t working?
Admittedly, the title and timing of this post is not coincidental, but that doesn’t change the lesson. Marketing campaigns are called marketing campaigns for a reason. From the standpoint of a business owner, your ability to look at the campaign in its entirety will allow you to come up with a more comprehensive plan for creating your value proposition and the marketing tied to it. Hey, you never know, you might just get elected in the process.
To start off, this is just another in a long list of posts that are related to “Your First Year in Real Estate”. It certainly won’t be the last, and probably won’t be the last on this site. Also, if you can keep the number of “rookie mistakes” you make to five, congratulations. You win Rookie of the Year. Hopefully this will help you avoid some mistakes that others out there have experienced and that I see on a pretty regular basis.
To preface the meat of this post, I have to say a few things about this list. First, none of these mistakes are fatal. You can make them and still turn out as a pretty good agent. Avoiding them will just help speed things along on the road to success for you. Second, this is not a 100% complete list. It’s just a list I made based on personal experience and coaching real estate sales people for a decade now, and some input from a friend who coaches agents and is pretty darn good at it. There are other mistakes you can, and most likely will, make. Remember, and not to sound cliché, it’s a journey. Learn from the mistakes and move on. Finally, if you read this list and realize that you’ve made one of these mistakes, that’s ok. Don’t worry. It can be fixed. Nothing in this crazy real estate world is that permanent, especially in your first year or two. Now, let’s get going…
1. Not Branding Yourself
I know, I know. You just took your exam and got sponsored and you think that your Broker/Brokerage/Parent Company/Coach/Kool-Aid Deliverer is the greatest thing since sliced bread. It’s an exciting time. It really is. I’m not just being a smart-ass to make a point. I’ve been there.
There is a little secret that I would like to tell you, though. You’ll probably change brokerages at some point in your career (This is not true of any of my agents that happen to be reading this. Y’all just skip this part). It may seem unthinkable, but the number of agents that have stayed at the same brokerage for an entire career is extremely small. So, brand yourself before you brand your Broker. Get your own domain name and your own email address associated with that domain: firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, according to NAR stats, only 3% of people care who you work for. This is a people business. They are buying you, not your Broker. Build your brand, not your Broker’s.
2. You Don’t Focus on Learning
Listen, your education didn’t end when you took that exam. In fact, I can tell you without hesitation that your education didn’t really begin until you took that exam. Most state regulated courses leading up to the exam are a joke and have no practical application in the real world. If you aren’t enrolled in classes (hopefully with your Broker), a mentorship, coaching or something like that a) you chose the wrong Broker, and b) you need to figure that out quickly. Also, start reading, listening to and watching podcasts, surf the web for coaching videos, etc. Follow smart people online, sign-up for webinars, shadow experienced agents. In other words, make learning a top priority in your business. When you aren’t doing something to make you money, you should be learning something that will.
3. Not Putting Systems and Processes in Place
It may not seem like it right now, but, at some point, time becomes your greatest asset and your biggest limitation. There will come a time when you will be so busy that the idea of stopping for a day or two to add systems and processes into your business will seem crazy. The problem is that you will have to do just that or risk stagnation. So, a real simple solution is to put them in place from day one. They don’t have to be perfect, but they do need to be there. You can adjust as you need to. Marketing, customer service, follow-up, transaction management, and database management are just a few areas to focus on. Without scalable systems and processes in place early in your career, your business will suffer later down the road.
NOTE: Don’t spend all of your time doing this. An hour a day or so will be just fine. This isn’t busy work so you can avoid doing real work. You don’t want six months to pass and all you’ve done is organize your contacts.
4. Not Using a CRM Software
We’ve talked about this before, but I just can’t emphasize the importance. Organizing your database, creating perpetual follow-up protocol, and automating as much of it as you can is pivotal to your success, especially at a time when you are initially building your brand awareness. That’s it. There’s nothing else to say. Find one and use it. Remember, the right CRM is the one you actually use. Play with a bunch and find the one that works best for you. Use a CRM or be SOL.
5. Focusing on the Outcome, Not the Input
If nobody told you in your interviews with a broker, let me be the first to break this news to you: success in real estate is not easy. This isn’t HGTV. You don’t just get a license and then the producers show up outside your house and start filming. Real estate is a grind. It’s a game for hustlers. The ones that are willing to do the work, and do it consistently, every f’ing day, are the ones that are making the money here. If that isn’t for you, take your ass back to what you were doing last week. If you’re willing to do the work, focus on the work. Keep your nose to the grindstone and the results will come. They will. I promise. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t get mad (unless that kind of thing motivates you) when a friend uses another agent. Suck it up, put on your big boy/girl panties and move on to the next task. Focus on what you can control. The results will follow with hard work, consistency, and patience.
There you have it. Now, take your ass back to work.
As your real estate business grows and you find yourself getting busier and busier it becomes increasingly easier to get caught up in the day-to-day details and minutiae of what is happening in the moment. You’re working hard, doing everything you can to satisfy your clients, get them across the finish line, and, hopefully, get the referrals to grow your business. Outside of the client care, you’re still prospecting, marketing, and doing all of the other little things you’ve been doing to grow your business. That’s what you’re supposed to be doing, right? Of course it is. That being said, at some point, you have to step back and focus on your business from the CEO perspective, not the technician’s perspective.
If you aren’t spending as much time working on your business as you do working in your business, you’ll never transition from practitioner to true entrepreneur.
What’s the Difference?
Before I really get into the explanation, if you haven’t read The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber, do yourself a favor and read it as soon as possible. To make an illustration most of you will understand, especially those from Houston where we have a restaurant every 500 feet, have you ever been to a restaurant where the food was great only to see it go out of business a few months later? So many of those close because they were opened by great chefs who knew little to nothing about the business of running a restaurant. You see, just because you are a great chef or a great cupcake maker or, for that matter, a great Realtor doesn’t mean that you would necessarily be a great restaurateur or bakery owner or brokerage owner. That’s really the difference.
Using the restaurant example to expound, the great chef worries about creating a great dish. They want to drive the business to the restaurant by having people tell their friends how great the food was. Sound familiar? The restaurateur, on the other hand, is concerned about the overall experience of the diner. They focus on decor, ambiance, seating charts, service, amenities, staffing, and a million other things, not to mention spin-off concepts, expansion, and, ultimately, an exit strategy. See the difference? The chef works in his business while the restaurateur works on his business.
So, how do you step back to work on your business and where do you start once you do? First and foremost, you have to make time. You have to have scheduled time daily, weekly, monthly that is dedicated to your strategic planning for your business. These time blocks have to be non-negotiable. Zero distractions. If you have to get up and leave where you normally work, do it. Turn off your phone and email. Your only focus is your business as a whole.
Below is a short list of the items that you can and should do during this time. This list will expand over time as your comfort level with this grows and as you get deeper and deeper into your business operations, future plans, and all of the new ideas you develop.
- Audit, Audit and Audit – To start off, begin with what you’re doing now and examine every piece of it. Make changes where necessary. Lather, rinse, and repeat.
- Systems and Processes – What makes McDonald’s successful? The fact that a Big Mac in St. Louis tastes the same as a Big Mac in New York or London or Tokyo. Systems and processes make that happen. Your business, if it is ever going to grow, has to have them. From CRMs to lead generation to follow-up, everything needs a system. That’s how you create an asset.
- Expansion and Personnel – That’s right. Most agents wait too long to hire and their business suffers. If you’re not at least thinking about it, you need to be. As your business grows, you need to grow your business and you’ll be glad you’ve been thinking about it all along.
- Strategic Planning – Do you have a plan for growth? A real plan, not just ideas? Are there action steps associated with the plan to help you reach your goals? Do you have a plan for marketing, social media, farming, and everything else in your business? Now would be a good time to start. For every goal you have for your business, there should be an action-based plan in place.
- Exit Strategy – You might just be starting in business, but, wherever you are in your career, you need to consider your exit strategy. Are you creating a true asset that you can sell one day when you are ready to leave the business or retire?
- Technology – If you aren’t regularly looking at ways to leverage technology to increase efficiency, automate what you can, and increase your level of service, you are missing out on one of the best ways to stretch your time and productivity.
Like I said, the list goes on and on and will grow. The key is that you’re actually working on your business instead of always working in your business. I believe that once you change this approach, you will find yourself working more and more on your business. That’s when you truly begin to transition into the CEO role of your business.
When I was going through managerial training, we had a leader, Steve Miller (no, not that one), that changed the way I looked at time management. Up to that point, like many people, I had kept a schedule and had what I thought was a pretty solid routine going for myself. My weeks went pretty smoothly. Sure, there were those times when I had to put in a few more hours and things occasionally got hectic, but I felt, all in all, that I was doing a pretty decent job managing my time and tasks. Then, within an hour, I felt like the least productive and most disorganized person in business. It all started with one question:
“Are you spending your time working at your business or are you investing your time in your business?”
Looking at time as an investment is what really changed the way I thought about work. Heck, if you want to get all deep and philosophical about it, it changed the way I thought about time in general. After that day, I tried my best to keep that mindset. Do I slip up from time to time and find myself stuck in a rut? Sure. Does it last longer than I want it to sometimes? Yes. However, at some point, it always comes back to realizing that I am not treating my time as money that I am investing in my business.
What is your time worth?
So, this may seem like a pretty simple equation, and probably one you’ve done before. You take the amount of money you make each year divided by the number of hours you work and there’s your wage per hour. Use that to calculate your daily or weekly or monthly salary. That’s the easy part, right?
Now, the hard part is figuring out how best to invest that money in your business in ways that will grow your investment. If you think about it from the standpoint of a 401(k), you want your money (time) to earn the greatest return (money or growth in your business) and not sit there and stagnate, grow slowly, or, worst case, decrease in value. So, you want to be investing your time in the activities that will produce the greatest return on your investment and avoiding, delegating, or outsourcing the ones that don’t and that you deem as still necessary to your business.
To start, make a list of the things you do on a daily, then weekly, then monthly basis. Don’t avoid anything. Write it all down. If it takes you keeping a time log for a couple of months, do it. Then, when you have a comprehensive list, it is up to you to decide which ones are the tasks and activities that will generate a return, which are the ones that won’t, and which are the ones that you have to do but are pure overhead. The first list is where you want to invest the vast majority (80% or more) of your time. The second list needs to go away. Trash it completely. Maybe you’ve put a lot of time and money into some of them, but if they aren’t showing a return, cut your losses and walk away. The last list, the necessary but not productive items, needs a little more analysis.
Sweat Equity vs. Check Equity
If you’re relatively new in your business and funds are limited, you might find that you have to put in the sweat equity on the tasks that are low return. If that’s the case, try to limit the time spent on these activities to the parts of your day when you can’t be doing revenue generating activities. If you are able to afford it, you might consider some check equity to take care of the little things and free up more of your time to focus on the revenue generating activities that will grow your business.
Prioritize and Delegate
The last part of this equation is taking your 80% list and your 20% list and prioritizing the individual tasks on each. Which ones are either more vital to your business or give the greatest return on your investment of time? Those are the ones that you want to prioritize in your business. The ones on the 20% list that are the highest priority are the ones to spend that time on. The others need to be delegated or outsourced. Yes, I know, you’re a control freak and have a hard time letting go. Fine, that’s your choice. The sooner you do, the sooner you will see greater returns in your business.
At the end of the day, it’s the end of the day. You only have so many minutes, so many hours, in a day. What you make of those minutes and hours when you are working is your investment in your business. Are you investing your time where you will get the greatest return on your investment? Will your business be better off tomorrow because of the tasks you prioritized today? Answer the question from our training class as honestly as you can. If there’s any doubt, go through these steps and see what the results are on your business. You might be surprised at what a smart investor you become.
As a busy real estate agent it can sometimes be difficult to take a step back from your business and evaluate how things are going, set goals, and focus on what you have to do to reach those goals. I mean, you’ve got clients calling all the time, closings to attend, homes to show and list, negotiations, prospecting, and a pile of administrative work. Not to mention, you probably have a social life and/or family that require your attention. (It should also go without saying that you need to take to time to read awesome blog posts.) There are only so many hours in a day, so where do you find the time for everything?
In a previous post we talked about periodization as a tool to laser focus your business on the things that help you achieve your goals faster. Periodization is tough and might not be for everyone. So here’s an option that is a little easier to digest and implement, but still requires the same level of focus to reach your goals. It’s called the 3×3 method and has proven successful for a lot of people.
Don’t put the cart before the horse when it comes to planning the execution of your goals. Make sure that you have solid, actionable goals in place first.
Once you’ve got a set of goals, now we focus on the execution using the 3×3 method. This is so simple sounding when you first hear it that it’s almost easy to dismiss. Don’t do that. If you stop reading now, not only will you miss out on my quick wit, but you might miss out on that one tip that takes you from having a bunch of good ideas to acting on those ideas and letting your great ideas take you to the next level. Here you go…
Each month you set 3 goals or select 3 items from your Do, Doing, Done board. Then, each week you select 3 steps you need to complete to reach those 3 monthly goals. Once you have those set for the month, the next step is to go about removing all distractions and hurdles in the way of reaching those goals. Deflect, delegate, outsource, or just say no. Laser focus yourself on the three. Don’t stop until you’ve completed them.
Much like periodization, the key to success is the focus. Imagine though, for a minute, if at the end of the year, you had completed 36 big goals or projects. How awesome would that be? Try it for a month and see what happens. You might be surprised not only by how it isn’t as easy as it sounds, but by the sense of accomplishment you feel once you’ve reached those three goals that have been lingering on your to-do list.
All the Best.
It’s that time again. Another year is winding down and you should be planning for next year. After all, you need a good plan in place to ensure that your business continues to grow. So, in these next two posts we’ll discuss good reasons to plan for the year and good reasons not to plan for the next year. As it turns out, there are valid reasons for both. For now, let’s assume that we are going to make a plan and let’s look at all of the reasons you should. My hope is that you will see a plus and minus of certain points and will adopt those that fit your needs and ignore, or delay, those that don’t. Before we start, though, there is one thing that must be crystal clear.
An annual plan is worthless without a solid set of goals for the next year.
1) Having an annual plan allows you to forecast your business costs and revenue projections.
Probably the best reason to plan on an annual basis is that it really gives you a good look at your expenses and projected revenue. When looking at expenses, you really need to know three things. First, what did you spend this past year? Second, what do you plan to do new or different next year? Finally, you need to have a pretty conservative plan for revenue. For this last point you want to take a look at the market conditions, your business trajectory, changes you are making, etc. It is always safer to shoot low on revenue so your expenses stay in line.
2) Having an annual plan let’s you take a good look at your marketing efforts.
I really like having the ability to lay out a month-by-month plan for my marketing. Doing so gives you a good look at when you need to start planning big projects, have your printing/design/event needs and costs ahead of time, and start automating as much as you can. If there was one thing I would want to have an annual plan for, it would definitely be marketing.
3) Having an annual plan gives you the power to automate as much as you can.
We are all busy professionals. Time, if it hasn’t already, will at some point become your greatest asset and worst enemy. Your ability to automate and/or delegate as much as possible will give you the power to use more of that precious time growing your business and focusing on the tasks you really need to be doing. What an annual plan allows is an opportunity to look at what kind of help you might need reaching your goals for the coming year. That foresight might be the advantage you need to ensure you reach those goals.
4) An annual plan lets you take time to focus on each aspect of your business and personal life and development.
We’ve talked about it before on this blog, but we have a tendency, especially when we’re busy, to get so caught up in the minutiae of what we’re doing that we rarely take a moment to step back and assess everything going on in our lives. An annual plan forces you to do just that. It’s a great opportunity for you to focus on each part of your business and personal development, focus those on your goals and come away with a clear picture of where you are and what you need to do to get where you want to go.
5) An annual plan is a great accountability tool.
Let’s be honest, some of us aren’t always the best at following through on our goals and plans. Sometimes our plans are about as useful as those New Year’s resolutions we set every year. Having an annual plan written down gives you a tool to hold yourself accountable to the goals and plans you have set for yourself. Now, it would be a lot more powerful if you found an accountability partner, like a workout buddy, or a coach to help you. I highly recommend you find one or the other, or both, and do so quickly.
Having a plan can give you a powerful tool that you can use to drive your business toward your goals for the new year. Like I said, though, without solid goals in place, your plan is nothing more than an exercise in dreaming. Start with your goals and then formulate your annual plan to drive your business toward those goals.
Next up…why you shouldn’t have a plan.
As a busy entrepreneur you are juggling a lot of things. You are an agent, marketer, customer service rep, accountant, and much more. One thing that you have to make time for in your busy work life is a regular check-up, just like you would have a physical from your doctor.
There are a number of different matrices you can use to measure your performance. First and foremost, if you aren’t using client surveys, you should be. Preferably, they should come from an independent source. If your local association doesn’t offer them, take a look at something like Real Satisfied. Second, you should have goals set for yourself and you can measure against those. Third, your CRM system should have a grading mechanism to see how you’re doing on follow-up and client management. If it doesn’t, create one for yourself using a goal system. And finally, your bank account should be a pretty good barometer of your income and expenses. If you have other aspects of your business that need measuring, create ways to measure your progress, or lack thereof.
The next question should be, how often do you need to be reviewing your progress. I would submit that quarterly should be a minimum. Based on where you are in your business, it may need to be more often.
The main thing, is to force yourself to step back and take a big picture look at your business.
No matter how you choose to do this, it is vitally important that you undertake this process without distraction. For some people, that means getting away from it all. For some, it means just taking an afternoon off. Either way, shut off the phone, close down the email and have the time to yourself or you and your coach/spouse/business partner.
A solid growth review not only assesses the measurable criteria in your goals, but should also have a set of qualitative measurements. The trick with this, of course, is that you have to be really honest with yourself. No self-deception allowed.
So, now that you have the data, what do you do with it?
First, you should start with the quantitative items and recast your goals based on your analysis. If you achieved them, congratulations. Now, set new ones that stretch you. If you didn’t, take a look at why and revise accordingly without letting yourself off the hook. Second, look at your processes and systems and see what you can improve. Then, create realistic and achievable action plans, keeping in mind your busy schedule, to implement them in a reasonable amount of time. Finally, you should examine and reset your long-term goals.
Oh, and don’t forget to celebrate your successes from the previous quarter!
By having a scheduled way to continuously, yet objectively assess how your business is performing you will then know where you stand according to your goals and at the same time have a mechanism in place to ensure that you and your business continue to grow. Measuring the health and longevity of your business regularly is just as important as measuring your own health on a regular basis.