I have a new mentee with whom I met briefly this morning. In the course of our conversation, he asked me a question regarding the effectiveness of targeted geographical circle prospecting which gave rise to the bigger question, “What do you want your business to look like?” Apropos this series on business planning, the question ties together directly the importance of one’s vision statement and business goals as they relate the actions necessary to be realized. My answer to him was that, once he was clear on the kind of business he wished to generate, he would then know where and on whom to focus his prospecting activities.
Having put forth business and personal goals for 2008, it is important now to lay out a plan for achieving them. My template is comprised of many components including income projections and budgets for both business and household, lead generation plan, marketing strategies, educational and professional standards objectives, and personal goals. Each of these components requires further detailing – everything from how many transactions I intend to generate to which vacations I wish to take with my family. For example, as I review and revise lead generation, I do so with an eye to my vision statement and business goals. Are the activities I am laying out appropriate to the client I’ve envisioned or growth I am projecting? If not, what changes can I make? Will my client for 2008 be different from 2007’s? Are my current marketing materials effective and appropriate to that client? How may I best allocate marketing dollars to reach said client? As I summarized for my mentee; an agent whose desired client demographic consists of white collar professional, owners of high-end condominiums in the downtown corridor is not serving his business well by marketing a monthly mailer to equestrian properties in a rural community. Sure, this is an extreme and obvious example, but it serves to make a point; there must be synergy between vision and activity.
View objectives as they relate to one another. If you’ve set a goal to earn one or more industry designations which may be clock-hour intensive (such as the brokers course work and exam), is it in conflict with targets set for monthly sales, i.e, if you’re in class for an entire month, are those four sales projected for the same time period achievable? What specific activities are you committed to on a daily, weekly, monthly basis? Are they in a calendar?
Sidebar on the importance of maintaining a calendar – beyond its obvious organizational benefits, a well-organized calendar is an essential tool for your success. Everything should be reflected in it from client appointments and business presentations to luncheons and gym visits. Furthermore, it can prove invaluable in the event of any form of audit.
Lay out your marketing milestones. If you have a monthly newsletter or mailer, put it on the calendar and carve out review time to make certain its elements are current and appropriate. Include any surplus marketing activities….extra mailings, open houses, community events, anything you propose to leverage for the business.
Your business plan should drive daily activities such as client calls and prospecting. There is no point of laying out an ambitious sales objective if the basic lead generation work isn’t getting done. If making fifty calls a week is your goal, set aside a fixed and recurring time period in your calendar. Allocate specific time blocks during the week to make those and other customer service calls. Many agents handle their calls at specific times during the day, having set the expectation to return calls at those times in their voicemail recorded message.
It’s best to track progress on paper and in template form. If you are technology proficient and comfortable with programs such as Excel, then put together a spreadsheet. Otherwise, a three ringed binder and lined paper will do. Just keep track of those all-important activities laid out in your business plan.
A word on budgets and budgeting: maintaining an accurate budget is labor intensive and requires discipline. However, without one, it’s virtually impossible to track projected from actual fund outlays. If a goal is to reduce marketing expenses from fifteen to ten percent of gross income in the coming year and there’s no way of knowing what funds are already being devoted to such expenditures, stating the goal without having the tools to track it is futile.
Each and every aspect of the business plan relates directly to its sum components. They, in turn, must be synergistic with the overall goal of the plan which should be in line and supportive of the vision statement. My approach to business planning as an independent contractor is to view it as a holistic whole encompassing all areas of my life. Perhaps, were mine a Fortune 500 business, I would separate the business from personal. As a one person entity, I believe out of balance success is bred.
Here’s hoping for a prosperous and ambitious 2008. Happy New Year!