As the year 2007 winds to a close and a new year stares at us from just around the corner I thought I’d take some time to share what I have learned this year in business.
Most of my clients are first-time business owners and in working with these business owners I’ve noticed three things that are really critical when starting a new company. When followed, these three things can make the start-up move much more slowly than when not.
First, build long term goals and short term objectives and follow them.
Secondly, plan, plan and plan again.
Finally, follow your plan but understand that sometimes you’ll need to adjust that plan in order to make your business grow.
Today’s focus is on the importance of building long-term goals and using short-term objectives to meet that long-term goal.
The first thing that I ask a client when I’m contacted is for them to explain their long term goal and short term objectives, so that I have a clear understanding of where they are now in their business planning and where they want their company to be in three months, six months and in one year.
At times, clients have not figured this out. They have a general idea. For instance, “I want to support my family on the income of this business,” or, “I’d like to make enough extra money to take the family on a great vacation.” While these are great plans, they are not business specific.
I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been training to run a marathon in February. My long-term goal: 26.2 miles. My short-term objectives: each week, to run a certain amount in preparation for that final long run. My short term goals have spanned 5 months of training. I started at five miles for my long runs; I’m up to 17.5. I never thought I’d get this far, but I have, and I feel the reason I have is that I’ve set short-term objectives and worked each week to meet those objectives in order to get to 26 miles.
It is the same in business. A while back I realized I didn’t have a concrete goal written down for my company, so I sat down and wrote one: To increase the number of clients who return for more services. I then created a plan for doing this, which included offering web-hosting services that went along with the web design packages. Now I have most of my clients on my own hosting plan, which has helped me to reach that long term goal.
If your goal is to obtain a certain number of clients in the next six months, then consider ways in which you can do this. If you want to improve sales by X%, what do you need to do to make those numbers soar?
If you don’t know, then you need to contact someone who can help you create these objectives and goals. I find that clients who come to me without having these in mind really suffer in the long term. First, they are not prepared to really start the company because they have no idea where they want to go. It’s like driving to a new place: You aren’t going to get there quickly – or perhaps at all! – if you don’t have a map. Secondly, without having these goals and objectives on paper they don’t have something concrete to exam at the end of each day, week or month. Finally, without goals, how will you ever know if you are where you really want to be?
So, my first bit of advice to new business owners is even if you do not write out a formal business plan you should at least sit down and create a long term goal that you hope to meet within the first six months and then a list of two or three short term objectives that you hope to meet that when met will lead you to the overall goal. At the end of six months, evaluate where you are. If you met your goal, figure out why, and then write another goal. If you did not, exam the things that stood in your way and change your goal or your objectives so that you can get to where you want to be.