With its frigid arenas and early-morning wake-ups, hockey season can be long and grueling. With the season over, I thought about my son’s first year, and found some parallels to running a business.
During the initial weeks, my son resisted going to practice, arguing he didn’t want to play. Once he got on the ice, he would enjoy skating for the first couple of minutes, and then, after five falls, would start to cry and want to give up.
With a tremendous amount of encouragement, coaching, time and effort, he finally achieved results he was proud of. By the end of the season, he was skating without assistance and wanted to go every week. His improvement was incredible.
In business, we are often reluctant to try something new, and are easily discouraged in the beginning. But success is often achieved through practice, hard work and some helpful tips.
Here are two of those tips.
1. Set “realistic” versus “stretch” goals that are within your control.
Most people in this industry set goals by taking their previous year’s production and adding 10% or 15%. But if the market falls significantly, the goal moves out of reach and your chances of meeting it are slim unless the market rebounds, which is beyond your control. Goals are better set based on what you can do to drive an increase in your business results. If you think having more face-to-face meetings with your top clients will increase results, then set a goal for monthly face-to-face meetings with your top clients.
If you think financial planning is a gap in your business, then set a goal based on the number of plans you will do. If you are currently having 20 quarterly face-to-face meetings and you think you can reasonably do 10 more, set that as your goal. Here’s an unreasonable goal: you may determine you can conduct two meetings a day, or 130, a quarter. Since there are 65 business days in a quarter, it’s achievable, but not realistic.
2. Review your goals often.
Reserve an hour or two each week to review your goals. We work in a fast-moving industry, and it’s easy to get into the habit of being reactive. To avoid that, set your strategy at the beginning of the year. If you want to grow your business significantly over the course of the year, determine your plan to do so.
Are you going to build it through client acquisition or getting more revenue from existing clients? These may have two very different outcomes depending on the actions you take. The next step is to track results. Set up a quick weekly meeting and review the results. Keep the agenda the same each week with an allowance for one non-recurring topic. This way you aren’t stressing about building an agenda each week and you maintain focus on the priorities set at the beginning of the year. Your staff will appreciate the consistency and know exactly what is expected of them.
With a solid strategy and execution in place, you are set up for a paradigm shift in your production versus mere incremental change. But remember your child’s or your own experience in trying something new: to get good at something, you need to work at it.