What do you expect from your business? If you are like most business owners, you would probably say wealth. Unfortunately, the trap many small business owners fall into is that they may achieve that goal, but in the process, they sacrifice their families, their health, and their happiness. A price is always paid in the achievement of any significant goal. The scriptures tell us, “We reap what we sow.” In order to reach our dreams and goals, we must first define what they are, then develop a strategy and take activities to achieve them.
Why are some people successful in only one area of their life, rather than in all areas?
How to Achieve Your Goals: Plan and Take Action!
The leading experts say the reason for the lack of success in an area of our life is so obvious, its almost ridiculous. We simply do not plan and take action to be successful in that area. The wealthy business owner who sacrificed everything else simply did not take any action to improve the condition of his family, his health, and his happiness. He merely reaped what he sowed, or what he didn’t sow. Negligence of anything causes decay. John Kabat, Chief Quality Officer of East Coast Transportation, says this, “Processes, if not fully managed, will gravitate toward chaos.” Time management experts tell us the key to success in all areas is to maintain focus on all important aspects of life, such as social, spiritual, financial, educational, family, and health. The same principle can be applied to business as well.
Begin With the End in Mind With Your Business
Dr. Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People says, “We should begin with the end in mind.” In essence, we should determine what results we desire before we ever start. He goes on to say that without an effective plan our results may not be what we expect. Covey writes, “We may spend our entire lives climbing the ladder of success, and find out the ladder is leaning on the wrong wall.” Results, positive or negative, always begin with the leader’s vision or lack of it. Let’s look at the effective approach toward positive results.
Determine the results you and the other stakeholders want.
The stakeholders in our businesses are the people who are responsible for our success. They have a “stake” in the prosperity of our business. Your customers, employees, and vendors are examples of stakeholders. Other stakeholders may include your community, your church, and your family–anyone who may benefit from our organization. The effective leader determines what results are required from all of the stakeholders, and then finds ways to exceed their expectations. If you are determined enough and focus on getting the results you want, you will be able to achieve your goals.
Focus on Results for All Stakeholders
Once we have established the requirements of your stakeholders, we can develop a system that tracks results that are relevant to these requirements. Why consider the requirements of other stakeholders? The stakeholders are the people who will ensure our victory! Zig Ziglar, the renowned author, and public speaker says this about achievement, “You can get whatever you want in life as long as you help enough other people get what they want.” Without our stakeholder’s help, we will fail. With the help of other interested people, the sky’s the limit!
Focus on Results that YOU Want
Don’t forget what you want; you are the principal stakeholder! You, the leader must be so motivated to achieve your goals about your job that you “inspire” everyone else. So include everything that gets you excited: compensation, travel, vacation, personal growth, support of favorite causes, etc. Be sure to include non-financial requirements you may have of the business. Ideally, you are creating a purpose that transcends personal benefits; something that gives you and others a reason to live. Include the type of work you enjoy as well. For example, if you are creative, perhaps you would prefer to place yourself in a position that allows you to use your creativity.
Once a business owner has determined what he and the stakeholders want, the vision for the organization is established. Many large and growing companies write a vision statement. Every stakeholder in the company should know, understand, and work toward realizing this vision.
Know where you are.
Once we have established where our company is going, measures must be established to ensure we are on track. One thing is for sure, we must measure every important facet of our business. Dr. Janice Terrell, professor of business at the University of Central Florida makes the statement, “If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” The scriptures admonish, “”The wise shepherd knows the condition of his flocks.” If a business owner makes the statement that customer satisfaction is important, but the owner doesn’t measure it, there is a disparity between the operator’s statement and the operator’s actions.
Establishing Measures for Your Key Business Drivers
Companies that are focused on quality establish Key Business Drivers and develop measures for these drivers. This helps keep an organization focused on stakeholder requirements. Some Key Business Drivers are financial in nature, such as Financial Performance, Revenue Growth, and Operational Performance. Other Key Business Drivers are non-financial in nature, such as Customer Satisfaction and Employee Satisfaction. You may have several measures for each Key Business Driver. For example, Employee Satisfaction might include a numerically scored employee survey, a measurement of employee turnover, the number of employee suggestions, etc.
Once measures are established, we can determine our present performance levels and begin to generate reports on a periodic basis (monthly, quarterly). Using our present performance as a baseline, we can set goals for future performance.
Track the results against your plan.
The biggest mistake we can make is to invest the time to develop a plan, and then ignore it! Many small business owners have been criticized for developing a written plan, putting the plan on their bookshelf, and the next time they look at it is next year when it’s time to develop the new plan! Once we determine the desired results, we must track our actual performance against the plan on a regular basis. Some businesses do this quarterly, some do this semi-annually, but leading companies do this monthly. The key is to do something to achieve your goals. I recently saw a poster that read, “You become successful the moment you start moving toward your goal.”
The great thing about measuring results is that it causes us to ask questions about why things don’t work. It forces us to learn more about our businesses. Once we identify the obstacles to meeting our plan, we are well on the way to removing them.
Identify and remove obstacles to meeting your plan.
If we spend a great deal of time inside our own businesses, it is sometimes hard to understand why we’re not able to achieve our goals. My favorite professor in college was Professor Hall, an older gentleman with a British accent and an “in your face,” personality. He made the statement that “God gave us the amazing ability to identify the faults of others. However, we are completely unable to see our own faults.” This statement was made about individuals, but the same principles apply to businesses.
Bring in a Business Coach or Consultant
The way world-class companies handle this problem is by bringing in consultants. Charles Tenney, a consultant for the limousine industry says, “What we bring to the table is the perspective of being outside. We travel to operators all over the country and identify effective practices. We help our clients to know what works well, and what doesn’t.” Sometimes an outside perspective is just what a business needs to find a solution to a problem.
Perform Benchmarking for Areas that Need Improvement
Another effective method for improving results is using a process called “benchmarking.” People involved in quality circles call this “shameless stealing of great ideas.” You simply go to another organization to learn their effective practices, and you take the “best practices” back to your own company. This process is one of the most effective ways to improve your organization. The 20 Group concept, a practice that has existed in the automobile industry for many years, is a good example of benchmarking. Non-competing dealership owners meet each quarter to share information about effective practices.
Another way to benchmark is to simply identify an area in your business that needs improvement, find another business that is effective with that area of their own business, and get permission to visit them to learn. Most companies involved with quality improvement will be glad to show you their best practices.
The last thing to keep in mind is that success rarely comes quickly, and rarely comes without plain hard work. I have a screensaver on my computer that says “The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running.” Continual steps toward our goal, even if the steps are very small, are many times the ones that move us to our destination.
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