Now is the time to take advantage of the sense of change and renewal that permeates the atmosphere in the lead up to and during the New Year to do some planning for the year ahead.
2010 In Review
Start your forward planning by looking back and reviewing the past year. Think about the highlights and the low points: what can you learn from them? Identify the things you are currently not happy with. What can you change or do differently?
Compare your list of goals for 2010 with your achievements: how many goals have you struck from the list? How many are you close to achieving? How many are no longer relevant? Which goals have you failed to achieve? Identify the reason: were you too unrealistic in your time frame? Or have you sabotaged them? Why did you let this happen?
Everything You Want
To help get you into the mood for setting goals and objectives for 2011, try this exercise: spend five minutes writing down everything you want to do or be in your business and personal life. Don’t edit yourself with limiting thoughts like ‘could never happen’: it doesn’t matter how outrageous your desires, let them surface and put them out there.
Your second pre-goal setting exercise is to establish your values. What truly matters to you? What principles - ideals that you value above everything else - should you live by?
Knowing what is important to you in life lets you establish meaningful goals, because achieving them will give you something you truly value. When what you do aligns with what you believe, and what you believe is the highest of truths, you achieve the most gratifying form of personal productivity and experience the most satisfying form of self-esteem, says Charles R. Hobbs in Time Power (Harper & Row, 1987).
Because values alter with different life stages, and are also influenced by world events - the current climate of recession, for example, is leading people to refocus on economic values - it’s important to undertake this exercise annually to ensure your goals and your values are always in alignment.
Your Dream Vision
Now write down your dream vision for your future: essentially, how you want your life to look, what you would - and would not - be doing, who you want with you as you realise your dream, and where you want it to happen.
Here is an example of a dream vision:
I run the most successful customer-service consultancy and training facility in the country, with an annual turnover of $20 million and a net profit before taxes of $5 million. Our head office is located in a high-rise, harbour-view suite in Auckland.
I have gathered around me a top-notch team of experts in the customer-service field who are in demand all through New Zealand and Australia to conduct seminars and workshops, both public and in-house. To this end, I have tailored my programs to suit every business, whether micro or multi-national.
My managerial team in accounting, sales, customer relationships, advertising and marketing free me to manage my business effectively, ensuring things are done to the standards I’ve set, in accordance with my vision for the business. No staff member, including me, is permitted to work more than 50 hours a week except in the direst emergency. I have cultivated a family-friendly organisation, with staff given the flexibility to take time off to attend school events or care for sick family members.
We live in a spacious home near the beach. I am active in the community and I take regular short breaks throughout the year with my partner and two children. I also take two, three-week vacations each year.
My investments continue to grow, and I expect to have ten million dollars in equities and property (apart from my business) by the time I retire at a fit, healthy, active, youthful-looking age 60.
Far fetched? Remember: uninspiring goals produce uninspiring results!
From Current Reality to Ideal Vision
Your current reality may read something like this:
I’m a start-up with a first-year loss of $20,000 on $100,000 turnover, and an overdraft. I am the sole staff member, working 14 hours a day, six days a week from my home office in the suburbs. Relationships? Who has the time? But I love what I do, and my services are well received.
It’s entirely possible to bridge that gaping chasm between reality and vision with a viable business idea, abundant energy, unflagging passion, and a series of goals that will edge you a little closer each year to your perfect life.
If you analyse your ideal vision, you’ll see that it embraces six broad areas:
- Personal assets (wealth)
Set one achievable goal in each of these areas that will move you closer to your vision by the end of 2003. Break each goal down into steps, including one that you can take in the next week.
Business: Increase turnover to $150,000, with a profit of $10,000. Target a different industry sector each quarter. (List sectors).
Increase reach to two regional centres.
Seek out four weekend business conferences suitable for a promotional stand.
Tasks for next week: Review year-to-date financials (see sidebar).
Research industry sectors to decide which you’ll target.
Staff: Employ a part-time office assistant. Set in place efficient offer systems.
Document procedures for each office task.
Plan training for the position.
Task for next week: Start making point-form notes detailing how each task is done.
Wealth: Invest $250 every month. Set up a high-interest online savings account or find a suitable managed fund.
Arrange with your bank for money to be transferred directly into your chosen vehicle each month.
Task for next week: Research managed funds into which that monthly amount can be paid. (Note: look at returns over a three-year period; determine entry, exit and management fees.)
Health: Eat healthy food
Make time to exercise
Practise better stress management Eat more vegetables and fruit.
Eliminate junk food.
Start exercising - just ten minutes per day.
Gradually build exercise time to thirty minutes five days per week. (Note: this can be done in ten-minute blocks - ideal for busy people.)
Learn to meditate.
Tasks for next week: Take a walk around the block every morning.
Meditate at lunchtime every day.
Buy a vegetarian cookbook for ideas on how to prepare tasty vegetable dishes.
Relationships: Go out to dinner once a month with friends/partner/children. Set mutually suitable dates for the first couple of dinners.
Task for next week: Call friends, apologise for your recent neglect and tell them what you would like to do in future.
Lifestyle: Take a weekend off at least once a month to do something for me. Plan the twelve weekends for the coming year. Write in diary.
Task for next week: Free up next weekend for your first break.
These may seem like baby steps, but the goals are realistic: it’s pointless saying you’ll join friends for dinner once a week and take every weekend off because it just won’t happen while you are working long hours establishing your business. Similarly, $250 per month may seem like a pittance, but the important thing with investing is to start early to take advantage of the compounding factor. Aiming higher - say $1000 - means you’d have to pay yourself more, which would reduce your business’s profit. Each goal must align with the others.
It’s vital to celebrate your achievement of overall goals, and of each step along the way. Decide how you will reward yourself for achieving your six goals: make it worthwhile, because you’ll have earned your treat - and it gives you something to strive for on days when the going gets rough. Consider awarding a second and third ‘prize’ for achieving five and four goals respectively.
Be sure to take a moment to stop and congratulate yourself for every small success, such as eating a salad instead of a burger, taking your first walk around the block, winning your first regional customer, meeting monthly sales targets. It’s great to have a business friend or mentor with whom you can share such successes, especially when you are working solo.
Should you punish yourself for not achieving your goals? Your disappointment is generally ‘punishment’ enough, so there’s not much point in self-flagellation. The important thing is to always use failure to spur you on to a better course of action: analyse what went wrong, then re-set your goals for next year.
Establishing New Habits
Two things to bear in mind when establishing new habits such as exercise and eating more healthily, or practising meditation to reduce stress:
- Make small, incremental adjustments rather than sweeping changes. If you haven’t exercised in years, start with an easy five- or ten-minute walk. Don’t plunge in with an hour-long gym workout: you’ll feel so sore and tired for the next several days that you’ll decide exercise has to be a health hazard and never try it again. With dietary improvements, always start by adding foods rather than subtracting them: the best thing you can do for yourself is eat more vegetables and fruit. Once you bed down with this, start substituting and later subtracting, single items: try oven fries instead of French fries, replace your lunchtime burger with a wholemeal tuna and salad roll, a dinnertime steak with a grilled salmon cutlet. Similarly, if you decide to take up meditation as a stress-management tool, don’t expect to spend 20 minutes meditating initially. Instead, start with just a minute or two and work up from there. Let your body guide you to the next step - although there’s a caveat here that leads into the second point:
- Experts say it takes 21 days to form a new habit, so you must persevere with your new regimen for at least that amount of time. So don’t give up, even if you can think of a dozen reasons why you should (including that your body isn’t responding)!
Just don’t forget to reward your perseverance when you find the activity has solidified into habit and it’s no longer such hard work!
Business Planning For 2011
This is the perfect time to conduct a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of your business. Briefly, identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to your businesses. Decide how to build on your strengths and promote your business’s position in the marketplace; take action to eliminate or reduce weaknesses; set up an ongoing review process to identify and capitalise on opportunities as they arise; review and monitor threats and take whatever action you can to minimise their impact.
Although it’s standard practice to prepare financial budgets at the beginning of the new financial year, reviewing progress at the end of the calendar year is also good practice. Check the following financials against your budgets for each month of the fiscal year, and the total period to date:
- Profit before tax
- Cash flow
- Accounts payable percentages for current, 30, 60 and 90-plus days.
- Inventory holdings
If you are ahead of budget for the year-to-date period in sales, consider revising your budgets upwards: remember: you cannot strike higher than you aim, so aim a little higher! Look at each month’s results, and if the last few months show a steady upward trend, definitely raise the bar. If, however, the first few months were exceptional, but the last few quite ordinary, you need to investigate the situation: if this trend continues, will you reach budget for the financial year? What action do you need to take to reverse the trend?
Do the same exercise with each expense centre, looking for over-budget situations where you may need to rein in spending.
Your debtor’s figures reveal whether customers are paying promptly, or more time should be devoted to collections: remember prompt payments are essential for maintaining a healthy cash flow.
Check stock holdings to ensure stock turnover rate has not declined: more stock on the floor equates to reduced cash flow. Take a walk around your warehouse to check condition of stock, and organise a promotion or sale to quit slow-moving items.
Review your sales and marketing plans to ensure you are on target with the number of new customers coming on board. If you are ahead, consider an upward budget revision; if you are behind decide what remedial action is needed.
And finally, make a diary note to join flokka.com and start your business blog if you haven’t already!
By Rosemary Ann Ogilvie Originally published in Her Business magazine.
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