Okay, I know. I’m supposed to be a “positive guy”, bringing you good news and hopeful solutions. But, sometimes I need to get real. And here’s the truth I’m dealing with today as I write this:
Your business plans for 2014 are likely to fail.
How do I know?
Simple, mine failed last year. Big time.
I did all the right things: retreat time, brainstorming time, mind mapping, and plan creation. But, I also made some classic mistakes. In the end, and despite many successes with our promotions, product development, and live events, sales were down.
So, with my tail between my legs I started to look very, very carefully at what I did wrong with my plans. I also wanted to know what are the classic mistakes people when making their plans. And I discovered seven classic mistakes (I made some of these myself last year). Maybe you can think of more, but I think this is a pretty deadly list on it’s own!
Here are the 7 classic mistakes people make when creating their plans for the year:
1. Same plan, different year.
Every year you have a chance to think bigger, challenge yourself more and succeed better. It’s like your home: why settle for new paint when you can have a better house?
ASK YOURSELF: “Twelve months from now, what do I want to celebrate?”
The real goal of your business is not to be in business – your goal is to create, serve, sell, and celebrate. So, what will be the significant celebrations you will have one year from now? How will you have improved someones business or life? What will you have served them with?
I think this is where all the planning needs to start – look forward to the end of the year, imagine what all your hard work will create and then reverse engineer those results to create a month, by month plan.
2. Analysis paralysis.
In-depth analysis of past results is great if you are fine-tuning a successful business. But sometimes getting started with a good plan is more important then a perfect plan delivered late.
ASK YOURSELF: “What key measures give me enough information to build a good plan?”
The reality is, I could spend two months tweaking, fiddling, and fine-tuning my plan and it might be 5% better. But, I won’t really know what I can create until I get started. The planning process (reviewing, rethinking, redesigning) is essential, but eventually I need to put rubber to road, get started and learn what works.
3. No stretch goals.
Stretch goals challenge you to find solutions, see opportunities, and be effective with your time. If you want big results this year, you need some tension between where you are at and where you want to be.
ASK YOURSELF: “What is (at least) one scary goal I am ready to make happen this year?”
This is critical. You need to stretch yourself by creating at least one scary goal this year. What product or service would be a game changer for you and your clients? Of course, it will be hard, but that’s what gets you out of bed in the morning and focussed.
One goal I have this year is to not work evenings and to dedicate Fridays for writing. I know that if I do this I will be forced to be more effective with my time and I will create even better results when I am working. I know this will also force me to be less controlling and to truly share responsibilities with my team. It won’t be easy – doing more “work” can be easier than protecting and investing in creative time. But, I know I need to do this if I want my company to grow.
4. Overbuilt plan.
Creating a big, detailed document that you never look at again is just an excuse for not getting started. The trick is to create a meaningful, road map of what you are going to create with realistic milestones. And no more.
ASK YOURSELF: “What are the essential ingredients I need to get clear directions?”
You need metrics to measure success. A metric is a number that you track, like: revenue, product sales, size of list, etc.). I like to watch 4-6 metrics every month (they are: product sales, revenue, list growth, podcast subscribers) to get a snapshot of how my business is doing. You can overdue this and get hung up on open rates (to your emails), Twitter followers, and Google ranking. Keep it simple and check them often.
5. No break down.
Big goals are great, but you need instructions. Every major goal needs to be chunked down into achievable tasks.
ASK YOURSELF: “For every major goal, what do I need to complete (and by when) to achieve each milestone?”
This is critical, you need to create instructions for yourself that can be translated down to a plan for the week. Before you complete your plan for the year, take some time to chunk down each major goal into specific milestones with dates.
I do this for all my product creations plans and my marketing campaigns and then I put them on a wall calendar. Once I can see these goals displayed on the calendar I can start to visualize them happening.
6. The plan on a shelf.
Your plan should be a living document that gives you direction and lets you know if you are on track and making progress. Create a habit of revisiting your plans every week and then adjusting your goals for the following week.
ASK YOURSELF: “When I revisit my plan every week, what do I need to get valuable direction?”
If you know about my Plan like a Pilot (learn about Plan like a Pilot and my Friday 15 routine here) week planning method, then you will know how I chunk down my big goals into manageable tasks to complete in my current week. Every Friday I commit 15-30 minutes to plan for the following week. This time is essential for me to see where I am getting off track and to plan for a successful week.
It’s also important for my confidence. I can see the progress I am making (and celebrate that), and get refocussed on the most meaningful goals I have created for myself.
7. No rewards.
We are all motivated by rewards. Your plan is no different. Working harder, smarter, or even less has to be matched with a reward that has a pay-off and motivates you.
ASK YOURSELF: “When I am successful, what is the win for me, my family, and my team?”
After all the planning is done, you need to think about rewards (if you want to know more about how rewards can change your habits, read “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg). Ultimately, we are all motivated by rewards. And for most of us, money is not the best reward. In fact, there is lots of research that shows that over a certain threshold, more income does not make a significant difference to how motivated people are.
I want to serve people so they can serve others. I get excited thinking about the entrepreneurs we are working with and the results they are getting from our work. I love writing, and I can get pretty excited just thinking (is this weird?) about completing a blog, ebook, or book. That’s a big reward for me. I love planning and enjoying adventures on my own and with my family – that’s a reward I earn through my company. And I feel great building my net worth and passive income streams. Those are pretty big motivators for me. Those are my rewards. What about you?
Here is the SlideShare show I created on this topic. Enjoy!