Nov 01 2022 / Round the Table Magazine
Plan your success
By Kathleen R. Benjamin, CFP, CPA, Max Bolka
Advisors need to adjust their “success thermostat” higher, and Bolka explains how to start by getting into the right mindset for setting goals:
Goals give purpose to all human activity. Most people say they want to work less, make more money, lose weight and be spiritually fulfilled. The problem with those goals is they’re not specific. You want more income? What are you making now? What do you want to make? You want to work less? How much are you working now? How many hours do you want to work? People are afraid to write that down, and that’s the problem. Be specific. It forces you to focus on what you want. If you can’t measure it, it’s not a good goal.
Most people dabble in business, in relationships, in everything. Don’t dabble. Make a commitment. Fear and doubting your decision will paralyze you. So do all the research you want, do all the due diligence you want. But once you come to the decision that this is what you want, commit to it. If you strike out once or twice, don’t worry about it. Just do the next step, rinse and repeat. Almost nobody gets it right the first time out. Realize it’s all a game. There’s no judgment. There’s no failure. There’s only feedback. Don’t judge yourself. Just go back and refine everything and stay on it.
The biggest difference between somebody earning $100,000 and somebody earning $500,000 is that the latter thinks bigger. Are they that much more talented? Do they delegate better? We all have our strengths, but the biggest thing is they think bigger. Somebody once asked Helen Keller if there is anything worse than being blind. She said the only thing worse is having sight and no vision. It’s fear that holds us back. Ignore the dragon, and it will eat you. Confront the dragon, and it will defeat you. But if you learn to ride the dragon, you will take advantage of its might and power. Don’t fight the fear. Learn how to ride it.
What do I do if I get stuck?
If you’re doing all the stuff that I said — you’re thinking big, you got centered, you’re being specific — and it’s not happening, double your goal. But you’re saying, “Max, you don’t understand. I don’t have enough time to do what I’m doing now.” I didn’t say double your effort, and I didn’t say do twice as much. I said double your goal.
Goal setting makes the complex simple and then makes it work. Benjamin breaks down the essential ingredients for such planning:
Write down your goals
As Max said, 90% of your success is what’s between your ears. So, it’s critical to get to what’s happening up there down on paper. One way to do that is by creating an annual business plan. Whether you’re just starting a company, building a company or sustaining what you have, it’s a critical step in articulating what that plan is to build on that success. If you can’t define what you’re trying to build, then how can anybody else help you? A written plan gives your team the opportunity to clarify and ask questions so not only will they understand your plan, but they'll be emotionally invested in it as well. If you get your plan in writing, it says you’re serious. Then you can take it to that next step and have your team members create plans with their own goals that are in perfect alignment with the company.
Being specific forces you to focus on what you want. So how do you start creating an annual business plan? There are a couple of different components. First, I’d say you start with, what are we building? That’s your vision. What do you want to look like in the next three to five years? The second piece is, why does this business exist? What is your mission? What objectives are you going to set that will help you measure what you’re trying to achieve for that year in your business plan? The next component is, how will we grow and improve? One of the things that I did in my study group was to use "The One Page Business Plan" by Jim Horan. I like that because it was created with templates, and that’s a lot less daunting than starting with a blank piece of paper.
Vision and mission
So, let’s look at the vision statement. It’s important to define not only the time period that you’re looking at but also what you are trying to achieve during it. It might be an annual sales goal or the number of families you’re trying to help. It could be whether you are going to be a regional firm, a national firm or think really big and go international. And what type of business do you want to be in? Do you want to help people who are heading toward retirement or focus on families in underserved areas? Next is your mission statement, starting with "Why does this business exist?" It needs to be very clear and concise. Say what you are trying to do so people can easily articulate it if they’re asked. Then this is where it gets tough. How are you going to measure your success and determine if you’re on the right track? As Max stated, if you can’t measure it, it’s not a good goal.
Articulate the how
You’re getting to the strategies when you’re looking at how to grow this business and make the company successful. You started with the big vision. You drill down into the mission, and now we’re getting to the strategies after the objectives to say what process or goal is necessary to change and how you are going to work on that process or goal. So, you need to articulate. For example, if you want to attract prospects, how are you going to do that? You’re going to have to really think about three ways that you can go about accomplishing that process or goal. Some examples might be to expand the use of a client resource management system to identify prospects. Maybe you want to identify opportunities to improve service and measure in real time how fast we are getting back to our clients and the level of service and satisfaction. Maybe you want to increase internal efficiencies. Are you going to do that by using e-signature in a more widespread way, using a mobile deposit app or expanding the use of scheduling software? Again, I think this is where you have to not only talk about what activity your goal is going to build to support the one-page business plan you’ve created, but also how you are going to specifically work on these activities or goals you’ve identified as being critical to your success.
What work is going to be done on those strategies? Are you going to complete a project, maybe an employee handbook that’s been hanging over your head; introduce a new service or solution to your clients; or maybe even install a new piece of software? Note what that completion date is going to be. It’s important to have completion dates because sometimes action plans are built on each other and if something has not been accomplished, it’s going to be a roadblock for the next action plan that you’ve got teed up.